Golf writers regard new equipment launches with a healthy dose of cynicism. With no malice towards the wonderful folk at the big R&D facilities of major manufacturers—who spend their lives devising new ways to extract golfing excellence from hapless hackers like your columnist—we’re just not that easily convinced any more. If every new driver that promised ‘20 more yards!’ had delivered even 10, I’d be smashing it 400 yards by now (bang in the middle, too). Instead, after a fair bit of hit-and-trial, I’ve realised that my Ping G2 driver, more than half my age, is the club that suits my eye, feels good at address and, not surprisingly, hits it almost as far as my friend George’s Ping G20. Now, George spent a pretty penny on this new club last week and it looks every bit as expensive as it is. But over a couple of sessions at the range, the G20’s scratched and dinged ancestor managed to keep up with its shiny counterpart. We weren’t using a launch monitor, so can’t really comment on ball speed, launch angle and the like, but I hit it almost as far and with much better accuracy.
There’s a lot that’s relative with that experiment, the most crucial being that I’ve been using this club for so long that it just feels natural in my hands. Also, it has got upgrades: the shaft has been changed a few times and I get it re-gripped every year. All in all, I’m not making a statement about the efficacy of old clubs—that’s up to you. Jeev Milkha Singh still uses a 1990s Ping Zing wedge (he’s got a cache for himself) and my dad will never be convinced to let go of his trusty 1970s blade putter again (after a disastrous stint with a mallet putter). But I digress again. The only point I wanted to make was that new equipment launches don’t get me particularly excited.
Given that, the email I received late last year from France, inviting me to the launch of a new line of driving irons, did pique my curiosity. It was unusual on several counts: I’d never even heard of Grismont Paris, let alone as a golf equipment manufacturer; the brain behind the company, Clément Pouget-Osmont, is 26 years old; and, most interestingly, the clubs—a line of driving irons—are produced using 3D printing, the first production clubs to have been made using the technology.
I wasn’t that surprised by the application of 3D technology to golf club-making, considering the myriad range of products it is now being used to create—everything from guns to toys and practically every household item you’ll ever need. What was surprising was the association with luxury. With golf clubs, like with fine clothing and personal accessories, luxury has always been synonymous with handcrafted objects. The cost is directly proportional to the perceived effort and time it has taken to produce, in addition to the beauty of the thing, and the brand. 3D printing, I would think, represents precisely the opposite of that.
“At Grismont, we have combined disruptive technology with handcrafted design expertise to produce a new generation of custom-made golf equipment for golfers who want something exclusive and amazing to behold, but who also want to stand on the tee, knowing that the club in their hands fills them with incomparable confidence,” says Clement, in glowing terms.
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I’ve never been very good at communicating with the French, but after a few conversations with fellow golf hacks around the world, the verifiable facts I could glean were: 1) the company has put the clubs through two years of rigorous testing and apparently the clubs work rather well; and 2) the 3D printing production process enables Grismont to create incredibly detailed shapes with extreme precision, producing a micro-welded clubhead inherently stronger than traditional cast irons. Then there’s the business of customisation, which is where the luxury angle comes in: the clubheads are incredibly ornate and the designs, which incorporate a range of metals from copper to precious metals, are bespoke to every customer. Every club is essentially custom-made at the facility in France.
Taste is relative and not everyone, your columnist included, is taken with the ornateness of the designs. But then, I’ve played with people who have gold medallions on the back of their Honma irons; and who would possibly appreciate the Grismont blend of art and tech. Interestingly, while the irons are modelled on the timeless blade-design, they are, in fact, cleverly concealed cavity-backs. That makes sense; pure blade driving irons wouldn’t be of much use to anyone, but the most expert players.
Grismont is the first, but I’m certain we’ll see a variety of 3D printed equipment in the near future. I’m not sure the equipment companies are happy about this development: given the nature of the job, the precision and the wherewithal required, golf club manufacturing has remained the preserve of big corporations. 3D printing might just bring about an age of democratisation and customisation in golf equipment (as with other things): imagine picking up a free design online, customising it, say, with your own motif, and getting it printed at the local 3D printer!
I’m going to be obstinate though; the Grismont clubs, even if they were to my aesthetic sensibilities, aren’t going to replace that Miura blade, which has been hand-forged from a single lump of metal by a master club-maker in Japan. These people are still revered in that country as craftsmen of the highest calibre and elite golfers the world over still use clubheads hand-forged by these club-makers (and re-branded with appropriate equipment sponsor logos). The Grismont driving irons sell for roughly $2,000 each, depending on the level of customisation. An entire Miura set of irons, including duty and shipping to India, would cost probably a third more: that would be a steal. Meanwhile, if anyone is 3D printing tees, I’d love to try some.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game