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The Van Cynical Mailbag: How to Customize Your Driver, Plus Will Tiger Make the Cut at Hoylake (and Is There a Lake There)?

Donald Trump Driver Head
ClubCrown made this driver decal for Donald Trump/

My support hasn’t wavered during the World Cup soccer championship in Brazil. Throughout the entire tournament, I played golf with a driver newly customized by a flag on its crown.

The flag of, um, Norway.

I’m not sure which conspiracy kept Norway out of this year’s World Cup, but I am sure there was a conspiracy because I can’t think of a logical explanation for the absence of Norway, whose famously balmy climate surely produces great soccer players the way a steamy bayou grows Swamp Things. Be that as it may, I’m getting a slew of comments about my driver’s Norwegian motif installed by ClubCrown:

What kind of driver is that?

It’s my regular driver, an ordinary Adams Speedline Fast 10, a couple of years old.

Did the driver come that way?

No. ClubCrown, a two-year-old company started by Andrew Glaser, who worked in the hedge-fund field for 10 years until he decided golf was more fun, installed the flag on my driver a few weeks ago. Glaser, 34, went to Penn, by the way, and graduated from the prestigious Wharton Business School.

Why Norway?

Why not Norway? I was looking for something off the wall to generate attention, and if you’re going to redecorate your driver head, you might as well go all in. Plus, I have some Norwegian ancestry on my grandmother’s side, so I went for the Home of Awesome Fjords (no doubt that’s the national motto). Also, the blue cross on the red background turns out to be a pretty darned good alignment aid -- an unexpected bonus.

Where did you have it done?

I shipped the club to ClubCrown using a pre-paid shipping label it supplied. The actual installation process takes only 10 minutes. In my case, I sent my driver out on a Monday and got it back Thursday morning. Fast. Another option, depending on where you live: A growing number of golf retail stores are doing ClubCrown’s installations, as are ClubCrown ambassadors around the country.

How much does it cost?

The application is $39.95 once you pick out a design from the website.

What other designs are there?

The national flags of Brazil, Barbados, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan, Mexico and Wales; 75 NCAA Division I teams; and a hodgepodge of assorted patterns that include Smiley Face, an atomic bomb explosion, a breast cancer pink ribbon, animals and black widow spiders. Among the company’s best sellers: military logos (Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy) and anything with flames and skulls. Donald Trump had a ClubCrown design installed on his driver and you’ll never guess what he went with. His face. Oh, you guessed.

How durable is that decal?

I’ve already put at least a dozen rounds on my Norway flag and it looks as good as ever. There is no sign that it’s even thinking of peeling off, if that’s what you’re asking.

So those are the nuts and bolts. ClubCrown has an incredibly fun product. Besides the wide array of custom designs, I think the best part is the quality. The driver looks as if it came from the factory with this design on it.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” says ClubCrown president Brendan Doyle, 23, a former All-Ivy League golfer at Columbia University. Doyle filled me in on the company’s origin story, and how he and founding partner Glaser, who has engineering and finance degrees, found a void and filled it.

“Andrew saw how iPhone cases and customization were revolutionizing every industry,” Doyle said. “He’s a golfer -- his handicap has been as low as scratch. He saw that golf was doing some fun things with shaft designs, but the clubhead has stayed boring for so long. Options for consumers’ drivers were basically black or white. So he said, let’s add customization at a reasonable price.”

Glaser spent six months inventing and perfecting the installation process, which involves about eight patents. Then there was also the process of getting licensing agreements for the trademarked logos. ClubCrown first got exposure through Worldwide Golf Shops and Roger Dunn Golf Shops on the West Coast. Now the company is negotiating with assorted big-box retailers to improve its distribution. Glaser also made an appearance on Fox Business news recently to showcase the launch of another product, The Stripe. It’s $19.95 and is a stripe (a variety of options are available) that goes across the crown of your driver (or fairway wood) and is about as wide as a golf ball. It’s meant to be an alignment aid in addition to being decorative, and it comes as a do-it-yourself kit. To install it, you clean the clubhead crown, line up the stripe to the sweet spot, and use an ingenious string to cut the stripe decal off at the club’s edge.

The initial inventory of The Stripe sold out in four days after its release, Doyle said.

“It looks just as good but it doesn’t cover the entire crown,” Doyle said. “It definitely grabs attention and it looks painted on, too.”

Doyle said ClubCrown customers have shown an unexpected loyalty; once they’ve had a customized clubhead, they don’t want to go back. They tend to get customization on any new drivers they purchase, and also on their fairway woods. I admit that I’m already hooked on the product, no pun intended, although I regret that I have but one driver to customize… so far.

Last year, I put a ridiculous Hello Kitty headcover on my driver. I thought it was hilarious, and I expected endless conversation and jibes. By mid-summer, though, it was generating no conversation. Nothing. Not a peep. It was disappointing. “Maybe it was a little awkward and people thought you had a weird obsession with Hello Kitty,” Doyle said.

Maybe. But now my Norwegian driver has done what Hello Kitty couldn’t. My playing associates are coming up with jokes about Thor, Valhalla, lefse (a Norwegian flatbread) and ski-yumping with Yon Yohnson (translation: ski-jumping with John Johnson). I give ClubCrown full credit.

Unless it’s just, you know, the power of Norway.

Let’s go to the mailbag:

Good VCM question actually. This British Open qualifying system seems goofy. Is there a better way?
-- Jeff@GolfInPebble via Twitter

Brilliant job of using the initials of Van Cynical Mailbag, JeffPebb. When my marketing department lands me a sweet merchandising deal and my own Ben & Jerry’s flavor, you’ll be one of the first to get a T-shirt and cap. The Open has qualifying in the U.K. like U.S. Open qualifying, local and sectional, but they aren’t convenient for U.S.-based golfers. Nobody said it has to be convenient, however. How bad do you want to play the Open? When the R&A held actual Stateside qualifiers, attendance by PGA Tour players was embarrassingly low. So admitting the top four from the Greenbrier may be an improvement, but I’d lean toward giving the spots back to the qualifiers in the U.K. and dropping the American spots.

Sickle, Where’s the best place for warm beer and haggis near Hoylake?
-- Klaugh56 via Twitter

Anywhere in England is a good place for warm beer, guaranteed. I stayed at a Hilton on the other side of Liverpool during the last Open at Hoylake, and it should’ve had its Hilton status revoked. The elevator was broken, the air conditioning didn’t work -- it was blistering hot that week -- and I dropped off laundry at the front desk but they never sent it out. While haggis is considered a Scottish dish, a restaurant called Julian’s in Hoylake has it on the menu. But I can’t vouch for it. Just avoid the Hilton at all costs.

Van Cynical, Is there a lake at Hoylake?
-- Dave Conlon via Twitter

Good point, D.C. No, there is not. The channel of water just offshore between the peninsula and Hilbre Island was known as Hoyle Lake. The town that sprouted up on the mainland, as it were, was a good spot for ships to anchor that were too big to continue up the River Dee -- and came to be known as Hoy Lake. Amazing what you can learn on Wikipedia…if it’s true.

Van Cynical, Does Tiger make the cut at Hoylake? And who do you like for win, place and show?
-- Dave Conlon via Twitter

Tiger has missed only three cuts in major championships as a pro in his career, so I’ll take the chalk and say Tiger makes the cut but doesn’t contend. Opens tend to have unpredictable weather, making predictions problematic and pointless. I’ll stick with good iron players and good putters, so how about Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell.

Vans, Do you see anyone qualifying and pulling a Ben Curtis to steal the show next week?
-- The Bogey Train

There are a lot of up-and-coming young guys with the game to do it, but holding up under the pressure of a major championship is a different matter. Aussie Oliver Goss is an impressive newcomer, as is just-turned-pro Patrick Rodgers, but first they have to qualify. I don’t see another Curtis, no. Maybe someone will pop up after sectional qualifying in the U.K.

Van Cynical, Who are your three picks if you’ve gotta finalize your U.S. Ryder Cup roster this week?
-- Rex via email

At this very moment, I’d have to leave off Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They just don’t look ready to play. That could change by the PGA. I believe the Ryder Cup is a putting contest, so I’d go with Brendon Todd (10th in points), Webb Simpson (12th) and Zach Johnson (15th). That means I’d be passing up Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley and Harris English, but those guys may not even need picks; there are still two majors left, each worth double points. Tiger and Phil could qualify, too.

Van Sickle, last week you guys discussed a mixed gender event. What about a co-ed President’s Cup? It solves the Internationals’ depth problem, distinguishes the match from the Ryder Cup and solves the lack of a Cup competition for non-European ladies. The match-ups would be really fun.
-- Brian Rosenwald via Twitter

You get bonus points for originality, BriRo, but this idea sounds a lot like the Saturday evening couples league at the local municipal course. Yes, Annika Sorenstam at her best proved that she could play with the men, sorta almost, but I don’t see any Annikas out there now. It would turn the PC into a Silly Season event, really, and who wants to be the one who has to tell Aaron Baddeley, “Sorry you’re not on the team, I went with I.K. Kim instead.” It might make for good TV, but as a serious event, I don’t see it.

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