When your golf company already is the leader in high-tech, tour-level club fitting, it’s a challenge to take it to the next level. But the people who own and operate Scottsdale-based Hot Stix Golf apparently have done just that.
Hot Stix Golf Performance Center at Legend Trail Golf Club opens today. It is the first such hands-on, techno-savvy lab like it in the country.
Tom Graunke, the chairman of Hot Stix, said the new facility that features two indoor/outdoor hitting bays and a complete range and short-game area, is, well, the perfect fit.
“Originally, we started with a store in Scottsdale, and expanded by adding a mobile center (trailer/van),’’ Graunke said. “The new lab at Legend Trail is a combination of both — store bays and the mobile technology.’’
It’s also a win/win for Legend Trail, said Mark Bishop, the vice president of marketing for the Scottsdale Golf Group, which earlier brought the Golf Digest Schools to the Scottsdale club.
“It’s just another amenity that nobody else has at their course in Arizona,’’ Bishop said. “It’s like combining all of the best things about club fitting into one, and it is brand-agnostic.’’
For $795, golfers can now get the best fit — a five-hour assessment/examination of their game and equipment — and have their clubs custom built (prices vary). During the rigorous testing, Hot Stix’s master fitters find out what ball, shaft, grip, brand, etc., will make you a better player.
“For instance, if you bring in your new driver, we’ll take it apart and find out its true measurements through scientific data, and then create a repository of that equipment’s DNA and put it in a database for you,’’ Graunke said. “It sounds complicated, but it’s why we’re the largest independent tester of equipment in the world.’’
Players such as Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin and FBR Open champ Aaron Baddeley are frequent visitors to Hot Stix. But these days, so are golfers like Tommy and Karen Stewart, who came all the way from Columbus, Ga., to get fit and purchase clubs through Hot Stix.
“Very impressed,’’ said Tommy Stewart when asked what he thought of the facility. “When I first walked in, I thought I was in a doctor’s office. There were all these guys running around in white lab coats with charts everywhere.’’
Stewart would know, as he just happens to be an anesthesiologist. He’s also a 3-handicap, and his wife is an 11.
“I think the Hot Stix lab is probably more for the better player,’’ Stewart added. “I’ve gone through three or four club fittings in the past, and this was a whole new level for Karen and me.’’
One of the things the Hot Stix fitters found out about Stewart’s game was he needed to switch from a face-balanced putter to a heal-toe putter. He said he was “totally impressed’’ with the putting exam, which uses five high-definition cameras and four lasers to pinpoint problems.
Stewart also learned a lot about his ball flight. “I even found out what type of ball I should be using,’’ he said.
That happens when golfers are able to go through intensive testing that includes such categories as ball contact, ball spin, ball flight and trajectory, as well as evaluations of their driver, long game, mid-game, scoring irons, short game and putting.
Last year, 8,000 golfers went through Hot Stix’s doors. This year, Graunke said he is expecting more than 10,000 golfers to undergo a fitting now that his company has expanded to the new facility at Legend Trail.
“We are the largest club-fitter in the world, and that’s by 10 times over (the next biggest),’’ he said. “What’s interesting is, 60 percent of those seeking our services come from out of state, and 30 percent are female.’’
The company, which has been owned by techno-based StormWind Ventures since 2005, is getting bigger, Graunke added. Hot Stix now has 65 employees, including two master fitters and 14 club fitters.
“You can get fitted (for clubs) all over the Valley,’’ Graunke said. “But no one is doing the R&D (research and development) and tour-type building (of clubs) like we’re doing.
“So, basically, you’re paying for perfection.’’