American Made! Meet The Acculine Golf Puck
When I decided to produce the Acculine Golf Pucks Systems I made the commitment that the Golf Pucks process from beginning to the deliverable product was going to be designed, engineered, prototyped, tested, patented, manufactured, assembled, packaged, and warehoused in the United States.
Completely American made. Easier said than done!
Concept to Development, Prototype to Product
As a Custom Club fitter/builder, I use Golf Alignment Rods to help my clients in the fitting process. Before I can build clubs that truly fit them, I go through a process of determining all of the parameters of what a club should be for them to enable them to play their best. (Club static weight, swing weight, club length, shaft flex, shaft flex point, shaft material, clubhead type, club head material, club head size, club head offset, clubhead set makeup, MOI matching, grip type and size, etc…) I configure Alignment and Swing path setups using multiple Guide Rods to help them understand and visualize their posture, stance, and swing. The Guide rods often get nudged or bumped during a client’s swing, requiring re-alignment and re-assembling of the setups. A time-consuming task.
I sought a way to fasten all of the Alignment Rods together at the multiple angles required for assessing every aspect of the golf swing, for every club in the bag: from the Driver down through to the Wedges and the Putter. I couldn’t find any products that could help. This started a long process of conception, design, development, and invention.
I conceived and built the original wooden ”Pucks” in my home shop; two square pieces of wood with holes drilled through them to hold and position the guide rods. The two wooden layers had a circular ball bearing between them. This allowed me to put a guide rod in each layer and rotate the guide rods independent of each other, to any angle I needed. Effectively creating: a “Lazy Susan for Guide Rods”.
They were too big! But they proved the concept. When I demonstrated them to my friend, John Gunby, a PGA teaching professional, he was not impressed. He had no interest in using them in his golf teachings. The initial design was too heavy, too cumbersome, and too awkward to use. I knew the concept had merit, I needed to modify and refine it.
From Concept to Prototype
A gifted, brilliant, and talented machinist, Greg Bardsley, helped with this next phase. It took almost 6 months and over 20 iterations for him to develop a more sophisticated and effective prototype. I was thrilled with what he achieved. His version was the essence of what I had envisioned. He took my concept and machined out of Delrin plastic what has become the essence of what Golf Pucks has become. It is an amazing feeling to see your idea transformed into real life. Greg recommended that I work with Ashley Tilling, a Design Engineer to refine the concept further and to have drawings made to submit for a Patent.
Ashley made several design changes and enhanced the features. After about 4 versions, we were ready to build 3D printed prototypes to work with. Working with the prototypes led to further modifications and additional 3D prototypes. It took about one full year to get from the initial, wooden, lazy Susan concept to a working prototype ready for production.
John Gunby was critically important to the design process. After each version of the 3D printed prototypes, I would give them to John to work with and he would give me feedback on their value. When I tried to get the second version of the 3D printed prototypes back, he wouldn’t return them. That’s when I knew, They Work!
At this point, I thought I had done all of the hard work. Nope! This is when the hard work started!
I needed several months to source the manufacturers of the different components.
The easiest part to source was the Injection Mold company, B. Dillon, located in Sacramento, CA. They made the molds and produce the parts. They helped me decide on the best material to use for the parts: Polycarbonate. This is the material used to build jet fighter windshields; it is strong, stable, lightweight, and durable. B. Dillon’s quality control is rated the highest in the industry and they are fast. The products they’ve produced for me have been consistently excellent! They are a remarkable, reliable company to work with.
I found that it can be considerably less expensive to have injection molded parts made overseas. However, the cost quite often is offset by the fact that overseas products typically don’t have the same quality control and may have from 20 to 40 percent unacceptable, rejected parts, with a long delay as a result of overseas shipping. I wanted the best, with tight tolerances. I chose to have them made in Sacramento, CA. Made in the USA with tremendous pride and quality.
One down and five more manufacturer sources to go.
Sourcing the guide rods were a little harder. I only found a few companies that produce their product in the USA. Quite a few companies have their corporate headquarters in America, but they produce and manufacture their products overseas. Finding this out was tricky. I had to dig and ask the right questions.
I found a company in Ohio that is a pleasure to work with, Tencom LTD. They build and produce extremely high-quality products in Ohio, U.S.A. Made in America! When I was designing the Golf Pucks, I decided to use Alignment Guide Rods of .25-inch (quarter inch) diameter. This is a thinner diameter than are the typical Guide Rods available in Golf shops. Thicker diameter rods take up a lot of storage space in a golf bag. Thinner, .25-inch rods enable me to store as many as 12 of the variable length Guide Rods conveniently, together in a small diameter clear plastic tube, whereas with the thicker Guide Rods, I would have needed a much larger diameter tube. Tencom manufactures the rods to very strict dimensional tolerances which allowed me to design and build the ports in the Golf Pucks to .005 tolerances, so that very little pressure is needed to lock the rods in place. Thank you Tom!
Most guide rods used in golf are 48 inches long. They are too long. By the time you’ve set out multiple Guide rods, to accomplish your training goals, they get in the way. (I used to cut them to shorter, more effective lengths when I was fitting a client for custom clubs). Currently, I offer 8 rods of specific useful lengths in a slim, heavy-duty, clear plastic tube with the 4 Pucks System. These take up less space than 3 of the typical heavier, longer, thicker Guide Rods offered in golf shops. Pretty Handy!
This led to the next product search, an American manufacturer of clear plastic tubes for the Guide Rod storage. MOCAP, in Kansas, offered exactly what I wanted. A Durable, Heavy-duty, clear Plastic tube of the exact dimension I wanted that could hold up to 12 of the extruded fiberglass rods I was going to use, and they are manufactured in Kansas, U.S.A. A small diameter tube that easily fits in your golf bag with all of your clubs. This company cuts the tubes to the exact length I need. Not a one size fits no-one company.
From the end cap choices they offer, I chose silicon since they stay on better. I went with a longer flat end, 1” cap for the bottom, that won’t inadvertently, accidentally (always at the wrong time) slip off, (and dump the rods into the bottom of your bag). I chose a shorter looped end cap for the top that allows clipping the Golf Pucks storage pouch with the attached carabiner to it, enabling storing the Pucks and the Clear Tube together in your golf bag. The shorter ¾” length slips off just easy enough and stays on just snug enough that it won’t accidentally slip off. And, their products are made in America.
Now it started to get harder, in some cases, much harder.
Sourcing American made, standard-sized, hex head stainless steel bolts, 1/4 inch, by 20 TPI (threads per inch), by 1-inch length, is not possible. I tried! I found a major bolt manufacturer, National Bolt & Nut Corp., that would source American made Stainless Steel Ingots and make a special run for me because I ordered 50,000 pieces. They went out of their way to do this for me. No other manufacturer would. The bolts and washers had to be made to strict dimensional standards to fit precisely into the specific indent in the Polycarbonate cast Golf Pucks. They made them Precise!
Precision American Made! But Special Order!
It took several months to find the wing nut that I wanted to use to lock the Stainless bolt, Stainless washer, Guide Rods, and Golf Pucks together. It had to be strong, durable, and comfortable and made in the USA. I found it. Made by the only company that made them in America. This company wouldn’t work directly with me because I was a brand-new company, with no credit history. They would only work through one of their vendors. Unfortunately, I found that I couldn’t get enough product from one source, I had to buy from several of their resellers. And, I couldn’t get all 50,000 of the part I wanted. I had to buy 2 slightly different styles. One style of knob has slightly larger wings. I also had to take delivery for over 6 months’ time. This held up the assembly. It is still the best Wing Nut for the job, it is the only one I found that I am happy using, and it is made in the USA. So, the price went up, the time factor went up, and my patience...
I was thrilled, American companies building their products in America.
It was a simple as turning to Staples for the pouch that works perfectly to store the Golf Pucks and the tethered carabiner that attaches the pouch to the looped cap on the Clear Storage Tube. Staples is An American Company, but, unfortunately, the pouch and carabiner are made overseas. I couldn’t find the type of storage pouch I needed that is made in America. This is what is typically found, an American company that imports its goods from overseas. This is the only part not made in America. I searched.
The next piece of the puzzle was surprisingly easy and a total delight to work out.
Yavapai Exceptional Industries!
This is a local non-profit, established to provide work for Adults with Disabilities. A vibrant, inspirational, compassionate, vital, uplifting organization that serves a truly beneficial function. It provides work for Exceptional individuals, and it serves an important role in the community of Prescott, AZ.
I sat down with Brad Newman, the Executive Director, and Bill Loughney, the Director of Industrial Services, to see if they could help me get started as a local business. They offered their services with open, loving arms. They receive and warehouse all of the components from the suppliers, machine the ends of the Guide Rods, sort and package the Guide Rods into sets then into the Clear Plastic Tubes, assemble all of the components, fold the flat cardboard sheets into boxes, then package everything into the boxes, and ship the finished sets to the customers. Watching them work is an incredible experience. They take tremendous pride in their work, and they have fun.
Their work is impeccable!
They are a remarkable organization that I am proud to be a part of. All sales of Golf Pucks help support this critical organization.
Next up was Packaging. I set as a strong basis, that I would not use packaging that would pollute the environment!!!
No Plastic Packaging.
I found a company in Phoenix that would produce the product packaging I need with recycled cardboard. The Engineers for this packaging company helped me design a box that would stabilize each component without extraneous material. The shipping/storage box is a remarkable engineering feat.
Sourcing the printing I needed turned out to be easy. The printing company is in Prescott. Larry Currell, the owner, (an interesting, exuberant, talented, affable, industrious, entrepreneur!) is a disabled American Veteran of the middle eastern conflict. His company produces all of the printed material I use; from the User Manuals, the Banners, the table coverings necessary for onsite demos, advertising materials, and the documents to run a business.
The writing, the videos, the artwork, the editing all happen in Prescott, Arizona.
Made in America with American Talent and American Pride!