Dan Burnfield builds highly-customized golf clubs in his shop on Gordon Highway but his goal extends beyond merely selling equipment – he wants to make people better golfers, physically and mentally.
“Maybe the answer to getting an extra stroke or two out of you isn’t new equipment,” he said.
Make no mistake about it, Augusta Custom Clubs does make and sell equipment that practically requires an engineering degree to understand. The small shop contains a putting lab with lasers, a fitting bay with a golf simulator to track shots, and an engineering lab where Burnfield measures the finest details of a shaft to get the optimal performance from a set of clubs.
Creating golf clubs is a new retirement career for Burnfield who spent his career as a Navy nuclear weapon tech, designing submarines and overseeing nuclear safety programs for the government. When it came time to retire, he noted the statistics that a person who retires with nothing to do lives an average of only 18 more months, so he decided to try something new.
Not entirely new – he’d been building his own clubs for decades. Not one to do things halfway, though, he fully immersed himself in his new project, earning degrees and certificates in club building, club fitting, shaft creation, teaching, and coaching.
And that led to a unique approach that may start with a client doing a series of exercises such as toe touches and squats with arms upraised – an exercise about 80 percent fail at doing correctly, which can lead to swing problems.
“We talk about your medical history and which exercises you have trouble with,” Burnfield said.
He has an app that leads a golfer through a series of exercises of increasing levels of difficulty to improve physical conditioning. It’s not unusual to find that those exercises and his coaching lessons are enough to create an improved game.
In the putting lab, Burnfield helps golfers find the right putter that includes the best shaft length, head angle, and determining the best stance based on eye dominance, as well as several measuring techniques to improve the all-important short game.
Lasers, slo-mo photography, and body sensors all play a role in the fitting bay. Those tell Burnfield how a body is moving and how to fit golf clubs to that physical style. That can be especially helpful to older golfers.
“Over the years, the golf swing drops fairly dramatically, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Burnfield said.
As different as his coaching and teaching techniques are, it’s the engineering of clubs where Burnfield is truly unique. He built a one-of-a-kind machine to determine how and where a shaft bends to show him where to add weight. He also uses another machine, one of only 12 in the world, but he avers, he is the only one who uses it correctly. He’s also has developed a technique that he believes matches two different ways of measuring shaft capabilities that others have deemed incompatible.
“I think I do things differently than anybody else, not just here in Augusta, but you can’t get things built the way I build them anywhere else,” Burnfield said.
Through the process, Burnfield wants a client to see him as a teammate in improving their golf game.
“When we get done, we’re part of the team,” he said. “It’s not like walking out of a big box store with clubs. Our theme is we improve your score from tee to green and we want to work on it to get it done.”