Golf gone high-tech

A closer look at the red lasers as they detect the swing.

Customize your clubs with Shaft Lab, Golf Achiever at Golf
MORGAN HILL – Golf Etc. proprietors Larry Ray and David Ramos want to make everyone better golfers.

That’s why the former high-tech engineers and long-time friends opened the only golf shop in Northern California with two state-of-the-art machines that can help mold and craft any golfer’s game by customized their clubs accordingly.

“I got tired of driving to San Jose for all my golf equipment and I was not ready to retire,” said Ray, who spent 35 years as a high-tech engineer before retiring from the industry. “I worked on my house (to keep busy) and then I decided when I was sitting around that that was not good enough. I thought the area needs a really good golf shop.”

But Ray – the shop owner – was not about to open just any plain, old golf shop. He wanted it to be the best, so the six-year Morgan Hill resident went searching on the Internet and discovered the Golf Etc. franchise.

“I have been a golfer my whole life. When I started looking at golf franchises, this jumped out at me,” said Ray of the No. 1 fastest growing golf franchise in the country that has only one other California store in San Diego. “We have two of the most high-tech fitting systems money can buy.”

The first system is the True Temper Shaft Lab – which is tagged the ultimate shaft fitting system. The Shaft Lab is a computer-based application that provides an objective customized shaft prescription unique to each golfer – featuring Pro Tour-proven technology, individual analysis and assessment of swing dynamics.

“It’s a fingerprint when people swing the club,” said Ray, who opened his doors for business in October of 2002.

There are 8,000 censors on the club shaft – which determines the proper shaft flex and tip stiffness by objectively analyzing the shaft during swing. The golfers swing an electronically monitored 5-iron and driver that measure more than 8,000 data points on the shaft.

The Shaft Lab has been used on the Pro Tour for about 12 years and is considered the king of shaft. First, a golfer takes a few swings – between two and four strokes – off the tee box and into the netting inside the 3,000 square-foot facility. The club is plugged into a computer with software that shows your swing profile – using speed and flexibility.

The information sent to the computer measures shaft deflection, downswing time and club-head position at impact. The readings are then compiled and used to recommend that individual’s proper shaft and flex.

“It’s all done on the premises,” said Ray, the operator who then reviews the results and makes his recommendations.

The golfer is then supplied with a printout of their profile with a shaft recommendation sheet that uses a sliding scale for both drivers and irons.

“With that knowledge, we can build a club that is precise (to that golfer’s flex),” said Ray, who got a visit from Masters champion Mike Weir to work on his shaft prior to this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “We get people from as far away as Sacramento to Fresno who come in to use the system.”

Ray – who had to be certified to operate the machinery – then goes to his state-of-the-art workshop and builds a customized club for his customer. The end result leads to longer distance, improved accuracy, better feel, more consistent shots, and lower scores.

“We are the only ones here who run it and do everything,” said Ray, including manager/instructor David Ramos. “The thing we really emphasis and promote is the value of fitted, customized clubs.”

The shop also sells golf equipment at retail with $10,000 worth of shafts and heads in stock such as Callaways. According to Ray, the customized clubs are the same cost, if not cheaper, than buying clubs off the rack.

Ramos was semi-retired living in the area when he decided to join his good buddy at Golf Etc. Unbeknownst to him, Ramos would add to his title of manager a short time later and become an on-site golf instructor as well. He now gives on average of 10 lessons per month – introducing the “flying elbow” method based on the swing of PGA legend Jack Nicklaus.

The four-step program uses a system designed by David Lee, of Arkansas, who is among the top-100 instructors in the nation. Ramos first learned the method himself and, after working with some patrons and getting nothing but positive feedback, decided to offer lessons.

Ramos’ lessons bring into play the second high-tech system at Golf Etc. called the Golf Achiever – which was developed by a Ph.D. out of Stanford. The free swing system uses 3,000 lasers to gauge several aspects of the swing such as swing path, face azimuth, launch angle (angle and backspin), club speed, ball speed, and face impact.

A golfer takes a swing and the ball projection relative to the swing is tracked on the computer – looking almost like a video golf game with several views of the flight path. The computer even detects fades and hooks, so the golfer can see where his ball traveled from point of impact to the final position relevant to the hole.

“Between those two systems, the data it gives us is just tremendous,” said Ray, who charges $40 to use the system.

“Four swings is all you need,” said Ramos, who works with golfers of all ages, abilities, and handicaps. “I always say, ‘Let’s stop on ball you like. They say I could be here all day.'”

The Golf Achiever has caught on so quickly that a long-standing contest has developed to see who can hit the ball the furthest and swing the hardest. Gavilan College sophomore Brad Nagareda holds the record of 293 yards at 135 MPH – breaking Craig O’Neil’s mark of 281 yards at 133 MPH.

“Anyone can come in and try it. It’s fun,” said Ray, who has reached out to the local high schools to generate a partnership with the golf programs. “The most important thing I want is for the community to support us and for us to support the community.”

Ray – who will be featured on the television show Hooked On Golf – gives discounts on equipment and use of the station to Gilroy High and Live Oak High golfers. Illustrating his willingness to reach out to the community, Ray has already reserved a longest drive booth at this year’s Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras. All proceeds will benefit the Live Oak High girls golf team.

“I really want to support the community and the future golfers and the kids,” Ray said.

Golf Etc. has 70 stores nation wide with five more shops scheduled to open in California alone. The shop has custom built clubs, Pro-line clubs and accessories, club repair, unique golf gifts, and computerized swing analysis.

So it is a sure thing that even one visit to Golf Etc., located at 15700 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, or on-line at will improve any golfer’s game.