There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried
Fairway Jockey—An online option for golfers who want custom-built equipment but like the option to order off-menu.
Chris Nickel. I’m a tinkerer by nature. I like to build things, break them apart and then build them again. Golf clubs, steak fajitas … really anything goes. Beyond that, I have a penchant for lesser-known, and occasionally hard-to-find, equipment brands.
A Word About Fairway Jockey
Golfers have a number of options when it comes to purchasing new equipment. Big-box retailers (Golf Galaxy, PGA TOUR Superstore, DICK’S), local green-grass accounts and DTC (direct-to-consumer) options each have clear benefits with few drawbacks. The primary upside is convenience but the cost for that is often a one-size-fits-most selection of product. Some locations offer fitting services, the quality of which often varies more than the wait time at the local DMV.
More discerning consumers might work with a local mom and pop fitter or at a brand-sponsored demo day.
Companies like TrueSpec, Club Champion and TXG offer soup-to-nuts, in-person fitting, and custom-building services. Short of opportunities afforded to elite professionals, this is what most would consider the best option for golfers who are willing to pay a premium for custom-fit equipment built to tour-level specifications.
But what about the golfer who knows what he or she wants and just needs someone to build it?
Enter Fairway Jockey. According to the company, it has the largest selection of premium aftermarket products in the world. Beyond that, its bigger brother, True Spec, has the back-end fulfillment and build a shop that allows Fairway Jockey such a robust menu of offerings.
Put differently, Fairway Jockey is for the golfer who has the measurements and just needs the tailor.
Fairway Jockey Ordering Process
It’s simple. The website is set up to facilitate a clean, straightforward process. It’s well organized and took me all of four minutes and 28 seconds to build and order a custom set of irons. It’s not quite Amazon Prime quick but it’s no more involved than ordering takeout from Qdoba.
Moreover, if you have a request that isn’t part of the standard form (i.e., extra wraps under only the bottom hand of a midsize grip), it’s easy enough to add under the “Product Notes” section. Not to belabor the point, but even a card-carrying Luddite could navigate the process without any missteps.
This is also where Fairway Jockey’s phone consultation/fitting option plays a role. To be clear, it is more of a consultation than a fitting. Unless you have meaningful club-specific data (swing speed, launch, spin, path), there’s only so much the person on the other end of the line can do. Like former IBM programmer George Fueschel said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
My advice would be to present either plenty of data or specific setups (club, shaft, flex, length) that have worked well previously. That way the fitter can help explore potential options that might be beneficial. In my case, I had everything figured out with the exception of the shaft. Because of my Zorro-esque transition and tempo, I need a shaft with a stiff butt section. Typically, Dynamic Gold X100 (130 grams) or the slightly lighter Dynamic Gold 120 X100 yield fairly optimal results for me. My question was, “Is there anything else in the 120-gram range you might suggest?” After some additional discussion, we landed on Nippon Modus 120X. For the record, Tony Finau uses the same shaft, albeit mine is one flex softer.
And The Results …
A couple of weeks after placing my order, the 48″x6″x6″ box that we all love to see on the porch, arrived. But before that, I was routinely updated on the build process and delivery schedule. Incidentally, Fairway Jockey does have a live cam of the build shop, though they might want to update the estimated turnaround time which still refers to April 2022.
Fairway Jockey promises to build your clubs to “tour-level” spec tolerances. That’s fine but, absent quantifiable metrics, it’s a nebulous talking point. To that end, Fairway Jockey defines “tour -level specifications as:
- Length within 1/16”
- Loft and lie within +/- 0.5 degree
- CPM within +/- 2
- Swingweight within +/- half point
In the final analysis, consumers want to know whether any good or service met the stated expectations. We can argue whether some tolerances should be tighter—personally, I’d like to see swing weight closer than +/- one-half point. If the target swing weight is D2, that means your 7-iron could be as heavy as D2.5 and your 8-iron as light as D1.5. Technically, it meets the stated tolerance which is still much better than standard production tolerances.
But at some point, it’s reasonable to consider whether a minuscule difference in spec tolerance has any impact on performance. It’s a distinction without any real difference.
I measured my set using a Mitchell ruler and Mitchell loft/lie machine. In addition, I used a GolfWorks swingweight scale to assess both swingweight and total weight. I also measured CPM without the grips installed using a five-inch butt clamp.
Fairway Jockey Build Score
Length 10/10: I actually removed the grips to see exactly what the cut length was, given that the cap size on each grip can vary slightly. Each iron was well within the 1/16” target and to the naked eye, it was spot on.
Loft/Lie 9/10: The only reason I knocked this down a point was a couple of the clubs deviated by more than the stated tolerance on my machine. The primary upside with loft/lie is that a) it’s super easy to fix and b) you should check it at least twice a year if you have soft, forged irons. So no biggie.
Swingweight 9/10: Using my analog scale, I found that several clubs exceeded the +/- half point tolerance by roughly an additional half point. That said, without a digital scale, I’d suggest that my measurements were within an expected error range.
CPM 9/10: First off, 2 CPM is roughly ⅕ of a flex. So, again, if one iron is +2 CPM from target and the next is -2 CPM from target, that’s nearly ½ of a flex. It might sound like I’m nitpicking but, given the capabilities of high-end build shops, this is the one spec that I’d want to see as close to perfect as possible. Some will contend that +/- 2 CPM is reasonably perfect. And if that were the entire CPM range throughout a set of irons, I’d agree.
Total 37/40: That’s solid work and I tend to be a bit tough to please. By any measure, it’s a score that should give golfers plenty of confidence in what Fairway Jockey offers. Put differently, I’d recommend Fairway Jockey’s services without any reservation.
Let’s Talk Price
Fairway Jockey promises the “lowest aftermarket retail prices” Again, given the variability in aftermarket pricing, absent clear boundaries, it might leave some would-be consumers guessing. Based on my quick comparison shopping, Fairway Jockey comes in roughly 15 percent less than competitors. Fairway Jockey does offer inline retail product as well. I only mention this because if you build a custom set of clubs using components that the manufacturer offers at no-upcharge, it can appear as though Fairway Jockey overcharges for the same piece of equipment that you can order directly from the company or a big-box retailer.
To clarify, Fairway Jockey offers the same retail pricing on stock clubs as any other retail outlet. But that isn’t the real directive behind the brand.
For the right golfer, Fairway Jockey presents a clear benefit. That golfer is the tinkerer who has a clear picture of what he/she wants. It’s for the player who is willing to pay a little extra to be able to get exactly what they want, particularly when the manufacturer doesn’t offer the desired combination of components.
Beyond that, it’s fair to keep in mind that some specifications are easy to alter while others aren’t. Companies like Miura, Mizuno, Proto Concept and Titleist offer heads in multiple weights which makes it easier for builders to hit target swingweights and CPM requests. Shaft brands such as Nippon (and the tour-issued version of True Temper shafts) have strict production tolerances as well.
Some of you might be wondering whether Fairway Jockey cannibalizes some portion of potential True Spec sales. It does. But the bigger picture is, well, the bigger picture. A certain percentage of golfers who are fitted by boutique brands (Club Champion, TXG, TrueSpec) don’t ultimately purchase from that location.
So where do those golfers go? The answer is the impetus and business plan for Fairway Jockey.
As always, tell us what you think.
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