“I’m really excited to come out of the dark” – James Patrick “JP” Harrington
Four years ago, James Patrick Harrington was THE IT Guy in the premium, custom, and arguably exotic wedge market. Among those with an appreciation for the craftsmanship behind golf club design, JP’s was a name nearly everyone knew. His wedges were something nearly everyone desired.
As a golf forum phenom, JP was a massive presence. As a business, JP Wedges was a small-scale, entirely custom operation. But like so many others with unquestionable talent, there was always a feeling that with time and opportunity, mainstream success for James Patrick Harrington was an absolute certainty.
JP was going to blow up, that was a given. It was simply a question of when.
So in July of 2013, when JP signed with Titleist, it looked like those inevitable big things were right around the corner. The specifics of his new role were never officially disclosed, but the assumption was that Titleist brought him on to serve as the understudy and heir to the Bob Vokey franchise. As it turns out, the speculation – while logical – had little basis in reality.
Time… lots of time has passed, and the big things didn’t materialize. Bob Vokey: ubiquitous as ever – and deservedly so. JP: spectral – Bobby Fischer with a grinding wheel. Rumors swirled. Exiled? Let go? All but completely off the grid, his new Instagram account dark. According to at least one rumor, JP was dead.
What became of Titleist’s wedge savant?
For his fans, both patient and less so, the answer is both exciting and long overdue.
Making the most of the totality of the Titleist resources at his disposal, JP has spent the better part of the last several years researching, testing, and prototyping a wedge design and fitting philosophy. Very much alive and as passionate as ever about wedges, he grew a beard, and if you take the man at his word, created the Ferrari of wedges too.
Justifiable confidence or overreach? Regardless, the quiet time is finally over. After nearly four years of silence, together Titleist and JP are finally ready to make some noise.
I think I speak for the entire legion of JP fans when I say It’s about damn time.
The JP Experience
JP’s first line of wedges under the Titleist umbrella (appropriately called JP Wedges) will be available beginning Monday (5/8/17), but don’t expect to pluck one off the shelf at your local Golf Galaxy. Big box distribution isn’t happening. There’s no JP Wedge Works option either; you can’t order one online. Premium custom fitting locations, those are off the table too. If you want JP Wedges, you’ll need to go directly to the source.
The new JP Wedges are available exclusively through the JP Fitting Experience.
At its foundation, JP Wedges is a bit like Titleist’s Concept (C16) Series. All the elements are there: exotic, or at least semi-exotic materials, premium pricing, and some exclusivity too. What truly differentiates the JP Experience, however, is an experiential component unlike anything else offered by a mainstream golf equipment company.
The Experience portion of the JP Experience consists of a three-hour, one-on-one wedge fitting with the man himself, James Patrick Harrington.
That fitting takes place at the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, California, in the new short game area built exclusively for JP and his fittings.
As you hit a variety of shots with your current clubs, JP will analyze your wedge game using a combination of Trackman and high-speed cameras rolling at 10,000 frames per second. JP will personally take an exhaustive look at your individual swing dynamics. Along with mainstays like launch and spin, JP will look closely at angle of attack, dynamic loft, and turf interaction. These are the unique details of the swing that will help him nail down the appropriate bounce for each of your wedges.
Once JP has an idea of the right configuration, he’ll reach into his custom SureFit fitting cart and assemble the combination of head and shaft, along with the loft and lie that he believes will ensure consistent contact, proper distance gapping, and ultimately the best performance.
This is also where JP’s dedication to details begins to shine through.
JP’s implementation of Titleist’s SureFit system is designed to be entirely weight-neutral. That is to say that the CG location and swing weight of the demo set are absolutely the same as that of the final assembled product.
“The important thing for me is to maintain the precision across the board” – JP
The Technical Details
JP’s fitting repertoire consists of discrete lofts (including odd numbers) from 45° to 60°, three different bounce options from 57°-60°, two from 45°-56°, and an extensive selection of shafts. While JP admits that because of the company’s quality standards he has a particular affinity for Nippon’s Tour 105 and Tour 125, if there’s a shaft you really want, JP and Titleist are happy to accommodate. Says Titleist’s VP of Golf Club Marketing, Josh Talge, “We’re not in the business of saying no to the golfer.”
The heads themselves are exactly what you’d expect from JP. That is to say, they’re unlike anything else on the market today. A timeless aesthetic is paired with a modern design that’s distinctively JP. Generically billed with the catch-all multi-material construction, JP Wedges are far from ordinary.
JP is laying claim to the tightest tolerances in the industry, and while Titleist declined to be specific across the board, Harrington was able to tell me that his tolerances on head weight are a razor thin half-a-gram. To put that in context, most of the industry is closer to 3 grams.
The wedge bodies are forged from soft 1025 carbon steel. Like the multi-directional cambered sole, which features a rounded leading edge and aggressive heel-toe relief for enhanced versatility, the grooves are 100% milled for added consistency and precision.
A tungsten toe weight shifts the center of gravity closer to the center and helps keep vertical CG consistent.
A unique titanium back plate flawlessly hides a hollow cavity design containing a second tungsten calibration weight that JP personally mills to the desired size and weight for each and every wedge he builds. The calibration weight gives JP a significant amount of flexibility to build wedges to target weights well above or below what we might call standard – even if the design is anything but.
The components, which fit together like a jigsaw, are locked into place and then bonded using a 3M adhesive that not only creates an impenetrable seal but also further softens feel.
Even the grip is custom. Partnering with Golf Pride, JP’s stock grip is similar to the popular Decade MCC Plus4. The JP version extends an extra ¾ of an inch down the shaft, and there’s absolutely no taper over the last 4”. The idea is to provide more coverage when gripping down without changing the feel of the club. The grip is available in both standard and midsized models, and further illustrating JP’s commitment to precision and tight tolerances, both sizes weigh 52 grams; the same as a standard grip, making both totally swing weight neutral. As with the shaft, while JP believes in his grip, the golfer always has the final say.
Dialing It In
Once JP assembles the demo wedges, the golfer will be asked to hit a comprehensive series of shots covering every aspect of wedge play. The purpose is to validate the recommendation and make adjustments as needed. Full shots, partial shots, fairway, rough, and bunker. Bump it, run it, flop it. The idea is to fit based on the totality of the short game.
With the sole grinds sorted out, it’s back to the practice tee to dial in lofts and gapping.
Once the fitting is complete and the specs are set in stone, JP heads to his personal workshop to personally mill the calibration weights, assemble, and custom engrave the wedges (up to 20 characters in JP’s signature wrap around the toe style). He’s 100% hands-on in the process every step of the way, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The New Grindhouse
While the service and attention to detail are absolutely premium, the vibe is true to JP’s Grindhouse roots, and that’s no accident.
“I want to stay true to what got me here; doing it the right way” – JP
As you would expect, the cost of the JP Experience isn’t cheap. $2000 gets you three hours of one-on-one time with JP along with three custom fit wedges, meticulously built to exacting tolerances.
Additional wedges – whether you’re looking to add a 4th to your bag, or add a 2nd set for your 3rd home – are available for $500 each.
While the price tag, no doubt, will leave some of you rolling your eyes (I expect several comments detailing how JP and Titleist are why golf is dying), the reality is that golf clubs have become all but commoditized. The difference isn’t so much in the product; it’s in the fitting, the details, and the intrinsic value found in the experience. It’s the reason why the PXG model is working, and exactly the reason why I suspect the JP Experience will be as successful as it can be given the inherent limitations.
The projection is that JP will do somewhere between 100 and 150 fittings in the first year. Between the limitations imposed by the calendar, and the added expense in materials and tolerances that come with doing things the JP way, Titleist doesn’t expect the program will be a revenue generator out of the gate.
Think of year-one as a proof of concept. It’s an opportunity to satisfy JP fans and get his name in front of golfers who might not already be familiar with his work. At the same time, Titleist can test the waters and gauge the market potential for a premium wedge fitting platform.
Josh Talge also hopes this nearly four-year process will serve as a blueprint for future Titleist projects he likens to Silicon Valley incubators. “We’d love to find other authentic, driven golf guys and help them out,” he said. “Give them the resources and let them be great.”
If the model takes off, there’s a real possibility the JP Experience could expand to a team of JP certified fitters and builders, but in talking to JP, I get the sense that if he has his druthers, his will always be a hands-on operation.
It’s also clear that Harrington has no designs on being the next Bob Vokey. While by his own admission he’s “really excited to come out of the dark,” I got the impression he’s more content than ever being the first James Patrick Harrington.
Vokey is Vokey. JP is JP. Complementary perhaps, but decidedly different.
“Titleist provided JP with resources and capabilities he didn’t have before,” says Titleist’s VP of Golf Club Marketing, Josh Talge, “but JP is his own guy… it was up to him to figure out what to do with them”.
It has taken nearly four years, but it looks like JP’s big things are finally happening. Most impressively perhaps, they’re happening on JP’s terms.
“I’m going to keep true to my roots and establish the brand the way I want it established. It’s all on me”. – JP
How cool is that?
For more information, visit JPWedges.com.
To speak with a JP expert, or to book your fitting experience, call the JP Wedges Concierge Service at 1-800-324-3350.