STROKES GAINED CUSTOMS
Have you ever wanted to get a custom putter or wedge made up? Strokes Gained Customs in fact does provide this service to the end user. If you have not seen any of Neal Rohrbach (who is the founder of Strokes Gained Customs LLC work then you are missing out. Check out the back story and where he wants to take the company along with the process it takes to fabricate from beginning to end.
When did you realize you wanted to make putters & wedges?
I started Strokes Gained refinishing, restoring and customizing putters and wedges in 2013. One late night early in 2016 I was shutting down the shop and thought to myself, "ya know, I've got everything in here I need to be working on my own line instead of everyone else's" so I made it happen.
How long is the process to create a putter from beginning of production to the end?
Well, back in the day when I worked on one putter start to finish, after the head was milled there was about 8 to 12 hours of hands on time, depending on the build. I started working on putters and wedges in batches to save time. Grind for a few days, stamp for a few days, mill tour dots and alignment aids for a few days, do a batch of motor oil heads, do a batch of gun blue heads, etc. That method saves a lot of time, setup for a task and knock several out at a time.
Do you cater to customer requests?
For sure, we have our 3 primary models of putters and from there the build is up to the customer in terms of finish, stamping, alignment aid, paint fill, etc. We customize length, loft and lie as well as dial in head-weight or swing-weight.
Do you take into consideration new technology?
We've got COG and MOI dialed in pretty dang good, and rather than R&Ding new tech, we're sticking to classic. Carbon heads, no inserts, just steel and hand craftsmanship. You ask about weight and toe hang, yeah, we dial that in for customers. With several options for welded necks, we can get you in anything from full hang to face balanced.
How did you establish your price points?
We came to our price point on a multitude of factors. The simplest to explain is supply and demand for handcrafted boutique putters. There are some guys higher than us, some guys lower than us, and we're less than 1/3 of the cost of the "big boys'" hand stamped flat sticks. Materials run higher when you're not buying in huge quantities, and there's a lot of time in each putter.
What is your background? To be able to manufacture putters & wedge.
I learned the CAD side of putters during college and the first putter I designed that went into production was part of a freelance gig in 2001. Understanding loft and lie, as well as adjusting clubs started as a kid, tinkering in my dad's shop. This was long before the days of True Spec or Club Champion. We fit ourselves with masking tape and a rug, hitting balls into the hay field, rather than computers and fancy hitting bays. I learned to weld on tractors, running mills, grinders and stamping were all learn on the fly, but I got to pick the brains of some lifelong machinists and golf industry pros.
Is it your intent to keep your business a "small business"?
Absolutely. While I have scaled up some, I finally got it through my thick skull that it was ok to ask for help. I don't want our turnaround to exceed 12 weeks, and try to keep it 6-8. I learned a lot from mistakes a few years ago about work/life balance, Faith and family come first, and I am doing some things for myself these days too. Working in other facets the golf industry, doing some coaching/teaching, and playing professionally when it fits the schedule. I still want every customer to have the opportunity to interact with Rohrs and I want to touch every putter that ships out. I went full time in the golf industry because I really got tired of the 8-5 desk job. I need to be doing things with my hands beyond mashing buttons on a keyboard, getting outside and interacting with people too.
What is your end game for Stokes Gained Customs?
I really don't have an end game or goal for Strokes Gained, just keep doing what I love. I put a lot of trust in the Man upstairs and listen for how I can serve while I'm here. I guess a realistic pipe dream would be to collaborate with a major OEM, have a Strokes Gained line of limited edition or one off custom putters, wedges and swag.
With everything all said and done, I personally would love to be able to support a small business. At the same time I understand that the price point on a custom putter or wedge for that matter might not be feasible for every golfer in the world, but with his Neal Rohrbach's passion and skill his brand has developed an almost cult following and has made them as a company very successful. Feel free to leave your comments below with your thoughts.