Edel Golf – Shaping the Future by Studying the Past

Apr 7, 2015 by

Edel Golf – Shaping the Future by Studying the Past

Golf Equipment is designed, manufactured and marketed out of Southern California. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of the industry accepts this as fact. Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, is a mini-Mecca for club companies. The majority of what you see move and shake in the golf equipment space is driven out of the small town backing up to the Pacific Coast. So, why was I driving 30 miles north of Austin to Liberty Hill with the same excitement as if I were touching down in San Diego? Because tucked away in a small industrial park off of a narrow farm road, David Edel and his crew at Edel Golf are building irons, wedges and putters that are causing the movers and shakers in California to sit up and take notice.

Liberty Hill is purely Central Texas. When German immigrants came to Texas, they migrated through most of Southwest Texas, the majority ending their journey around the Austin area on all sides. You see it in the old architecture in the shops along the town’s main roads and can get a taste for it in the numerous German bakeries that dot the map here. In ways, Liberty Hill feels sleepy, and is certainly a far cry from the bustling golf fervor in Southern California. What is it about Liberty Hill that drew Edel there? We’ll get to that.

When I arrived at Edel Golf, I wasn’t quite sure I was in the right place. Aside from a small sign near the door, there are no visible cues that some of the game’s most talented makers work here. Inside and past a slightly claustrophobic front office, where boxes are stacked close to the ceiling for shipping, music is blasting over workers at various machines, parts are moving around the shop, and my guide, Neil Oster, is trying to explain each function over the chaos. It’s a beautiful sight to be a part of. Neil, an accomplished club maker himself, shows me the wedge room where final details are applied to custom orders. The scene here is quieter, but the work is just as intense. Neil explains the process of hand-grinding each wedge, and shows me some blade prototypes that were hand-forged. It’s part of the process, and Neil says the company obsesses over design and can spend a lot of time just building test clubs for exploration. Just off the wedge room is a full size swing simulator that doubles as a full service fitting center. Edel Golf is obsessed with fit. Wedges are fit, irons are fit, putters are fit. The philosophy is that you’re leaving potential on the table if you’re not fit properly. Neil tells me that they often fit putters for juniors who come back as they grow to have it lengthened, but little else changes. Buy it the right way the first time, and it will last you a lifetime. As a bonus, a fitting at Edel Golf is open to the public.

Edel Golf has been in business for quite sometime, but only in the last couple of years have they started to see true mainstream attention. I knew of them four years ago when I was starting out with the blog, and even then, they were a well-kept secret of craftsmanship and very high-end work. Almost boutique status, with word-of-mouth marketing and a product that could run evenly with the finest forgings Japan had to offer. In the last year, they’ve gotten social, with big presence on Twitter and Facebook, engaging more casual fans of higher end golf equipment. The last notch on the visibility belt was also achieved in 2015, with the Edel Signature E Series putters making the coveted Golf Digest Hot List with a Gold rating. Aside from putters, Edel builds a clean set of forged cavity back irons, wedges, and putters. Edel offers an infinite amount of customization options, and the clubs are priced to be competitive with off the shelf offerings. Putters start at $299, irons at $180 per club and wedges come in at $149. All prices are subject to any up charges for premium shafts and customization costs.

I walked right by David Edel when Neil was walking me through the shop. He blends into the action, grinding away on orders shoulder to shoulder with the rest of his staff. When he took a break to come chat, I was looking at a display used at the PGA show to demonstrate how Edel putters resist twisting on the stroke plane. Edel explains it quietly and matter of fact, lacking a sales pitch and letting the physics do the talking. Most of our conversation is the same. Edel is reserved, almost guarded in what information he gives. Having spent time amongst people who are more focused on making than pitching, I understand. When you’re talking, you aren’t working, and even though he never says it, it’s obvious that Edel would rather be hands-on, grinding away, than discussing any of it. So, when I finally asked the question, “Why here?” in regards to the location of the shop, he opens up.

“I bought three Alister MacKenzie designs that were never built, and my late business partner and I found an area very close to here that was perfect, but it ultimately didn’t work out. One of the plans appears to be based on what is now the Par 3 course at Augusta.” Edel just throws that out there like it was something everyone has. He doesn’t follow-up my explaining his passion for design, or his deep respect for the history of the game, but he doesn’t need to. I love this guy. His silent confidence is everywhere, most notably shown in the finished products the shop creates. He opens up a bit more when I ask about the Faldo project and why it didn’t ultimately succeed (the turnaround time on minor changes to the irons were not scalable for the shop), and shows me a few older prototypes of clubs with features large OEMs are now marketing aggressively as new innovation – most notably a years-old wedge with grooves that nearly cover edge-to-edge on the clubface. After a few more minutes, Edel excuses himself to get back to work. In true, “One Last Thing” fashion, Neil walks me through the office, where much more of David Edel’s personality is revealed. A dusty trophy case features putter heads, golf balls of sentimental value, framed magazine articles, and a watch that David hand-made in an effort to explore non-golf related industries. The real gem amongst all the nostalgia is a small newspaper article featuring retired Argentinian pro Roberto De Vicenzo. With no context, you may just think David Edel was just a fan. Neil then reveals that Edel purchased De Vicenzo’s trophy collection in order to preserve the history of a proud golfer. Most of the trophies are locked up, but Neil does pull out a wax casting of the Claret jug from Roberto’s Open Championship win in 1967. Neil talks a little about plans to preserve the collection, and a little more of David Edel is revealed in his collection of golf archaeology.

I snapped back to reality as I left the shop, because for a brief moment, I was in the middle of something special. The feeling you experience among people who genuinely love the game, respect its roots and do whatever it takes to preserve its history is a special thing indeed. If you’re ever in Austin, I suggest you take the trip to Liberty Hill to see what true grass-roots golf looks like. Pick up a cheese kolache along the way.

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