Historic golf club given new lease of life at Dundee

As some of the world’s top golfers prepare to descend upon Scotland for the 2014 Ryder Cup, researchers from the University of Dundee are celebrating the game’s history with the use of the latest technology.

They have produced the world’s first metal 3D-printed clubhead using irons loaned by the British Golf Museum in St Andrews.

The University’s division of Mechanical & Electrical Engineering teamed up with St Andrews Golf Co. to investigate the process of making high quality, authentic examples of historically important irons, woods and putters using traditional craft methods.

Today’s clubs are created in such a manner that they can be manufactured with ease on modern machinery. St Andrews Golf Co. is the only company in the world to still practice the craft of producing golf clubs by hand, which was once popular across Britain, but has now almost disappeared due to the adoption of modern, digital based production methods.

The company’s Grant Payne, a Product Design graduate of the University, used his skills to convert physical to digital and back again. After 3D scanning the clubs, he used specialist programmes to make accurate digital models of the clubs.

The Mechanical Engineering team then worked with colleagues in academia and industry to ready the model for printing in metal. The clubhead was recreated exactly, including dents, patina & damage collected over its 125 year life.

Grant says the project will hopefully protect these examples of rare and ancient golf clubs, as they are irreplaceable artefacts of great importance to Scotland’s cultural and manufacturing heritage.

“We are delighted to have assisted in the production of the world’s first metal 3D-printed clubhead. The avenues opened up by combining the latest in manufacturing technology with the traditional craftsmanship practiced by St Andrews Golf Co Ltd are exciting. It was only made possible through our Industrial Partnership with the University and we hope it will demonstrate to people we’re thinking about the future, whilst being considerate of the past.” he said.

“We are the last true clubmakers, the custodians of the craft, so this was an important project for us to have taken part in, allowing us to ensure that the model was historically accurate. Frankly, without the assistance and expertise of the academics at the University this project would have impossible for us to undertake alone.”

“Studying the evolution of golf clubs is one of the best ways of learning about the game’s history. The two clubs we looked at are interesting because they date from a time that was known as golf’s ‘era of innovation’, when the sport as we know it today really came into being.”

The two clubs that Grant and the Dundee team worked on were a ‘President’ Water Iron from around 1885 made by James Anderson of Anstruther, and a Rake Iron from around five years later by an unknown maker.

The Water Iron was for golfers to play their ball from either a burn or casual water, the idea being that the club would almost ‘scoop’ the ball out the water. The Rake Iron owes its origins to a less-than-amused optometrist, believed to have lived in Montrose, who became fed up of having to remove sand from eyes of golfers playing at their local links. The club was designed in such a manner that it would reduce the risk of sand being cast up into the players’ eyes. These are prime examples of the creativity and ingenuity of Scottish people, traits that the University of Dundee upholds and prides itself on today.

The club was carefully scanned on the Next Engine 3D Scanner in the University’s Division of Mechanical & Electrical Engineering. The resulting digital imagery and geometric data was then collated to create a single fused model and small amounts of digital post-processing was undertaken to remove any ‘foreign’ data.

The CAD model was then sent to German company EOS, where it was printed in cobalt chrome over the course of 29 hours by a process known as Metal Laser Sintering (MLS). When the part returned to Scotland for finishing it became apparent that the clubhead was so strong it could not be drilled by St Andrews Golf Co. using traditional methods so was sent to the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), where engineers drilled out the hosel using high carbide drills.

The part was then returned to St. Andrews Golf Co., who then fitted the clubhead with a hickory shaft and grip, polished the head and applied a traditional clubmaker’s stamp mark in keeping with the period of time that the club was dated from.

It is hoped the club, and others that may follow, will be produced for use as teaching aids at the museum and in areas of the world where there is little historical understanding of the game.

St. Andrews Golf Co. Ltd’s roots date back to 1881. They are the last remaining Scottish based golf club manufacturer, a result of the major consolidation that has gone on in the industry in Scotland.

The company is home to three of Scotland’s most famous club making brands: George Nicoll, Tom Stewart, and of course, St Andrews Golf Co. itself. They are the only golf club manufacturer at the ‘home of golf’ and the last club maker in the world retaining the traditional skills to hand craft playable sets of hickory and modern state-of-the-art golf clubs.

More information about St Andrews Golf is available at www.standrewsgolfco.com.


For media enquiries contact:
Grant Hill
Press Officer
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
TEL: 01382 384768
E-MAIL: g.hill@dundee.ac.uk
MOBILE: 07854 953277