The Story of an Icon: The Tommy Armour 845s
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The Story of an Icon: The Tommy Armour 845s

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The Story of an Icon: The Tommy Armour 845s

If you’ve been paying even a little attention, it doesn’t take high-level editorial or business-specific insight to say the golf industry has changed over the past 30 years. What’s worth considering, however, is the fact an iconic, industry-changing and truly classic iron such as the Tommy Armour 845s could not possibly be made today.

Not the way it was, anyway.

You could write a business school case study on the 845s and how it made Tommy Armour a major force in golf. You could also write a case study on how the 845s, quite unintentionally, led to Tommy Armour’s downfall. It’s a lesson in how tremendous success often sows the seeds of failure.

And it all started with an English teacher.

The Back Story

The very first Tommy Armour irons weren’t made by Tommy Armour at all, but by MacGregor, and for a very good reason: there was no Tommy Armour company at the time. MacGregor introduced the Tommy Armour Silver Scot Tourney in the 1940s, predating the Tommy Armour company by nearly40 years. The company we came to know as Tommy Armour actually started in Ohio in 1910 as the Burke Golf Equipment Company.

During the next several decades, Burke made and marketed golf clubs under a variety of names, eventually moving operations to Morton Grove, IL. From there, the journey takes some pretty crazy twists and turns.

By 1959, Burke sold out to the Comptometer Corporation, a Chicago-based adding machine company. By that time, Burke was marketing clubs under the name PGA Golf under a licensing agreement with the PGA of America. In 1961, Comptometer merged with the Victor Corporation, another Chicago adding machine company. Both companies dabbled in golf (balls and electric carts), and together they created the Victor Golf Company, a division of Victor Comptometer.

By 1977, Victor Comptometer was purchased by Kidde, Inc., a New Jersey-based maker of everything from Jacuzzi bathtubs and Farberware housewares to lighting fixtures, fire protection equipment, and hydraulic cranes.

Smooth Sailing?

Troubled waters started churning for PGA Golf in 1982. The decades-long struggle between the tournament players’ group – now the PGA TOUR – and the club pros’ group – the PGA of America – was reaching another turning point.

The PGA TOUR officially adopted that name in March and both sides agreed to create a PGA-PGA TOUR Properties group to sell soft goods under the PGA label. Subsequently, PGA-PGA TOUR Properties wanted out of the equipment deal with PGA Golf and spent the better part of the next three years trying to get its name back from Morton Grove. A deal was finally struck in July of ’85 and, after working out a deal with the Armour family (Tommy Armour died in 1968), PGA Golf officially became the Tommy Armour Golf Company.

PGA Golf had been a mostly unspectacular performer throughout its history, but that former English teacher we mentioned was about to shake things up but good.

Shakespeare Meets Golf

Would it surprise you to learn the man who designed the Tommy Armour 845s started out teaching high-school English? Would it also surprise you to learn he was not an engineer or even an experienced club designer? The 845 was John Hoeflich’s very first effort at designing a golf club.

Talk about hitting a game-winning grand slam in your first at-bat.

Hoeflich’s track record is impressive. He was the guiding spirit behind Nickent Golf and authored several other iconic iron designs, including the Titleist DCI and the TaylorMade RAC.

Not bad for a guy who spent his early working life pitching Shakespeare to teenagers.

“I was an English teacher and I had a friend who helped me get a job as a sales rep for MaxFli golf balls,” Hoeflich told MyGolfSpy. “I did that for 15 years before going to work for PGA Golf and eventually Tommy Armour.”

In 1985, Hoeflich was promoted to VP of Marketing. His first assignment was to develop a new iron. The No. 1 iron in the game was the PING Eye2 so Hoeflich figured he’d start there.

“Before we developed the tooling, I went to a club in Chicago – Sunset Ridge,” he said. “The pro out there was Tom Wilcox and I asked him how many sets of PINGs he sells in a year. He said about 50. I said, ‘if someone doesn’t buy the PING, what are they looking for?’ He said, ‘something that looks like a traditional-shape short iron instead of something that looks like a propeller on a steamship’.”

In other words, a better-looking PING Eye2.

“That resonated with me,” said Hoeflich. “So we incorporated the cavity back on the long and mid-irons and, at the 8-iron, we segued into the traditional profile you’d see in a Wilson Staff or a MacGregor.”

Scribbles, Wax, and a Porsche

Once Hoeflich and his team had a general idea of what they wanted, Hoeflich went to California to work with R.G. Molds, which created the tooling for most of the investment-cast clubs being made then.

“I told the owner what I had in mind for an iron,” Hoeflich said, “and that was to duplicate the technology behind the PING Eye2 in terms of locating the center of gravity in the same place in each iron, which was kind of a revolutionary concept at the time.”

They had the basic idea down but what was missing was what we now call visual technology, something sales reps – and the consumer – could latch on to.

“No one was using graphic designers or product development people the way they do today. We had to develop a back design, so on the way home I took out some notepaper and scribbled out the little back pads for the irons.”

Those “little back pads” became the signature look of the 845s and Hoeflich whipped up a prototype the old-fashioned way.

“When I got home, I got some candles and melted the wax into the shape of a cavity and those cavity balance weight pads. That was the weighting concept. Those pads changed shape as you went from the 2-iron to the pitching wedge to keep the weight balanced in the center of the club.”

Today, a team of engineers working with computers, wind tunnels, robots, and artificial intelligence create new designs and then the marketing gurus figure out what’s going to sell and how to sell it. Could you imagine a marketing guy today designing the Mavrik irons with some melted candles at his kitchen table?

Naming the 845 is another lesson in the way things used to be. You’d think those numbers – 8-4-5 – represent a math formula or weighting ratio or some such other technical wizardry and was inspired by focus-group input and approval.

You’d be wrong.

“The club that came out before the 845 was actually the 835 Silver Scot metalwood,” said Hoeflich. “That came from the address of PGA Golf – 8350 North Lehigh Avenue in Morton Grove. That’s where 835 came from, so the 845 was just 10 more.”

And that iconic font on the back that put a ribbon and bow on the iconic look of the 845s?

“That came from the back end of my buddy’s car, a Porsche 928,” says Hoeflich.

A Seven-Year Reign

August 1987 was eventful for Tommy Armour, as British conglomerate Hanson Trust bought Kidde, Inc., lock, stock, and barrel for $1.6 billion.

Within days of the sale, Tommy Armour released the 845s.

It was, in every way, the perfect product with a perfect message targeted at the perfect audience at the perfect point in time. And its success put Tommy Armour on a seven-year run like the golf industry had never seen.

“One of the reasons the 845 was so successful is we had a really experienced sales team that loved selling clubs,” said Hoeflich. “But in the early ’80s, the Mark Scot clothing line with Sansabelt slacks was really popular, so the sales team segued into soft goods.

“But they always loved selling clubs. When the 845 came out, the guys just jumped all over it.”

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The 845s isn’t terribly “game improvement” by today’s standards, but in 1987 it was top-shelf tech. This blurb from the Tommy Armour product catalog tells the story:

“Everyone from scratch players to 12 handicappers tell us they’re hitting shots one club longer than the clubs they used to play. That’s not surprising since the 845s long irons have been designed for power and accuracy. They look and feel like long irons should, with a straight leading edge, strong top line, generous offset, and a solid feel.”

That sure as shootin’ could have been written in 2020, couldn’t it?

“Every cavity balanced 845s iron has its sweet spot engineered just where it should be – in the precise physical and optical center of the club, resulting in a much larger effective hitting area.”

Spec-wise, the 845s featured a 36-degree 7-iron and light swing weights ranging from C9 to D1 in stiff flex.

The 845s stayed current in Tommy Armour’s catalog for seven years – an inconceivable run considering today’s one- to two-year product cycles. The company squeezed every last dollar out of those sticks, too, selling more than 660,000 sets over that time. That unprecedented success not only changed Tommy Armour’s fortunes, but also those of a key competitor.

The Ben Hogan Company, fearing being left in the dust by the 845s, launched its own perimeter-weighted iron: the Hogan Edge. The Edge became the best-selling iron Hogan ever produced. Hogan and Tommy Armour spent the next several years duking it out for the No. 2 spot in irons behind PING.

Missteps and Mistakes

The 845s may have spent seven years at the top of the charts, but its legacy is that of a One-Hit Wonder. You can say its success ultimately led to Tommy Armour’s demise and you’d be right. But you can also say the company was a victim – a pawn in a much larger chess match between corporations and personalities that didn’t know their own limitations.

In 1995, Hanson spun off several of its companies, including Tommy Armour, to a New Jersey-based group called U.S. Industries. The sale left the new ownership somewhat leveraged and U.S. Industries had Tommy Armour on its shortlist of assets to sell off to help recoup some of its new debt.

On the other hand, Tommy Armour’s sales had doubled to nearly $50 million since the launch of the 845s. That was the good news. The bad news is an old business truism that says manufacturers rely on new products for long-term, sustainable growth. And there had been nothing compelling in Tommy Armour’s pipeline since the 845s launch.

The company had high hopes for the EQL one-length irons introduced in 1989 but they never gained traction.

“Sales reps would go into accounts to show the EQL,” said Hoeflich. “They’d also show the 845 and the customers would say, ‘I’m only going to stock one club, do you want it to be the 845 or the EQL?’ The sales reps were no idiots. They wrote the 845 business and the EQL was kind of shoved into the background.”

Another business truism is that rapid growth is a double-edged sword. Management loves the top line but the necessary investment in production capabilities, assembly personnel, customer service, sales, marketing, warehousing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and other overhead can put serious stress on the bottom line and on working capital. It’s also known as out-kicking your coverage.

Day Late, Dollar Short

When Tommy Armour released the 855 Silver Scots in 1995 to counter the new and incredibly popular King Cobra irons, they were more than a little late to the party. Weak advertising support combined with production problems compounded the issue, creating months-long backorders and impatient customers with money to spend but no Tommy Armour product to buy. Cobra happily filled that void.

Hoeflich was long gone from Tommy Armour by then. His next iron design – the Titleist DCI Gold – was another home run and, not coincidentally, had the same basic offset and profile as the 845.

“We then launched the DCI Black which was a less-offset version of the Gold. I think if Tommy Armour had launched a less-offset version of the 845, it would have run for another three or four years.”

That didn’t happen for several reasons. Remember that stress on working capital thing we discussed earlier? Tommy Armour management either wouldn’t or couldn’t pull the trigger on another $10,000 for new tooling. The mindset, apparently, was if it ain’t broke, let’s not spend money we don’t have to fix it. Safe? Absolutely, but when the competition innovates and you don’t? You can guess what happened.

The Unraveling Begins

1995 was the beginning of the end for Tommy Armour, even though it didn’t look that way. In February, U.S. Industries bought Odyssey Sports of Carlsbad, CA, (yes, that Odyssey) for $17 million. As part of the deal, Michael Magerman – Odyssey’s 33-year-old co-founder and president – was named Tommy Armour’s president and CEO. His plan? Get aggressive, invest heavily in R&D and sign tour pros.

The plan paid immediate dividends with staffers Jim Gallagher and Davis Love III copping wins that first year. Magerman was bullish on Tommy Armour’s future, saying, somewhat prophetically, “this company will look very different a year from now.”

Actually, it took two years and one teardrop, but Magerman was spot-on correct.

Just not in the way he meant.

Magerman was an avid tennis player and oversized tennis rackets were all the craze (as was the King Cobra), hence the 855 irons and Magerman’s pet project, the full titanium Ti-100 irons. The company bet the ranch on the Ti-100 in 1996-’97 and lost badly, as the Ti-100s set a new standard for golf industry flops.

By mid-1997, U.S. Industries was losing its appetite for golf and wanted out. Callaway came with a big check – $130 million – that July and bought Odyssey (the rest is history), and ownership put the word out that Tommy Armour could be had if the price was right.

Lonely Tear Drops

At that same time, the TearDrop putter company was riding high, thanks to Rudy Slucker. TearDrop had been a financial mess until Slucker – who made so much money in the hardware business he was able to retire at age 40 – came to the rescue.

“I needed something to do,” he said at the time.

Slucker turned TearDrop around almost immediately and must have figured he could do it again. By the end of ’97, TearDrop purchased RAM Golf for $10 million and Tommy Armour for $24 million. That both companies were relative bargains should have been a warning.

By 1999, Tommy Armour released the TA 845 EVO line, the first true replacement for the 845s. The golf world reacted with a collective yawn. Sales dropped 16% that year and the bottom-line ink turned a deeper, darker shade of red.

Slucker’s magic touch was failing him so he turned to the golf industry’s time-tested Bad Decision Playbook. Page One says “cut expenses by slashing R&D and marketing to the bone.” Page Two says “cut prices to make the sales numbers look good to investors, margin be damned.”

Both plays worked to perfection, if by “perfection” you mean “disaster.” With no marketing money, the company couldn’t promote new products, which was fine because R&D had no money to develop new products. And cutting price to move volume left them with no margin to fund new R&D and marketing efforts.

It’s called the Bad Decision Playbook for a reason.

Gilford Securities Analyst Casey Alexander put it bluntly to Crain’s Chicago Business that year. “The company is highly leveraged in an extremely competitive industry. They can’t afford for too many things to go wrong. They’re walking on a tightrope.”

Too many things did go wrong for TearDrop. Sales plummeted 42% and the sea of red ink kept getting deeper. TearDrop filed for bankruptcy, having never turned a profit during its three-year stewardship, leaving behind an army of unpaid creditors.

The Gen-X and Huffy Years

Next up in the ownership chorus line was the Canadian scooter and snowboard company Gen-X, which bought now-bankrupt TearDrop/Tommy Armour in early 2001. Gen-X had no background in golf so it teamed up with GolfWorks and Ralph Maltby in hopes of turning chicken-you-know-what into chicken salad.

It wasn’t a bad move.

Maltby brought back the original mass properties of Hoeflich’s design and developed an entirely new line of 845 irons. During the next two years, Maltby introduced eight models based on the 845, with all assembly done by Golfworks.

Unfortunately, the ownership game of hot potato was about to enter the lightning round. By late 2002, Gen-X was sold to Huffy, the bicycle, and sporting goods company, for $19 million in cash plus five million shares of stock. Huffy Chairman Don Graber said, “This acquisition is a significant step forward toward our strategic vision of positioning Huffy for future growth as a diversified, branded sporting goods company.”

Turned out it wasn’t.

Less than 18 months later, Huffy sold Gen-X – minus the Tommy Armour brand – back to its original owner for an undisclosed amount, but we’re guessing it wasn’t at a profit. Huffy, as it turned out, was sinking faster than anyone realized. The New York Stock Exchange gave Huffy the boot in August 2004 when its stock price bottomed out at 58 cents. By October, Huffy filed for Chapter 11.

That, ultimately, is how Sports Authority came to own the Tommy Armour Brand. The sports retailer snapped up Huffy’s assets within days of the Chapter 11 filing. Sports Authority was no golf authority, however. It reduced Tommy Armour and the 845s to an embarrassingly low-priced, low-quality house brand.

Karma – or maybe the ghost of the Silver Scot himself – had the last laugh as Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy in March 2016. Dick’s Sporting Goods bought Sports Authority’s assets that July and is steadily trying to rebuild Tommy Armour into a high-quality, high-performing, high-value house brand.

Long and Winding Road

Icons just won’t go away. That’s what makes them icons. At 56 years old, the Ford Mustang is still as cool as ever. We still love the Beatles and, even though Elvis has been dead for more than 40 years, he’s still Elvis.

Dick’s apparently understands what it has in the 845s, which is why the namesake is making a comeback next month. For some, the name will bring back fond memories of a long-lost love; for others, it will be just another store-brand club at a big-box retailer. But if you appreciate history and the people who made it, the 845s is a reminder of simpler times when real people, like John Hoeflich and his team, created real things that mattered.

But, ultimately, any club carrying the 845 name has to do one thing and that’s perform.

“I hope they don’t screw it up,” said Hoeflich. “The club itself was a labor of love for a lot of reasons and I’m proud to say I took part in the development and launch of that product – I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for it.

“There were a lot of people involved in the success of that club but I’m really excited to see what Dick’s does with it.”

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba





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      Guy Boisvert

      5 hours ago

      Good day everyone.

      With all the “845’s series ” out on the market, what can be said about the T A 845 STRIPE
      introduced into the market in 2004 what is it to know about these clubs, materia, specs, targeting market ets…..
      When searching Google sites, there is nohing to improve our regarding this T A 845 STRIPE…

      Thank you

      Guy B.

      Reply

      Eric

      3 years ago

      The Tommy Armour 845s titanium 9 iron with G-Force graphite shaft is likely the most impressive golf club every produced in the history of golf club manufacturing. It is the only iron I use. I also carry PING Gorge Tour Wedges 58 through 47 degrees, and Callaway FT-iz hybrids 30 through 21 degrees, and a PING I-25 Driver in 9.5 degrees.

      Reply

      John Clark

      3 years ago

      Not sure if anyone can help, but I have a set of TA’s and I can’t seem to find where in their history they come from.

      They are a “Royal Armour” full set with black and yellow “Royal Armour” pads on the irons, and shafts say “Armour Lite Mid Flex True Temper Made in USA”. So I’m guessing they are an entry level set from 90s, but can’t find any other photos of a similar set online.

      Reply

      Tim Larts

      4 years ago

      I have a set of 845s. I love them. They have the loft printed on them which I think is special. Mine are beautiful. I polish them. ( it’s a problem, I know). They go far when I hit them correctly. I don’t know the difference between the new irons and the 845s. Probably just me. I can’t justify getting a new set. I like Titleist APs but based on looks, I don’t see the difference. Weighting and such. Probably just me. Even if I get a new set, I am keeping them.

      Reply

      Wes

      3 years ago

      I was a Hogan staff member until I left the game in 72.. Did not pick up a club for 10 years but later got a set of the early 845S irons. Since then I moved to Calloway but my 845s 56 degree is still in my bag and delivers great results in and out of the bunker including some short lobs. My first full set of irons at age 9 were Armour Silver Scot circa around 1950. Brown painted shafts ???? Lots of great stories about the Silver Scot.

      Reply

      Terry Fine

      4 years ago

      Where to start?
      I went to the U. of Georgia in 1962 to play golf on one of the best golf teams in the Country. I captained the freshman team, but was never able to break into the starting line up my sophomore year. (Starters were Vinnie Giles, Jimmy Gabrielson, Billy Womak,, David Boyd, Jimmy Allen, Jack Oliver and the list goes on. I did play in one Varsity match against Duke University and my famous acknowledgement was when the Varsity Coach, Howell T. Hollis, told me I was academically ineligible for the 1965 season.
      Long story, even longer, I retired at age 45, started playing the Mini Tours in
      California on the Golden State Tour. I heard about J.C. Goosie’s Spalding tour in Florida and realized Florida was much more affordable for a Mini Tour player.
      After two weeks of shooting under par and not even one paycheck, I resorted to working at a driving range in Winter haven Florida. Luck have it, I met Gini Fine on a blind date on a Thursday Evening and proposed to her Sunday night. (thirty one years later, she still is the love of my life!).
      Gini was in the Computer business with banks as her clients.
      I had this idea that the one day events on the Golden State Tour were the most profitable and Central Florida had none..
      Gini and I put a business plan together and Voila! The Central Florida Golf Tour was founded in 1989. We had 15 players in our first event, including Teddy Hayes (Senior Tour 1993) Skip Kendall Dickey Pride and Mike Brisky (All three played on the PGA Tour)
      Next Hooters restaurants, Mike McNeil agreed to add $50.00 per week to the purse provided we change the name to the “Hooters Tour”.
      It is now 1991 and we had over 500 players join the Hooters Tour and with added money and players received 50% off the Hooters menu prices..
      I recieved a call from a man by the name of Rick Paprick. He told me he and his boss, Bob McNally would be in Florida and wanted to meet with me at the Innesbrook Golf Course. where there was a golf tournament. (back then it was one male and one female PGA Tour Player. event.. Cannot remember what it was called..)
      Mr. McNally told me if I would relinquish the name The Hooters Tour and rename it The Tommy Armour Tour, his Company would add $10,000 a year to the purse plus give all registered Tommy Armour Tour Players a tour staff bag at no cots and the 845’s 1 iron through all four wedges for $190.00. We shook hands and had a terrific run until Mike Magerman CEO of Odyssey bought the company. I flew up to Morton Grove and met with Mike. I should have known something wasn’t right. As I pitched The Tommy Armour Tour to Mike and his executives I could feel the room turning into ICE!
      At that time The Tommy Armour Tour had over 2,000 paid Members. They came from New Zealand (Michael Campbell) Japan and England. (Ian Poulter, who at that time could not break an egg!) We held Two man Pro events and the likes of who’s who that made it on the PGA Tour came and played with us.
      Our largest event over the 10 year run was the St. Louis Open. It was a $50,000 purse and Mike Campbell was the winner..

      After the sale of Tommy Armour to Odyssey and without added money to the purses, the number of players fell significantly. We continued to run the Tour, but when I got a call from Rudy Zucker threatening to sue us “If we continued using the Tommy Armour Tour name.”
      I was ready to litigate, but I had an invitation to attend the Japanese Senior PGA Tour School Qualifier and my wife did not want to “Fight.” Thus, that was the end of The Tommy Armout tour.
      I went on a qualified and played the Japanese Senior Tour in 1994 (I had an awful fear of flying and 18 hours even in first class was too much.
      I then decided to gain eligibility on the European Senior PGA Tour at their Open Championship qualifier. (Didn’t even come close)
      However, now that I am in England I opted to attempt to qualify for the Sunningdale Senior PGA Open. I not only qualified with a 64, but finished 4th and played the remainder of the year as a ranked player.
      At nearing 77, a severe stroke, two knee replacements and hit by an automobile while waking, I am blessed to still be able to afford and play the greatest game on earth seven days a week here in Sarasota Florida at Palm Aire Country Club.
      Terry L. Fine
      PS I occasionally still shoot my age or below! .

      Reply

      Paul

      3 years ago

      Wow! Absolutely amazing story. You need to write more of these. I watched the Korn Ferry Qual at my local course the other day and some of the best players I have ever seen won’t make a dime as pros. We need to hear those stories.

      Reply

      Brian

      8 months ago

      Great story. I’m 62 and getting back into (social) golf after a 20+ year hiatus. Your saga was quite entertaining. Hope you are doing well in 2023.

      Reply

      steve perry

      6 months ago

      mr. fine, i enjoyed reading your story as i was looking for info about tommy armour golf clubs. i’m an avid golfer and almost 74 years old and a been a 13 hdcp. for 30 years and seem to be stuck there, maybe that’s as good as it’s gonna get but always working on it. i’ve done a fair amount of golfing in the tampa, sarasota and orlando areas in the past on yearly golf trips but those trips are out now because i don’t like to fly either. i’m a retired lineman from a local power company and live in massachusetts. good health and good golfing to you. steve perry.

      Reply

      njrp

      5 months ago

      but not afraid of climbing a power pole?…ps..one day i was trimming grass around a power pole and a bird fell down dead from the pole and zap all the power went out..thought i was a gonner! Power company came and restored power to neighbour hood.

      Robert Nitkewicz

      5 months ago

      Great story! I h ad the pleasure of dealing with Bob McNally and Rick Paprick at TA in the 1990s. They were straight shooters. Mike Magerman was a younger guy with different plans and goals. I don’t think he could be faulted for that and I had good dealings with his group also, but the Tommy Armour 845 was certainly a great club!

      Reply

      Shawn

      4 years ago

      Enjoyable article….played 845’s for a good 15 yrs and still have a set of graphite stiff in the garage I can’t bring myself to sell. Funny the guy who designed them also did DCI and Taylormade RAC, because I moved to the RAC LT’s from the 845’s.

      Reply

      Paul N Belmont, Jr

      4 years ago

      I’ve been playing my TA 845s since 1989. I am a seven handicap. I’m 69 years young. My set is 2-GW. I still hit great shots with tHem. I tend to blame bad shots on my swing versus the equipment. I still have room for improvement on the former. I can’t bring myself to replace them because I know exactly how far each iron goes and that is important to me. Thanks to folks at Golfworks and Golf Galaxy for getting my three iron correctly reshafted to match my set! Fore!

      Reply

      Patrick Handyside

      4 years ago

      What a fantastic story, I am happy to say I am still playing a set of the original TA 845s Silver Scott’s. Not sure which year but I am guessing one of the later production years in the mid 90’s because my set do not have the loft stamps on the face of the club like the original sets from the 80’s had. They were a gift from my brother to replace an incomplete set of Ping Eye 2’s I was playing. I have upgraded my driver and woods a few times over the years, but I have still not found a reason to drop my TA 845s. They are just awesome and still totally playable irons. The best part is when a golf pro at a course happens to look in my bag they go bananas and are super impressed that I am still putting them through their paces. In fact just this year I had new intermediate size grips put on my whole set. I know I spent more on a full set of Win. Dri-tac midsize grips than my my irons are even worth but it was totally worth it to me to make them even more playable after all these years!

      Reply

      Rick Robertson

      4 years ago

      I have a set of graphite shafted 845 Ti irons. They are a pleasure to play with and if I had to thin out my clubs ,They would be one of three sets that would.make the cut even though I have several top shelf sets of much more expensive clubs

      Reply

      Majorduffer

      4 years ago

      The 845s were a great set of irons for the price point and were very easy to play. I had them for several years and also believe many manufactures copied the tech in these clubs. Great story about history in golf and reminds me of the good ole days when it didn’t break the bank to buy a set of clubs.

      Reply

      Frank Kelly

      4 years ago

      What a great article and history, sad to say I spent the 80s sort of affiliated with Tommy Armour and didn’t know it, I was selling Victor Calculators and PCs… lol. I looked into the 845s when in the 90s I decided that technology had far surpassed my then 20 year old cast stainless MacGregor MT Tourneys, but ended up with King Cobras… and my brother still
      Plays his DCIs

      Reply

      Jason Moehl

      4 years ago

      I saved my money from my job as a caddie in 1992 for my first brand new set of irons and I went with the 845’s and a box of Maxfli HT balata 100’s. Fred Couples played the 845’s and both Freddie and John Daly played Maxfli. Back in 1992 it didn’t get a lot cooler than Freddie and JD.

      Reply

      Tad Myers

      4 years ago

      My first set of clubs ever was the 845s when i was 12 years old. i bought them at a yard sale for $20 that i saved for 3 weeks. I think this is one of the best articles i have read. this story should eb made into a movie. very well written. i look forward to seeing what Dick’s has in the pipline.

      Reply

      Robert

      4 years ago

      Once again, John Barba and My Golf Spy, providing the best most in-depth golf writing you will find anywhere! I learned so much not only about the 845 but about the DCI Blacks which were the first set of clubs I ever bought..

      Reply

      Sammy

      4 years ago

      The 845 irons were my favorite set of irons ever. I’m still looking for a set that feels as good to play as those did back in the day…of course, I’m too cheap to actually spend the equivalent money in today’s dollars on a set of irons. Maybe this will be the year I get fitted and buy some 2015 technology on closeout. :)

      Reply

      Jeff McCarthy

      4 years ago

      When I saw Freddy and Calcavecchia gaming these things, I knew I had to switch to the 845’s. Loved these clubs as my first real player’s clubs (as opposed to some unknown Northwestern or Sportmart Mizuno set). Traded them for my first set of forged Hogan Edge’s and always regretted it (even though I’ve never stopped playing forged since). Found a set of barely used beryllium’s that are still sitting in my basement. Not sure if they’ll ever be played again, but they will maintain their position of prominence in my collection.

      Reply

      Jeffrey Angellotti

      4 years ago

      What a great club in the 90 s . Bought 1 set of new clubs Hong Kong pings told guy who made them didn’t like them. Brings out shiny set of 845 bc beryllium copper. At the time was an x 100 player. Beautiful clubs still have full set on down to 1 iron. Played these for ten years or more till a club pro said get in 20 century. Somehow I don’t think he was rite some of my most memorable shot were with the b c . Thank for reminding us of that era

      Reply

      Randall

      4 years ago

      I had some 845 oversize as my first real set of clubs when i was a kid, good read

      Reply

      KP

      4 years ago

      Bought a brand new set of 845’s EVO when they were first released and loved them. Gamed them until I discovered my Mizuno MP-32’s. I gave my TA’s to my oldest son and he still games them today. We have had some great matches over the years and his TA’s still performs. AKA as beating me. Thanks John for the great article and taking me back down memory lane.

      Reply

      Scott C.

      4 years ago

      I think Tommy Armour and Dick’s hit on something with the TA1 lineup a couple years ago. Those seemed like a decent game improvement iron. They had a nice look and didn’t feel too bad. Plus, the price point was decent, especially for a house brand. But that seems to be the biggest issue right now, it is considered a house brand. If given a choice between a new TA branded club/set or a three year old from a major brand, people seemed to pick the marked down club from the major brand. I don’t think they did themselves any favors when they introduced the Atomic lineup. The look of the drivers, woods, and hybrids were pretty nice, but I didn’t really care for the sound and feel. The irons were too big and bulky, especially the “Super Game Improvement” version. Honestly, I didn’t seem to notice a huge performance gap, but perception seemed to hurt. A few months ago, I bought one of their 48 degree CB wedges to fill a gap in my short game. I’ve only been able to play one round with it, but so far, I’m liking it. The feel is closer to my PW than my 52 and 56, and the price was right. I just hope that TA and Dick’s get the 845s right and more inline with the look and feel of the major OEMs.

      Reply

      George

      4 years ago

      This was the first good set of clubs I ever owned. Passed my PAT to get into the PGA using these clubs. I actually gave them to my brother in law about 10 years ago and he just had them re-gripped and is still using them. Classic set!

      Reply

      Dirk

      4 years ago

      Great article! Thank you … I gamed the 845’s back in the day, wonderful irons to play. Maybe a little too much offset, but I needed it back then :) Like the Eye 2’s and 1st gen Big Bertha, the 845’s just wanted to go straight … Let’s see what this roller coaster will bring us next. Come on Dick’s, you can do it, show us something worthy of the name/number.

      Reply

      David Campbell

      4 years ago

      I still have a set of 845s that my wife purchased for me as a gift in 1990. I haven’t played a round with them for 25+ years but occasionally hit them into my practice net just to recall the feel which is great when you strike the sweet spot.

      Reply

      Jim Bergeson

      4 years ago

      It’s an engineering miracle that the 845 was designed in a kitchen with new weight balancing and turned out to be a solid performer, maybe even a trendsetter!

      Reply

      Ranger76

      4 years ago

      I started playing Mac Gregor
      blades in the 80’s, sucked at golf, bought Ping eye2’s and stated enjoying the game with lower scores. The 845’s hit the market and I was playing great, 18 handicap on one of the toughest courses in Charlotte. I switched to custom fitted wood bothers forged cavity backs and a new Taylor made metal wood and went to a 5 handicap. I marvel at the old players like Tiger and Phil, they all grew up in my era.

      Reply

      Rick

      4 years ago

      Great article. Grew up seeing a lot of people playing with this set and I kinda knew that they were an iconic set in the history of golf like the Ping Eyes. That why I bought a set for my collection.

      Reply

      Terry

      4 years ago

      If my memory serves me right, the 845 hit the market just as Ping and the USGA started arguing over the Eye2. The USGA won the fight but Ping won the War. For a while the Eye2 irons were off limits to players and some tour players switched to the 845 with Mark Calcavecchia being the most notable. He had success with them.
      TA Golf worked with Dr Gary Wiren on the development of the EVA and put a lot of money into it. It was a good club but as noted in the article, wasn’t supported by the retailers..
      Hopefully the 845 is resurrected as it was a great club.

      Reply

      Mike Kibunja

      4 years ago

      The 845 Forged Evo cavity was a missed opportunity by many golfers. It was a work of precision Engineering. I also loved the chrome finish. The one turn off was the small head, and aspect that has also turned me off from the Mizuno MP5. But a youngster in Tanzania i donated these Evos seems to be doing quite well with them and is now a single handicapper. Mike

      Reply

      WillieT

      4 years ago

      Great read on an iconic club that I fell in love with upon first sighting when looking for a used iron set. There is great history here in how someone gets it right from the get-go. Sadly it also embraces the ptifalls of “overnight” success, there is never a first time homerun. FYI – my son uses DCI’s so I guess we are playing “sisters” of of sorts given their design heritage.

      My personal history is that I picked up a set of early 845s 3i-PW (pat. pend) irons for less than $50 back in 2017. They looked relatively low played, I’ve since added a SW and GW (W4). Love the feel and look of the irons and they play well. I gamed them up until this past fall when I opted to get a set of newer GI irons. I love how these irons carry the loft deg on the face. Yes they are weaker lofted by today’s standards (for example my Callaway Diablo Edge 7i is 32deg, the same as an 845s Silver Scot 6i). Will still play the TA 845s Silver Scots for many more days to come.

      I am looking forward to seeing what Dick’s does with the “new and improved” 845s Silver Scots….will they pay homage to their history while embracing newer technology.

      Reply

      Thomas

      4 years ago

      Great piece of history. Read John
      I never new
      Owned a set of 845s. Great clubs

      Reply

      John Hoeflich

      4 years ago

      Hey John
      Great piece of journalism. You presented the facts and captured the spirit of the brand. I’ll always be proud to have been a part of building one of golf’s iconic “weapons.” I’m rooting for the latest incarnation to be a big success.
      And I didn’t notice and grammar errors!

      Reply

      John Barba

      4 years ago

      Thank you for all your help John, and for the kind words. It was a pleasure to speak with you. Hope the rest of the Christmas shopping went well ;-)

      Reply

      Thomas Brokl

      4 years ago

      Great Story!

      I believe I now know who made my PGA T-Line XVI putter which I bought in 1979-80 and have been using for 40 years.

      I always wondered what became of the PGA brand.

      Reply

      Dan Corun

      4 years ago

      Well Done, John. I played the 845’s for several years and still own the set. I fell in love with them and liked them better the Ping’s I was playing. Technology moves on and that isn’t bad, but designing clubs in your kitchen and on napkins still sounds cool to me.

      Reply

      George Johnson

      4 years ago

      i still play my 845’s and 855’s what is better then these ,i bought new sets this past year to see the difference . i went back to old faithful ‘s

      Reply

      Randy Kitts

      4 years ago

      I ran a GOLF Day store in the late 90’s and we sold a ton of 845s irons, everything that followed from Tommy Armour couldn’t come close to the 845s. They sure did give Ping a run for the money back then,as they were less expensive and performed as good.

      Reply

      David

      4 years ago

      I wonder how much Dick’s paid MGS to write this story?

      Reply

      Dead Golfer's Society

      4 years ago

      A story about how Tommy Armour went bankrupt? You gotta lotta time on your hands, my man…

      Reply

      David

      4 years ago

      Seriously?! Did you read it or just skim over it? It’s clearly an 845 promo. Perfectly timed… just before the upcoming release of the latest latest 845. Convenient.

      Thomas A

      4 years ago

      Yeah, imagine that MGS would right a topical article about golf. The nerve of those guys.

      Reply

      Pete

      4 years ago

      Thomas, you ever notice how Tommy Armour clubs in up near the top of the club ratings in MGS? Somehow a TA club almost always makes it in the top 5 or 10 recommended clubs.

      David

      4 years ago

      Thomas, it’s a great story, and very well written, about the history of an iconic brand. Buy why? Who cares about a club that absolutely no one plays anymore? Who currently owns the TA/845 brand and would benefit from waxing nostalgic just before the release the latest version? I’m not hating on anyone, it’s brilliant marketing. It’s an aditorial. Plain and simple. Just slightly sneaky from a self proclaimed “unbiased” “Truth Digest”. We’ll see if MGS can put their money where their mouths are when it comes time to release “Most Wanted” lists in conjunction with how much each OEM has paid them in advertising or wine-and-dine trips to their HQs.

      Berniez40

      4 years ago

      Go back to your Golf Digest Hot List ya hoser. MGS has been spitting out things for a long time. WHo cares? Obviously a lot of us. But I guess–“Haters gonna hate.”

      Reply

      Dave Tutelman

      4 years ago

      Great article!

      I didn’t know that the 845 and DCI had the same designer, but I’m not at all surprised. In the 1990s, I remember thinking, “Two companies’ shots at the same golfer.”

      Reply

      Richard

      4 years ago

      I had a set of these back in the 1980s but got them pinched
      I saw Jim Gallagher use this model at the Belfry Ryder Cup
      Great read
      Richard in UK.

      Reply

      Myron

      4 years ago

      Shot some of my best scores with these until they were stolen. Newer ones didn’t seem the same so ended up with Titleist DCI.

      Reply

      Bruce Mahon

      4 years ago

      How about the old Ben Hogan Precision irons.? I have a set and heard they were made by MacGregor also. Still look great!

      Reply

      MrHogan

      4 years ago

      Thoroughly enjoyed the read, great job John. Still have my eye 2’s from the 80’s and I still have a set of 845s heads that are screaming to be reshafted. Me thinks I will shove some shafts in them and take them out for a trip down memory lane.

      Reply

      Michael Eatmon

      4 years ago

      I bought mine in 1990. Being a DLIII and Couples’ fan., I geeked out since I played the “same clubs” as the those two Armour staffers. I’ve still got them, minus a long-lost five iron and didn’t switch to a new set of irons until 25 years later.

      Reply

      Patrick Blucas

      4 years ago

      I am surprised that the berrylium copper version was not mentioned , sorry for the misspelling , I thought that the price of them approached $2000. , please correct me if I have misspoke on the price but I know they were expensive .

      When I think of Tommy Armour 845’s .. they were extremely popular and could give any of the pro line club sets of the time a run for their money as they were a excellent iron

      Reply

      geoff

      4 years ago

      I’m thinking the 845BC was about $1100.00 with Mitsubishi graphite shafts

      Reply

      Charles DeVerna

      4 years ago

      Great Read…

      Reply

      Hector

      4 years ago

      Love the article. So much I never knew explained so well. I still have my set of Nickent irons sitting in the storage locker with a bunch of other old clubs. Still playing 3 Nickent hybrids (a 2, 3, and 4), and still hitting them well. AND still own TWO (2) Nickent Pipe putters. When they first came out, Golf or Golf Digest or some rag tested them and reported the highest percentage of putts made from 20′ of any putter they ever tested. After a lot of other putters have gone through my bag and ended up in the storage locker with the Nickent irons, the Pipe putter is still in my bag at home and in my bag here in New Zealand where we spend our winters (southern hemisphere summers). It is still the best, most-consistently paced putter I have ever used, which reduces my 3 putts.

      Reply

      Berniez40

      4 years ago

      The Pipe Putter was a winner…quite literally. It won a few LPGA Tournaments the year it was introduced, which helped Nickent deepen the toe hold established by their most excellent hybrids. Another , “what night have been” golf company. They really did have something going on.

      Reply

      Andrew Rasmussen

      4 years ago

      Great article, on great irons. Was allways a wilson staff player but in the early 80s didnt have as much golf time. Played the silver scotts for 12 years, even carried the 0 iron for awhile!
      Still have them and take a coupl to the range now and again.
      A lot of great memories, thanks for all the history, never knew.

      Reply

      albatrossx3

      4 years ago

      I bought the TA-1 Irons and Driver, the irons feel so powerful you can feel the ball jump off the face. I think MGS missed the boat on their review of this club. The driver has a great look, but I am not sure it performs as well as my Srixon.

      Reply

      Kevin

      4 years ago

      Great article! I didn’t take up golf until the 90’s when Tommy Armour was going out of business. My father-in-law loaned me his set of Ping Eye 2 irons to start, but after a year or 2 he missed them so I went shopping. I remember the TA 845S being heavily discounted, but I went with the Top Flight Tour irons which were also pretty inexpensive. I swear every other hackers’ bag had TA or TF irons back then and I still them today every once in a while.

      Reply

      Ima Fitter

      4 years ago

      In the 80’s, if you were a scratch player, you played Wilson Staff. Otherwise, you either had the Eye2’s or 845’s…I chose the Eye2’s. A friend has the newer TA-1’s from Dick’s, and I have to say, they are the “real deal” in game improvement clubs.

      Reply

      Simms

      4 years ago

      Good read, had those irons for years……everyone can take note about how the game of golf is played with clubs, and the business of golf is made by selling clubs….and even the best have to be updated someway to grow and keep companies going….see why there are new lines of clubs every year….If Ping still made Eye2’s we would all be playing better golf but they would be going our of business..

      Reply

      Cody Reeder

      4 years ago

      What well written walk through equipment history. Thank you.

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I played a set of 845s for a sort time as a jr. golfer. They were a great set.

      Reply

      Michael Clendenin

      4 years ago

      Well done business-lesson case story John. Swung those irons (stiff graphite shafts) for 10 years before I realized I couldn’t anymore, and mostly because my swing slowed and the technology got so much better. They were cool to look at though- and still are.

      Reply

      Marty Boxer

      4 years ago

      Used to call them “quarter to nines”….nice clubs, great memories

      Reply

      Berniez40

      4 years ago

      Exceptionally well written article. Hoeflich is one of my golf heres as I used to bang the drum for Nickent Golf years ago when they were a true up and comer. You can see the 845 influence all over Nickent’s cavity backs, and they used tungsten heel and toe weight pads well ahead of the rest of the industry. It’s a damn shame Nickent bet the farm on the adjustable driver with a $500 price tage right before the great recession hit. Otherwise they might still e around today.
      So far, despite ultra critical reviews by some as regards the current Tommy Armour Line coming out of Dick’s, I have been impressed. The TA-1’s were respectable, and the Atomics…despite the goofy name, were pretty hot performers. Here’s hoping the 845 Re-boot is as good as some of us suspect. They are definitely trying a few new tricks, such as a pre-worn leading edge for better turf interaction.
      I think, as was pointed out in another MGS Article, Dicks is creating a new business model after receiving 3rd degree burns from TaylorMade. If they keep up their end on the quality, then their price controls could turn this into a real profit monster without the shddy workmanship of other store brands. Let’s see how they do on the MGS Most Wanted.

      Reply

      Ima Fitter

      4 years ago

      Loved Nickent Hybrids…still have a 3DX Iron Wood 4-hybrid. Great club!

      Reply

      Berniez40

      4 years ago

      I loved Nickent stuff. My first really good driver was a Genex425. That thing had power and feel like nobodies business. Back when UST Shafts were strictly UST, in name—not UST/Mamiya…NIckent had an ongoing deal with them, and they mad “Speed Rated Shafts:” which were actually closer to the flex you might be looking for. RThat was also the time period where Callaway was living more off of their name than they were off of innovation. As an experiment we once lined up a handful of the latest Big Bertha Driver, all with the Factory Cally Shaft. Same Model…same “Stated Regular FLex”. We found CPM variations as wide as 10-12., Nickent’s UST’s “85 MPH Rated Shafts were more like 2-4. CPM’s difference . Another great company and another “what might have been.” I had a solid Nickent bag at one point save for my Odyssey Rossi Putter. THose were good times.

      Douglas Mael

      4 years ago

      My late father played MacGregor Tommy Armour Silver Scot Tourney irons (he was a 4 to 7 handicap golfer, even into his 60s, before he died). I also owned and played the Tommy Armour 845 irons in the mid 1990s, when I had only been playing golf for a few years, and found them to be just what I needed at the time.

      Reply

      Gary Lee

      4 years ago

      I still have my 845’s. Played them for 10 years. They were great clubs. I put a special tri wall shaft in them when I worked at True Temper.

      Reply

      John

      4 years ago

      What a well written and well researched article. Great read and I really appreciate you sharing a little history of this great game with all of us.

      Reply

      Rick

      4 years ago

      My first set of cavity back clubs replacing Hogan Apex II.

      Reply

      Brandon Sullivan

      4 years ago

      Still have my 845’s. Not gaming them anymore but they are down in my basement. I refuse to get rid of them.

      Reply

      Dave

      4 years ago

      Fantastic article! Would like to see more of these.

      Reply

      Arnie

      4 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this article – thank you. It brought back a lot of memories. Tommy Armour’s name has been associated with so many clubs over the decades – MacGregor Silver Scot Persimmon woods were of the highest quality and were responsible for many professional wins. The frequent recycling of the 845’s from one company to the next seemed emblematic of something unhealthy about the golf industry from the 60’s forward. Iconic club makers like Wilson Staff, Powerbilt, and MacGregor have been reduced to mere shadows of their former selves – I applaud the current heroic resurgence of Wilson, a sentimental favorite of many of us with memories of Snead, Sarazen, and Palmer using their clubs. Finally, I was amazed to find that John Hoeflich was the brains behind the 845s. He was a brilliant club designer. I wish Nickent hadn’t bitten the dust – that would be another great business story fro MYGOLFSPY. I’m one of a few people I know who use Hoeflich’s Nickent Pipe Putter, which still has a cultish following. It was a wonderful design, structurally 100% comprised of a beautiful alignment feature with a back weight. I wish someone would pick up that design and bring it back in updated form.

      Reply

      Hector

      4 years ago

      Arnie – I still regularly game two Nickent Pipe putters, one at home from April through end of season and another here in New Zealand from mid-January through end of March (southern hemi summer). It is without question the most consistently paced putter I have ever had, and I’ve had a bunch. My line isn’t always great, but my pace is pretty good for a guy in his mid-70s. Nor many 3 putts because I am usually with 2 ft..

      Reply

      Jim Tyler

      4 years ago

      At 78, having a lot of reading knowledge, and club building; witnessed Ping start up with a putter and the comparable recent computerization of the carbon-poly golf shaft, allowing superior advances, I sure hope Tommy’s clubs incorporates these improvements and can compete with Callaway/Taylor, etc.. I am sure Dick’s, who started small, will be a superb asset. Thanks for the article !

      Reply

      TxRedMan

      4 years ago

      Wonderful article, John. Great read. Well Done $

      Reply

      William penner

      4 years ago

      I still have my set . I haven’t played with them in a bit they were great clubs got me hooked on golf

      Reply

      Tom Wilcox

      4 years ago

      I remember the discussion with John very well and was a proud staff member with Tommy Armour all of my years at Sunset Ridge in the 80’s and 90’s. Bob MacNally ran a great company. Mike Furyk (Jim’s dad) was my first salesman in Philadelphia and Jim Greer was my rep in Chicago. A former assistant professional to me, Jeff Matheson, went into sales for them as well as a former junior golfer of mine, Ted Meyer. Happy memories as the company used to host a dinner at the PGA Merchandise show for PGA Master Professionals. Great story!!

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