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Big brands vs DTC irons.... Best choices?


Steven Senft

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On 6/2/2023 at 10:03 AM, Steven Senft said:

I have been searching for the most "responsible" and "real" answers, but the internet can be a dark place, so let's have the conversation here.

When you are in the market for a new set of irons, would you consider DTC brands (Takomo, Caley, Haywood, RAM, PXG, etc.) or just the "big brands" (Titleist, Mizuno, Taylormade, etc.)? 

Also, reading through some of the material I found, DTC brands all come from the same "factory"? Haywood, RAM, Caley and Takomo sets look identical... any ideas as to which one you would go for?

Thanks!

I was fitted a year and a half ago for PXG irons.  No charge for the fitting and it included Trackman results.  Took an hour.  I met their fitter at a local range and had the clubs within a week.  Mine were set 2 degrees flat and had oversize Golf Pride grips on them.  I would call PXG and find out if they have a local fitter you can meet with.  

:titleist-small: 917D2 driver

:callaway-small: 3 wood

:titleist-small: TS2 19 degree and 21 degree hybrids

:PXG:0211 5-GW irons

:ping-small: Glide 56 and 60 degree wedges

:odyssey-small: EXO7 putter :garsen: MAX grip

:titleist-small: Pro V1

 

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

Kind of a late voice to this party, but what I've gathered over the years of playing a DTC brand (Maltby), and being very opened to and interested in the DTC underworld.. there are 3 defining categories of DTC that could make a difference. 

1. Clone or semi-clone brands. These are companies to be cautious of. Usually the quality is just ok and they're just putting out models similar looking to older models of some OEM's. Gigagolf or Pine Meadow are brands that come to mind. These aren't counterfeit clubs but just clones. Many years ago I played some of both companies offerings. Initially I thought they were great but eventually found my way further down the DTC rabbit hole. My eyes were then opened to a whole other world and these brands kind of became live/learn scenarios for me. 

2. DTC brands with non-original designs. Often times (especially recently), a person or group of people with some money in the bank decide they want to start a golf club company. New tooling for original forge or casting dyes costs a LOT. When another company has a model being stamped or cast at a foundry, they often run it for a period of time until they decide to discontinue the model. There's an expiration time on the stamping dye and after that time is up, the design becomes part of the foundry's open catalogue. Many of these overnight and even bigger DTC companies are just putting their names on expired foundry dyes and maybe just making some tweaks to the grinds, or finishes. This is why we are seeing so many "similar" looking models between some companies. Essentially it's the same club with different names. Additionally it helps save cost on paying engineers to design new models and R&D to test the clubs. Many of these are still high-quality turn outs but there is more room for error and quality control tolerances could be questioned. Also the tech on these could be somewhat outdated but that's another subjective topic for another day. 

3. Lastly there's the original design DTC. These companies work just like the big boys but at a much smaller scale. They have their own in-house designers/engineers and they're able to stay in the pocket with modern tech and design. Often the club designer is the person who started the business and likely has an admirable design pedigree working for bigger companies in the past. You will find more design originality, enhanced service levels, and just an overall higher level of pride taken in the product. 

Maltby is a great example and why I've been using their clubs for a few years now. The company was started by Ralph Maltby many years ago after he decided to break away from main stream companies where he designed many models. In the past 5 or so years, Britt Lindsay has taken the mantle on but he was an understudy of Ralphs for many years so the lineage is still very relevant. 

I've also found hybrid versions of #2 and #3 with re-prints AND originals in their lineup. 

Y'all know me.. if you have anything else to add or correct, please chime in! 

 

That said I'm going to start another thread showcasing DTC brands where we can all show off our brands and talk about the pro's and con's and why we all went with our respective brands. TBC

 

   PXG 0311 Gen 5 9°/ Fujikura MotoreX F1 6X
:cobra-small:  F6 3 Wood 14* / Kuro Kage Silver 65X
:cobra-small: F8 6 wood 20* / Fujikura MotoreX F3 6S

:cobra-small: RADSpeed Hybrid 24*
post-76102-0-38507100-1525284411_thumb.jpg TS1 4-GW / FCM Precision 6.5 Rifle
post-76102-0-38507100-1525284411_thumb.jpg  TSW Wedge - 56/12
:edel-golf-1:  EAS 1.0 / Grip master 2.0 

MAXFLI  Tour CG

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 months later...
On 9/2/2023 at 2:04 PM, azstu324 said:

Kind of a late voice to this party, but what I've gathered over the years of playing a DTC brand (Maltby), and being very opened to and interested in the DTC underworld.. there are 3 defining categories of DTC that could make a difference. 

1. Clone or semi-clone brands. These are companies to be cautious of. Usually the quality is just ok and they're just putting out models similar looking to older models of some OEM's. Gigagolf or Pine Meadow are brands that come to mind. These aren't counterfeit clubs but just clones. Many years ago I played some of both companies offerings. Initially I thought they were great but eventually found my way further down the DTC rabbit hole. My eyes were then opened to a whole other world and these brands kind of became live/learn scenarios for me. 

2. DTC brands with non-original designs. Often times (especially recently), a person or group of people with some money in the bank decide they want to start a golf club company. New tooling for original forge or casting dyes costs a LOT. When another company has a model being stamped or cast at a foundry, they often run it for a period of time until they decide to discontinue the model. There's an expiration time on the stamping dye and after that time is up, the design becomes part of the foundry's open catalogue. Many of these overnight and even bigger DTC companies are just putting their names on expired foundry dyes and maybe just making some tweaks to the grinds, or finishes. This is why we are seeing so many "similar" looking models between some companies. Essentially it's the same club with different names. Additionally it helps save cost on paying engineers to design new models and R&D to test the clubs. Many of these are still high-quality turn outs but there is more room for error and quality control tolerances could be questioned. Also the tech on these could be somewhat outdated but that's another subjective topic for another day. 

3. Lastly there's the original design DTC. These companies work just like the big boys but at a much smaller scale. They have their own in-house designers/engineers and they're able to stay in the pocket with modern tech and design. Often the club designer is the person who started the business and likely has an admirable design pedigree working for bigger companies in the past. You will find more design originality, enhanced service levels, and just an overall higher level of pride taken in the product. 

Maltby is a great example and why I've been using their clubs for a few years now. The company was started by Ralph Maltby many years ago after he decided to break away from main stream companies where he designed many models. In the past 5 or so years, Britt Lindsay has taken the mantle on but he was an understudy of Ralphs for many years so the lineage is still very relevant. 

I've also found hybrid versions of #2 and #3 with re-prints AND originals in their lineup. 

Y'all know me.. if you have anything else to add or correct, please chime in! 

 

That said I'm going to start another thread showcasing DTC brands where we can all show off our brands and talk about the pro's and con's and why we all went with our respective brands. TBC

 

Did you start this other thread about DTC brands? I just came across this thread and it was a great read. I am interested in DTC brands for irons and I can probably add some questions.

Driver: ping.png.006bacb76d65413e66b9c8eb1b47f592.png G20

3W: cobra2.png.60653951979ca617ca859530a17d0a2d.png King Speedzone (adj loft +1.5 to 16 deg) 

Irons: ping.png.006bacb76d65413e66b9c8eb1b47f592.png i200 (3 thru PW & UW)

Wedge: Ray Cook 60 deg

Putter: Spalding TP Mills 3

Tech: golfshot.png.5c17c64b9425413b3bf24668ce3fa044.png on Apple Watch & phone

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm going to throw out some thoughts on this stuff now that I've learned a lot. It may be a bit stream-of-consciousness so fair warning there. I just started typing what I was thinking. I don't have any direct questions yet, but I welcome any additional thoughts or clarifications from others on this stuff. What do you think about the DTC golf clubs situation? 

There are so many cool iron sets out there now. I like to see the DTC sets out now since they give you a lesser known, but still high quality option for sometimes a significantly lower price. If it works for you, why not? I don't have any loyalty to big brands, though maybe Ping a little, nothing irrational. I also don't really care too much what the pros play. I do like a couple Titleist balls, but it's because I seem to do well with them. I haven't actually watched golf on TV forever. And a DTC set of irons would be a bit unique. It's intriguing for sure. Golf companions would surely be curious. If I hit something better than others, I'll go for it, even if it's PXG, lol. I like this dispassionate data-driven mindset now. 

I'm seeing these Takomo irons that rated very highly for MyGolfSpy's players irons roundup and look amazing, and there are cool McGregor and Ram and they may bring new Ben Hogan irons soon. I've heard of Haywood and Maltby. Sub 70 is actually in my state, though a 4 hour drive away.

Anyway I think this development is really neat in the industry. It reminds me of the craft beer explosion. I can see there could be a widely varying amount of engineering in these DTC designs. That part does differ with the craft beer analogy. I don't know how many iron lines I would be able to test at a Golf Galaxy or Club Champion. But it makes me want to test some of these. I've become more of a gear head only this year and doing more reading now when I did none before. I wouldn't even know about these brands if I hadn't. And I also want to know I can play a set better than another before I buy one. That's a potential edge that I can't pass up now. But that's a tough one for the DTCs.

But back to the engineering - this makes me wonder about the engineering going on at club manufacturers and these DTC club makers. The big names definitely have an engineering team. It may not be many people, I don't know. But they are thinking about the club shape, structure, materials, and all of that in depth. They have some experience working on previous designs so there is a bunch of institutional knowledge there. And they are doing testing on various things. So that's great, I can have trust they are putting in the effort in a new club design and not just making a metal object that is shaped slightly differently from the others.

For a brand like MacGregor's new irons, I remember reading in MyGolfSpy's article that a well known club designer came on to design those. He had been at a bigger manufacturer both prior and after and in the industry a long time.

For the other DTC though, what happens with the engineering? It is definitely a possibility that most things under the sun have already been done over and over again. These irons are hunks of metal, with a shape, sometimes an internal structure, and made with material(s). There isn't a lot there. They aren't microchips. They've actually been around a lot longer than microchips and have changed less. So a club designer could do so without any engineering or materials background at all, and I think we see some of that as part of this DTC market.

And it sounds like in this case, often the institutional knowledge has shifted to the Chinese-factory-for-hire. That's not a knock. Apparently they put out a good product so they know what they are doing. In some cases it ends up being a collaborative process designing the clubs between the engineers of the factory and the investor/designer at the DTC company. It certainly makes for a diversity of process on how we get to the end product today.

Driver: ping.png.006bacb76d65413e66b9c8eb1b47f592.png G20

3W: cobra2.png.60653951979ca617ca859530a17d0a2d.png King Speedzone (adj loft +1.5 to 16 deg) 

Irons: ping.png.006bacb76d65413e66b9c8eb1b47f592.png i200 (3 thru PW & UW)

Wedge: Ray Cook 60 deg

Putter: Spalding TP Mills 3

Tech: golfshot.png.5c17c64b9425413b3bf24668ce3fa044.png on Apple Watch & phone

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I think most of the engineering is done by the foundry, either on their own or at the prodding of the club company. Golfsmith was selling C455 steel faced fairways 20 years ago. Now TM does it and it’s some sort of revaluation. 
I just tried out the Ram FX77 which is similar to several club heads and performed as well as an iron can. A little short on toe ward shots compared to the Maltby KE4 Tour+ but most irons aren’t as forgiving as the Maltby is.

 

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