As the Golf Clubmakers Association ‘Clubmaker of the Year’ Lee Porter ranks among the top 10 custom-fit clubmakers throughout all Europe, writes Dominic O’Byrne
Lee Porter first started making golf clubs straight after leaving school. He was a qualified PGA teaching professional within 6 years, and over a quarter of a century of earning a living through various golfing enterprises and disciplines, he has returned to his original trade.
Lee is at the forefront of a new approach to custom-fitting golf clubs. Being measured-up for golf clubs has traditionally been the preserve of Tour players and the rich, and over the past four years or so the falling price of club components has opened up this type of treatment to a much wider market. Still, however, it is a commonly-held belief that only single-figure handicappers really benefit. Lee Porter will turn this urban myth on its head.
The BCA Clubmaker of the year has no airs and graces. And that’s quite appropriate because his way of making golf clubs is one of simplicity and good old-fashioned craftsmanship. Whatever your standard of play, he says, he will improve your game measurably by custom-fitting you. Lee’s roundabout journey back to clubmaking is central to this promise. The time he spent as a coaching professional allows him to approach clubmaking from the direction of one who is very well-acquainted with the biomechanics of how people actually play golf.
The correlation isn’t as obvious as it sounds, because not every teacher is a clubmaker and not every clubmaker is a golf coach. There are some very highly thought-of clubmakers who have never taught in their lives, but Lee Porter’s hit rate for improving golfers suggests that using more than a single-dimension methodology is successful.
Porter is also proud (and fiercely protective) of his independence. He eschews the supposed benefits of having ‘big name’ golf branding around the business in favour of having genuine choice when it comes to component specification in the best interests of the customer, as opposed to supporting main sponsors. If he doubts the quality of brands like Callaway, Titleist, TaylorMade, Srixon or any other, you won’t hear him say so. But the fact remains that the business of making a golf club especially for an individual stems from the individual’s needs – and they won’t always match a prescriptive stock-holding.
This principled stance (if one wants to call it that) earns him the vigorous support of his suppliers, among whom are the world’s most revered names in sports equipment engineering. Some of these businesses exercise very strict controls over whom they will and won’t supply; there are one or two components that are obtainable exclusively from Lee Porter Golf Solutions and nobody else in the UK. Perhaps this is due to his unofficial role in their quality control: he personally tests every component for flaws rather than simply take top quality for granted. If they fail muster the components go back to the manufacturer. In this way the customer is satisfied, but the manufacturer’s brand integrity is also preserved.
He uses a hands-on technique, doing virtually everything himself, yet rates are still reasonable. He charges the going rate for parts and for his time – no extras. Golfers approach him directly but he is also attracting a growing number of referrals from club professionals whose own members they feel would benefit from playing custom-fitted clubs. In a competitive and often begrudging professional sphere, this is noteworthy – if not an actual accolade.
He has grown his list of Tour Player customers to eight, and these range from European, Seniors, EuroPro and Sunshine Tours.
His frank self-appraisal is straightforward (like most other things he does): “Why – when some of the world’s most modern engineering goes into the design and manufacture of golf club components – would anybody decide to view custom-fitting the way they did 20 years ago? This is not just for category one golfers or the super rich. Whatever your level of proficiency, a set of custom-made clubs – properly measured and built with care – will make a huge difference.”
And as the ultimate endorsement a clubmaker can give his own work, all his clubs carry a performance guarantee.