2002: Business - Brothers in Harmony on shafts
Call it a Harmonious alliance.
United Sports Technologies has tapped the golf swing expertise of the Harmon brothers – Butch, Dick, Craig and Billy – to develop a line of graphite shafts for tour-caliber players. UST will introduce the Harmon Tour Design Series in January.
Fort Worth, Texas-based and Japanese-owned UST is best known for its purple and gold ProForce shaft. Dick Harmon, the recently retired head professional at River Oaks Country Club in Houston, has been associated with UST since the company’s inception in 1992. This is the Harmon brothers’ first collaboration on equipment design.
“We wanted to come up with a series of shafts to fit different player profiles,” said Jamie Pipes of UST’s technical support staff. “Dick suggested that we get his brothers involved because we could really learn a lot from their experience as instructors.”
UST has restructured its R&D group, creating a tour department focused entirely on shaft development for professionals. The department’s first product is the Harmon Tour Design Series.
“Working with Butch, Dick, Craig and Billy has greatly expanded our understanding of what a tour player needs in a golf shaft,” said Gene Simpson, UST’s vice president of marketing. “We were able to take a difficult-to-define attribute like ‘feel’ and engineer it into the shaft.”
The Harmon series comes in three models:
44 FZ – A lightweight, tip-stable design for players with medium to quick tempo who seek higher, longer carry off the tee.
44GX – A heavier shaft (79 grams in S flex, compared to 69 grams in the FZ series) with a stronger midsection, designed for players with a stronger, quicker tempo who desire a more penetrating ball flight.
44CB – The lightest in the Harmon series (66 grams in R flex), with a more flexible tip section and designed for players with a long, fluid swing tempo. The CB promotes a “natural draw bias” ball flight.
The Harmon brand shafts will be sold through traditional distribution channels in the aftermarket and to major equipment manufacturers, including Titleist, TaylorMade, Ping and Callaway.
“The thing I like about these shafts is how stable the tip is,” said Butch Harmon. “It comes back (to impact) every time so consistently.”
The Harmons’ golf pedigree runs deep. Their father, 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon, is widely regarded as one of the game’s preeminent teachers. So many of his assistant professionals went on to become outstanding instructors that a stint on Claude Harmon’s staff at Winged Foot was equated to a degree from “Harmon Tech.”
Butch Harmon, of course, is best known as Tiger Woods’ swing adviser. He’s based at the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas.
Dick Harmon, who counts Fred Couples and Lanny Wadkins among his pupils, runs the Dick Harmon School of Golf in Houston.
Craig Harmon is head professional at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. His best-known students are Dottie Pepper and Jeff Sluman.
Billy Harmon is head professional at Bighorn Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif. He has worked extensively with PGA Tour veterans Jay Haas and Billy Andrade.
During the year-long R&D process for the Harmon Tour Design Series, UST sent batches of unmarked shafts to each of the brothers for testing and feedback.
“The information they got was pretty consistent from all of us,” said Billy Harmon.
He said the feedback has “real-world” value because “we’re in the trenches every day. Between the four of us, we probably spend 30 hours a day teaching. When you’re working with real golfers and have done it as long as we have, I think we have something valuable to add to the design process.”
The Harmons have developed their reputations independently. It’s rare for all four to be in the same place at the same time more than once or twice per year.
“For the four of us to collaborate on anything is neat,” said Billy Harmon. “We’ve each done it (teaching careers) on our own. We get support from each other, but we don’t live off each other’s reputation. So it was neat to take our collective knowledge and do something with it.”