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Mechanical Presses

Superior strokes

By Gretchen Salois

A former pro golfer's craftsmanship offers the tools to a lower handicap

August 2011 - The game of golf involves a more than simply a player and some clubs. Torque, velocity, kinetic energy—golf is a game of physics, and the science behind the art of creating woods, irons or putters can directly impact the outcome of the game. Bruce Sizemore, designer of golf clubs and product development at Super Stroke Golf, a division of Tiger Shark, relies on his passion for the game and meticulous nature to create putters that some of the sport's best golfers prefer.

It's safe to say that the majority of golf equipment is manufactured in China or Taiwan. Major brands such as Callaway, Cleveland, Nike, Titleist and Taylor Made rely on factories located in East Asia that mass-produce high-quality clubs for amateur golfers or well-seasoned players. Breaking from the norm, in a small town in the Midwest, Wixom, Mich.-based Super Stroke Golf caters to players who prefer hand-crafted equipment to the usual casting or forging methods.

"The interesting part is the majority of the industry makes this equipment in East Asia and sells to the U.S.," says Sizemore. "We build our equipment here in the U.S. with the majority of it being sold in Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan." Sizemore says that customers in East Asia "appreciate high-end, hand-made craftsmanship."

Sizemore's background as both a player and teacher helped him transition from playing professionally to creating the putters used by tour professionals and recreational players alike. The process is very involved. Sizemore starts each putter with a block of jeweler's wax, and uses "the 'old school' way of carving it," he says. "I take a Fordham hand piece with different files, wax carving tools. I start out with a solid billet, map and scribe it out," he says. "That's why I'm glad we have five-axis machining capabilities to work with since we use a lot of 3-D machining."

According to Sizemore, "Attention to detail is everything." He adds that once he starts using the four- and five-axis CNC horizontal machining centers, "that's where the differences start to appear: the feed lines, texturing, DCF-27 face finish; the piece is cross milled at 27 different directions to created a jeweled, crystallized look."

Using a combination of 303 stainless steel and 7075 aluminum, Sizemore creates a putter with the flattest face in the industry, designed with vertical friction to create a true roll. "We try to place the aluminum in the middle, the stainless is the faceplate and periometer to increase the moment of inertia to get more head stability within each design," he says. "With aluminum being light and stainless three times the weight of aluminum, we can distribute it in the best way."

Sizemore adds that he has recently run multi-linear pallet changing systems. "We have upwards of 40 pallets," he says. "Decreasing our changeover time with six different models, we always have dedicated tooling for them with 400 to 500 tooling magazines. We have pallets already up and running. If I decide we want to run a different model, instead of taking a day to change it, it takes minutes."

Although Sizemore admits there is no way his organization can match the low labor costs that factories in East Asia can manage, "those companies aren't using the same high-quality materials and machines that Super Stroke uses," he says, adding that compared to his shop, competitors' processes are not as precise.

"That's where the price comes in," Sizemore says. "These clubs aren't for everybody; they are for those players who want the finest. I'd rather have one precision putter in the bag than five to six less expensive putters in the garage."

Using a pressure vapor deposition process and a high-end, specialized coating process, Sizemore hand polishes the finished product at the end of the process. "We do all the hand buffing, different texturing to the metal with a high polished finish," he says. The putter is then sent to a company for the high-tech coating process.

Super Stroke has three colors: Sterling, Tuxedo Black and Champagne-Bronze. "The color doesn't fade over time with the sun and has total UV protection," he says. "It's one of those steps we take to make it more cosmetically appealing." FFJ

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