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Hopkins Golf – Custom Wedges Without the Middle Man

Post image for Hopkins Golf – Custom Wedges Without the Middle Man

A New Golf Company with Years of Experience

Written By: Spy Zinger

When I say the name Greg Hopkins, in the context of golf, what comes to mind?  Probably nothing, but for many years that was by design.

Now how about this:  ”The Year of the Wedge. The guy with the argyle sweater. Cleveland Golf?  Does that ring a bell?

Most golfers, at least MyGolfSpy readers, would probably recognize or remember the guy in the Cleveland Golf commercials that aired shortly after the USGA imposed the new groove rule.  At the time, Hopkins, the CEO of Cleveland Golf (a position he held for 16 years), was attempting to convince golfers to buy up all of the Cleveland box groove wedges since it was the last year they’d be manufacturing them.  I actually thought the message was relevant, and in my own way, I did just what he prescribed.  It surprising that more guys didn’t take that advice, no matter the brand.

I am pleased to report argyle sweater guy is back, and yes, he is still in argyle.  Greg Hopkins, former CEO for Cleveland Golf resigned from that position in September 2012. In June of this year (2013 for the Calendar-challenged), he launched a golf company bearing his own name; Hopkins Golf.  At present, they are exclusively a wedge company, but in time you can expect Hopkins Golf to evolve into a broad spectrum golf equipment brand.

After leaving Cleveland, Hopkins’s plan wasn’t to start Hopkins Golf.  The plan was to retire, fly his plane, and chase his grand kids around.  That didn’t last long. He contemplated several options, one of which was working as Vijay Singh’s agent,  but after 30 years in the golf equipment business, he decided to stick with what he already knew.

For years Hopkins had an idea for a direct-to-consumer golf company in the back of his mind.  He ultimately turned that idea into Hopkins Golf, which offers direct to consumer wedges, built to their desired specifications and customizations.

Hopkins Golf provides a tour van experience for the average player.

One aspect of the Hopkins business plan is particularly shocking. So much so that I ask Hopkins to repeat it, because I wasn’t sure I had heard it correctly.  My first reaction; Is this guy insane?  Then I thought about it for a minute…I mean, really thought about what he was saying.  What Hopkins came up with is an ingenious concept and will forever change your understanding of the slogan, “What can brown do for you?”

What Can Brown Do For Your Golf Clubs?

Listen to how Hopkins Wedges are created and eventually make it to your doorstep.

Hopkins wedges are cast from 8620 carbon steel in the same Chinese factory where other well-known American brands are created.  The heads are designed by Greg Hopkins himself. Although the phrase “Hopkins design” never made it into the marketing, it’s something he had been quietly doing for years at Cleveland.

The heads, along with all of the other component parts, arrive at a UPS Distribution Center in Southern California – one of the largest in the United States.  Hopkins Golf has a unique partnership with UPS, and that’s where the Hopkins story gets, well…different.

UPS employees build your clubs.

Let me say that again.

UPS employees build your clubs…assembly, paint-fill, custom stamping…everything.

UPS does it all.

Hopkins developed an operational partnership with UPS and secured 18 employees dedicated exclusively to the Hopkins Golf Company.  Hopkins built an assembly plant inside the UPS hub in Mira Loma, CA. The employees were chosen directly from the UPS roster and trained to build golf equipment.

The result is one of, if not the fastest turnaround for a custom built club in the industry.

“The wedges go right from the production floor to either a UPS truck or airplane.” – Greg Hopkins, CEO Hopkins Golf

The entire process is completed in one building.  When the customer places the order online, it’s immediately built onsite, packaged, and shipped in less than one business day.

It works, I verified it with three of my own.

The idea originated on the golf course, during a round at Oakmont with the President of UPS.  It started as just two guys kicking around an idea.  Years later, it’s the Hopkins Golf reality.

Building Clubs he Hopkins Way

Hopkins asked if I had ever seen a factory or assembly facility from a major OEM.  I thought, of course I have. I am SPY ZINGER. He made light of the fact that companies do not make it a common practice to hire professional club-makers to assemble their clubs.  They hire employees then teach them the trade.  “I had to go in and train them and spent weeks and weeks doing it.”  That’s exactly what he is doing here, teaching existing UPS employees how to build clubs the Hopkins Golf way.

So if UPS is heading up this process, they must come dirty, beat up, and looking like they’ve been through war, just like their packages, right?  I put their process to the test, and here is what I have found.

Barely two months in, the Hopkins process is streamlined.  Other than a minor cosmetic paint-fill smudge (an easy fix), the three wedges I ordered we flawless.  The loft, lie, length, and swing-weight were exact. All wedges arrived at D4, which must be a stock weight because you cannot specify this when ordering.

The stamping was well done.  The grinds were cut to perfection, and there were no bending marks or build defects to report.  Apart from the paint smudges, the wedges arrived exactly as ordered; nearly perfect – almost like they came from a company who has been at this for a while now.

The wedges ship in a sturdy cylinder with the club-heads embedded into thick foam. They’re packaged better than anything I’ve seen to date, and will almost certainly arrive to your doorstep undamaged. I love to give you a list of their shortcomings, but short of the smudged paint fill, there really aren’t any.

Direct to You

For now, Hopkins golf has no plans to bring their equipment to big box retailers or green grass shops.  Direct to consumer is their business model and where they intend to stay.  Giving the customer a variety of custom options is difficult to do in big box environment and would make it more difficult for them to manage inventory.

“The basis of the company is giving the customer what they want.  I want them to be able to walk into their tour van, which is my website, and get what they want. That’s the company.” -Greg Hopkins

Currently Hopkins only offers wedges in one finish; Tour Raw.  They chose that finish because, as the name suggests, it’s what is preferred on tour.  “We’re a tour authentic company, so that’s the finish we launched with.”  However, more finish options (black and chrome) are arriving soon along with some additional grind options and additional lofts (46, 48, 62, 64).

While Hopkins Golf currently manufactures and sells wedges exclusively, Greg Hopkins says the plan is to progress through the bag, and will most likely be adding irons to the portfolio next.

“You’ll see some irons out of Hopkins Golf in 2014…absolutely.  I’ve not used all my bags of tricks just yet.” - Greg Hopkins

Hopkins Golf On Tour

Hopkins golf already has a fairly significant presence on the Champions Tour.  The reason for the focus on the Champions Tour, Hopkins said, is twofold: “Most of these guys, I have known for most of my life, most all of them are friends of mine.”  Hopkins said that with all of the full-bag contracts on the PGA Tour, the available population pool for his wedges is fairly small.

“There are not many bags I can get them into simply because the players are under contract.  It’s pay to play out there.  One hundred percent, pay to play.  On the Champions Tour, some of them have contracts, but most of them don’t.  We’re knocking on the door for the #2 company with the most wedges in play [on the Champions Tour].  That’s unheard of for a start-up company…unheard of.  And, that’s with little to no money.  The product is good, these guys know me, they trust me.  So it was the right tour to go after.” – Greg Hopkins

I asked Greg if, having worked at TaylorMade as a salesman, and at Cleveland as CEO, if he was having fun working on a start-up company bearing his own name.

“As companies mature, as they become more successful, corporate, they get away from that golfers mentality.  It goes through a metamorphosis, sitting in a boardroom is not as much fun as coming up with ideas on a better grind, then running out to the course and trying them out.  It’s what I did at TaylorMade in the early days, it’s what I did at Cleveland, and that’s what I am doing now again.  I am having fun…I am having a lot of fun.  I am a golfer that learned about business.  I am not a business man that happened to play golf.  My first and primary love is golf, and that’s what makes it fun.” -Greg Hopkins

At first glance, Hopkins Golf would appear to be the latest in a growing line of niche wedge companies, but in talking to Hopkins, I got the sense wedges are really just the beginning.  It’s clear to me that if all goes according to plan, the direct to consumer, tour van experience is going to eventually cover every club in the bag.

Just listening to Hopkins talk; he seems genuinely excited to present his brand, and it’s obvious he believes in both his product and his business model.  My impression is that Hopkins is going to perfect each category of equipment, then move along to the next. First wedges, then irons, driver, fairway, and eventually, perhaps even putters.

Personally, I would love to see the tour van custom Argyle sweater vest

“Within the industry, guys know me, the tour guys know me.  I think they know what I can do.  To the general golfer, I am just the guy in the argyle sweater.  Hopkins is the one company in golf where the business really is about the golfer.  We want to give them the tour van experience.  Because we are giving them the tour van experience, we offer them options no other company in golf can and at a cheaper price.”. -Greg Hopkins

:: Website: HopkinsGolf.com
:: Like Hopkins Golf on Facebook
:: Follow Hopkins Golf on Twitter

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul S August 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

how do they feel!?

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Their maiden voyage is tomorrow Paul. You in?

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Paul S August 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

argh, I saw this too late! Hey I have a free round at the TPC Twin Cities to use… wanna spend $125 and shoot a round there?

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Adam Staelin August 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

Just saw their commercial for the first time last night. Kinda brilliant. Good write up!

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Thanks, 3!

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Trevor H August 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

I ordered two wedges (a 50 with a shelf grind and a 56 with a heel/toe) last month. The ordering and customization process was easy and I got them the next day (but I also live in So Cal). They are packaged very well and they turned out exactly how they appeared on their website. At first I was a little hesitant about the custom grinds, but they turned out perfect. They feel and play fantastic! Plus, they have a no nonsense 30 day return policy. So, you really can’t lose. Overall, I had a great buying experience and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their products down the road.

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Slim August 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

What are your inital thoughts on the wedges? How do they compare, feel wise, to other big name brands? The grinds are always intriguing to me as I am sick and tired of the ‘one size fits all’ mentality that the big names insist on producing. I mean, I understand it from a production/inventory point of view but we could all benefit from an aggressive grind.

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Trevor H August 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

The wedges feel great. I can’t really tell any difference between them and the big brands with the exception of the grinds. I’ve also been impressed with the amount of spin I’m getting. The heel/toe grind on my 56 glides effortlessly through thick rough and sand and it’s very versatile as you can really open up the face and swing away. The shelf grind on my 50 is great for full shots as well as chips around the green and has quickly become my favorite club in my bag.

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Max August 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Little help – What’s a shelf grind?

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Trevor H August 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

With the shelf grind, the grind is applied to the trailing edge of the sole, which provides a lower bounce.

SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Today, I really believe the wedge performance differences among the OEM’s will be customized grind options to fit the player profile. Hopkins has started off doing this nicely and will add not only more grinds, but education as well. Have the battle is creating a platform so the player can make an informed choice about which grind is right for his game and playing conditions.

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Walkrjames August 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Great write up Zinger! Good looking wedges.

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Thanks Walkr!

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Rick August 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm

First met Greg when he was at Cleveland. This article nails him, very well written. Currently play CG Black’s with 3 of his wedges. Really pleased with the performance of his wedges. If this continues into the other clubs, some companies may have to look over their shoulders for the “Argyle Train”….

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Thanks, Rick, I appreciate it.

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Ross August 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I’d love to hear more impressions on performance from anyone that is/has given them a shot.

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Tim Sowinski July 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I have a 50 and a 56 degree and the look and feel of these club are more than I expected.
I’d recommend them to anyone serious about improving their short game

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Bryan Cromlish August 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Saw the commercial the other day and it piqued my interest to say the least. Definitely want to see what more people are saying about these wedges. Love the write up.

We’re thinking of getting a set to review ourselves at Foursum.
Keep the impressions of the clubs coming.

Cheers,
Bryan @ Foursum Golf

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John Barry August 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I love the idea, and this maybe my next major golf purchase, but how do you “fit yourself” before ordering and know what you need, which is a problem most weekend warriors have.

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Trevor H August 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I spent a good amount of time on their website before I settled on my wedges. If you’re unsure about which grind you might want, they have a feature in which you can get their recommendations. It features a map of the country that is broken down into regions and offers advice for which grinds are optimal for the conditions typically found each region. But as their website states, if you’re not happy with your wedge you can return it within 30 days.

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Also, good point on the return policy. Very liberal, especially on wedges. Any other company doing this right now?

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm

They do a pretty good job on their site detailing the different grind options, what their used for, and which is best given the playing conditions. As I mentioned in the article, I believe the ‘regions’ are too generalized, but you can figure out which grind, generally, you need.

Otherwise, send me your details and specifics, and I will see to it that Hopkins gets them, and they can help you as well.

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Joe Baffoni August 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I ordered two wedges from Hopkins the first week they were available. I have a 50 and a 56 with heel/toe grinds. The ordering was easy and the delivery swift. The first time I took them to the driving range to test them out, I knew I had a winner. Great versatility as I can manipulate the loft to accommodate the lie and type of shot I need. These “custom” wedges have improved my short game and given me confidence to try shots I never knew I could hit. I am a low to mid index player that has tried all the clubs available, this moves me into the “made for me” category of clubs.

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Thanks for the feedback and detailing your experience, Joe. Let see some pics of the wedges!

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Gregg Weikle August 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Greg,
Congratulations and good luck with your new venture. Where are you located now and how can I contact you? I am sure you are swamped with getting everything in order for the new business.
I hope to hear from you. Your old baseball buddy.
Gregg Weikle
382 Ventura Drive
Forsyth. ILLINOIS 62535 (217)853-5962

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John Sabourin August 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Very informative write up. Another SPY on the loose gets it done !

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Thanks, John!

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Interested to hear what you guys think of the UPS model as well.

Going to give these their maiden voyage tomorrow. Looking forward to putting them in play.

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Tim August 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm

You should have left the Zinger off so you could just ship then to me as we know that’s what usually happens…. Only kidding buddy nice write up!

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TWShoot67 August 29, 2013 at 9:00 pm

The again if they don’t work out I’ll give them a run through…. lol

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SPY ZINGER August 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm

That stamp will land you some housewives. You’re welcome.

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Bill August 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I’ve had a Hopkins wedge (heel grind) for about a month now and I love it. A buddy of mine up here in the Seattle area reps them so I got to try out a bunch of different grinds before ordering. Originally I got the heel/toe grind but didn’t like it so I got to test out their return policy. They are absolutely true to their word. Not only did they refund my first purchase, they also refunded the 2nd day air shipping cost! Oh, and my Hopkins wedge replaces a Miura wedge.

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Ryan Blair August 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Waiting for them – bought 50,54,58 3 days ago – I am in CT so I assume they are shipped ground… am trying them out this long weekend and will see how they feel! I got them in the Nippon shafts since I play Nippon in my irons… customized them completely and can’t wait to see the fill, grips and the ferrules… all in white! I play to about a 4 or 5 so I can’t wait to try them and compare vs. my Vokeys, Mizunos, etc. It’s nice to get the grinds I want and customize these completely and pay the EXACT same price as I would with “off-the-rack” wedges!!

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Ryan Blair August 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Actually I just checked – takes a lot longer than expected for those on the East Coast… these won’t show up until NEXT WEEK! Ouch – 9 days in total. Still can’t wait to get them though – I just won’t be using them over the long weekend!

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SPY ZINGER August 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Hopkins plans on expanding their operation to a UPS facility on the east coast to address this issue next. Comparatively, still not bad for a custom wedge.

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Michael L. August 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm

You can streak marks from the paint fill being cleaned up on the wedge with the green dots and the blue “ZINGER”. Other than that, these wedges look great and I am interested in buying these already.

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Chriovorg August 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

What is the cost of a wedge. I have yet to see a post about what these are costing with your average customizations.

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SPY ZINGER August 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Best to just go to their website and fill out an order to see the exact cost based on what you want. Regardless, the stock wedges start at $99.

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John Duval December 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I have a 60 degree with the “Channel” grind and it works awesome. (The channel grind is similar to the Solus wedges from several years back) The low leading edge when square allows me to get under the ball on tight lies without the club digging, and the high bounce works wonders in soft sand and deep rough. This wedge is the shit. Greg and his team have done a great job.

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Fred Luton December 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm

i RECENTLY BOUGHT A 60 DEGREE WEDGE FROM YOU BUT YOU DON,T SHOW OR TELL WHAT THE DEGREE OF BOUNCE IS ON MY CLUB , WHY I LIKE TO KNOW THE BOUNCE, AM I MISSING SOMETHING. I LOVE MY WEDGE BUT I LIKE THE OPTION OF CHOOSING MY BOUNCE.

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bb January 27, 2014 at 1:39 pm

????????????????????

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jack burkhart March 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Can you compare your wedges to the Scor wedges? Thanks

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barbra primav June 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

Are they offered here on the east coast new york?

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