John Hoeflich – The Club Design Expert

In the world of club design, John Hoeflich is considered by most a world class designer and visionary. Arguably one of the most successful club designers in the last 40 years. Hoeflich’s past designs include some of the most successful iron campaigns in golf history including the Tommy Armour 845 iron, Titleist DCI irons, and the Taylormade RAC iron and wedge series.

With such successful campaigns and designs, the leadership of Nickent Golf sought Hoeflich for his vision and experience in the golf industry. Hoeflich brings his years of experience of golf design to the design and leadership team at Nickent Golf.

Nickent Golf CEO and founder, Michael Lee, considers Hoeflich to be one his greatest mentors. Hoeflich was named Vice President of Nickent Golf in 2005 and under his leadership the company has seen tremendous development among their product lines, specifically advancements among their award winning hybrid series. Under John’s direction, Nickent Golf has expanded their lines to appeal to a new population of golfers. Nickent has continued to expand and offer varying series of irons, wood, and wedges that appeal to all levels of golfers. This expansion includes the release of the Nickent Arc Blade, the company’s first release of a muscle back blade. The expansion of Nickent’s product lines are fully inspired and created under the direction of John Hoeflich and are an integral part to Nickent Golf’s success in the ever competitive golf market.

The Hackers Paradise was thrilled recently when we found out that we were going to get the honor of speaking with the famous club maker and pick his brain about the artistry that he has produced.

THP: Can you tell us how you broke into club making?

JH: It was 1970 and I was working as a sales rep for Maxfli and really was not doing club making at all. In 1986 PGA Golf changed its name to Tommy Armour and I accepted a job with them.

THP: How did a marketing person at Maxfli go to club maker at Tommy Armour?

JH: Well, it was really a collective thing back then. The PGA was going through some major changes and they already owned the Tommy Armour name for licensing. They really needed a set of irons to put them on the map and I was the guy that came up with them?

THP: It was your first club design?

JH: It actually was the first design I ever came up with. Every player knows that they want to design their own clubs. I was no different. So I went to work and what came to be was the Tommy Armour 845s.

THP: So your first iron ever ends up being one of the legendary irons of recent history.

JH: Yes. From there I really never looked back. The way I always looked at it was there were 8 transition points on an iron. Each one can be slightly different from iron to iron but too much change results in a bad club.

THP: When did you start working for Titleist and how did that come to be?

JH: In 1987 Titleist was selling about $14 million in equipment sales. Not nearly what they do now obviously and they were looking for a “club franchise” and they felt as though I could be the guy to help bring that to them.

THP: Obviously you accepted the challenge.

JH: In 1990 I came up with the Titleist DCI irons. That was really a spark they needed to jump ahead and really have that club to bring them to the next level. I was there until 1994.

THP: Two sets and huge success? Any Flops?

JH: Good question and the answer is obviously yes. But I still do not believe the clubs are flops. I had an idea for a set at Titleist called EQL. The idea behind the set was that all the irons are the same length. The length of a 6 iron. The heads would be similar to the head of an 845. In the end, the marketing was just too hard and it took away from other products. But that was a bad idea. The RAC was a bad idea too. At least the way I came up with that, but I guess we will get to that later.

THP: Now I look forward to that. When you left Titleist in 1994 you got out of the club making for a while and then resurfaced at Taylor Made. How come?

JH: Well, lots of reasons, but when Taylor Made called, I listened and it was worth it. We put together some good projects there. I got there in 2000 and in 2001 we released the 300 series irons at the beginning of the year.

THP: I know a lot that still play those 300s. A couple of years later you created the RAC system. You said a little while ago, that it was based on a bad idea. You have to explain that.

JH: This is kind of funny. I had this idea for the RAC system, and I thought it all out and brought it down to development and they said this idea does not work, but while doing it, it turns out that we got your idea to work THIS way. Now of course you see the RAC system or something like it in clubs from every maker. Cartridge technology has taken off, that is for sure. It all started with my “dumb idea”.
RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient) technology is incorporated into TaylorMade irons.
The result of RAC technology is precision-milled pockets that achieve the best possible feel at impact by channeling impact vibrations to strategic areas of the clubhead.

THP: You parted ways with Taylor Made and tell me how you ended up with Nickent?

JH: Well, the long and short of it is this. I have known Michael Lee for a long time. As Nickent grew we stayed in touch. The rest is history. We think that we have something really special here. Our clubs speak for themselves and we have some on the way to you guys and you tell us.

THP: We look forward to trying them out. Does ego or anything else become a problem working with a friend?

JH: Not with him. When we get together we talk about Wine, Cigars, Cars, Art, and then we get around to talking about business. That is how we work so well together.

THP: Who do you create Nickent Clubs for?

JH: – Well, it is tricky. We create edgy designs. Some think for the younger generation. But we have a “players” audience. Although the clubs might me slightly too offset for the tour player. That is who tests our clubs and they love the look and feel of them. The profile is suited for everyone. Nobody will pick up our clubs and not like the look of them at setup. They have a great profile.

THP: How much more can clubs evolve?

JH: The driver cannot get a lot different. Certain companies can keep changing shapes for marketing ideas, but most tour players and testers like Hotstix know what the longest clubs are. Nickent is setting the trends. You will see the others fall into place. You are going to love these hybrids. We have to talk after you hit them.

THP: Can older clubs like the 845 still come into play?

JH: The new golf ball has changed the way golf is played to an extent, but the 845s could still play today. Not everything could though.

THP: As we finish up here, do you ever reflect and think about the brands that you have helped create?

JH: Great question. The answer is sometimes. I was at an art gallery with my daughter in DC. I was in this room and I was talking to her and I said “I really like all the work in here”. She said, “they are all by the same guy”. So in that way, I am proud of what I have done and that people like my products.

THP: Great time chatting today. We look forward to checking out all of the stuff.

JH: I know you will like them. You have my number, call me if you have any questions.

The Hackers Paradise wants to thank Nickent Golf and John for taking the time to talk. When we called him he was driving down the freeway and was kind enough to pull off the interstate and into a parking lot to chat with us for over thirty minutes.

We learned a lot out of our conversation. We learned that John is a great guy that can teach anyone what makes a club great. But most importantly we learned that with this man designing the clubs at Nickent, I cannot wait to try them out.

Till Next Time

The Hackers Paradise

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