By Gary Van Sickle
There is a hole at my home course in the Pittsburgh area, No. 8, a par 4 that doglegs to the right and features a couple of trees that stick out on the corner like a defiant goalpost. It’s a long-ish hole and easily the toughest par on the front nine.
My son, Mike, a big hitter who played in the U.S. Open this summer, has no problem cutting the corner here even from the tips. Not me. My left knee has turned to crap from surgery and severe arthritis and I have moved up to the white tees.
The dreaded eighth hole is no bargain from there, either, and I teed up a Knuth Golf High Heat 3-wood there a few weeks ago, and launched one well. The ball flew between and well above those imaginary goalposts and bounced down the fairway into wedge range. Mike looked at me, I looked at him. We had did-that-just-really-happen expressions on our faces.
“Let me hit another one,” I said. Honestly, I blocked that first drive 20 yards right. I had no intention of cutting the corner nor any belief that I could. The second ball was an instant replay. The High Heat 3-wood launched hot and high and long. The second shot finished in the fairway ten feet from the first.
“I haven’t seen you hit a 3-wood like that in years,” Mike said, His comment reminded me that in the modern high-tech age of metal woods, I haven’t had a 3-wood I loved since the early Adams Tight Lies days. Gee, that’s almost 20 years ago.
The fact that the High Heat 3-wood is the only club in my bag that I have confidence in now should tell you something. Pardon me for sulking in an I-hate-my-game moment but if I can pound the High Heat 3-wood while effectively whiffing everything else in the bag, it must be pretty good.
The High Heat 3-wood has a long, low profile. It gives me the mental image of a rear fender from a 1958 Corvette. It is painted a glowing blue. I like the look, I love the result.
When you make decent contact with the High Heat, the ball jumps off the face so easily, you almost don’t even feel it, which reminds of how it felt when I hit the occasional home run a million years ago, when I played baseball.
I wrote about the High Heat 3-wood from last year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, where I hit a prototype at Demo Day, and named it the “best” fairway wood at the Show. Dean Knuth, the club’s inventor, made the best even better with a few improvements after that before starting the manufacturing process.
The High Heat 3-wood is as easy to hit high as a 5-wood but it has the power and length of a 2-wood (if you’re old enough to remember persimmon 2-woods, or brassies—I had one, a nice hand-me-down).
Here’s what makes the 3-wood so remarkable. Knuth, a former Navy man who later worked for the United States Golf Association and invented the SLOPE rating system, created the High Heat 3-wood (along with the also highly rated High Heat Driver and High Heat Hybrid) without the resources of the big equipment makers.
How was Knuth able to do something the big boys couldn’t?
“The major brands get tour pros playing their clubs so they can advertise but they’re trapped making clubs for them and not amateurs who have much slower swing speeds and different performance needs,” Knuth said. So what do amateur golfers need to achieve their optimum performance?
“You have to have a deep and low center of gravity and that’s nonexistent in the major brands. Their centers of gravity are forward and up. The other thing I did was work on the face. It’s a low profile but the face is titanium instead of steel offered by all major brands and on average eight millimeters wider than the major brands. Together, that gives amateur golfers a much larger sweet spot, so they can hit it almost anywhere along the face and get about the same distance, which results in more GIR, fewer bogies from landing short of the green or being on the green but 20+ feet from the hole.”
A deep and low center of gravity (CG) also raises the moment of inertia (MOI), Knuth said, and makes the High Heat clubhead more stable. That also adds to the gear effect, which means that shots hit off High Heat’s toe or the heel will tend to come back toward the target line compared to major brands.
High Heat clubs are available online at www.knuthgolf.com ($299 for the 3-wood. They’re also being sold at The Villages, the retirement area in Florida where Knuth said they’re having success by attending demo days that feature at least one major manufacturer.
“The way we convince people is when we’re paired against a major brand and people can compare their clubs against ours and see for themselves that our performance is better,” Knuth said.
At one recent demo day head-to-head versus a big-name clubmaker, Knuth said High Heat sold 20 clubs, the big clubmaker sold 3.
“Hitting is believing,” Knuth said. “We’ve got a 30-day guarantee because we’re sure people will like our product. We have had very few returns. You’d think some people would say, ‘I’ll just hit it for a few weeks and send it back,’ but they keep it and write to us about they love our clubs and have lowered their scores”
What the High Heat is missing is a multi-million-dollar marketing budget and a fancy story to tell. For the latter, the best Knuth can do is explain that the High Heat has a titanium face with a steel body. “Nobody else has figured out how to combine those because you can’t weld them together,” he said. “It’s braised with silver, an expensive process, but we use titanium because it provides additional distance compared to steel faces in major brands because steel has very little trampoline effect on off-center hits.”
Knuth came up with the original High Heat driver about eight years ago, making a clubhead out of pressed Russian titanium. I wrote about it being the hottest driver in golf at the time, which I believed it was. He produced only a limited run of those clubs, however, and didn’t continue because of the difficulty in obtaining the materials from Russia and a wide variance in quality control.
He brought out a new version of the driver in 2015 which I explained had the “most significant new technology of any club and was a potential game changer for amateur golfers.” He then followed up with his award winning 3-wood and #3 hybrid last year, and just completed another successful PGA Show winning more awards and positive media reviews for his full line of fairway woods and hybrids.
He knows that being a boutique golf manufacturer makes him a serious underdog in the business. “I’ve gone my whole life with people doubting me,” Knuth said. “I came up with a technique to find and track Soviet submarines but nobody believed me until they were shown the proof. I came up with a better way to rate golf courses and nobody believed me until they were shown the proof. All I can say, this is another development of mine that you have to see to believe.”
My High Heat 3-wood analysis in a nutshell: I’m a believer.