The Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif., is about as pristine a golfing facility as you will ever see, with grass as green as Irish fields, an endless supply of ProV1 balls at your disposal, sleek polished-concrete hitting bays, and rows upon rows of shiny Titleist clubs. And though he may now work there, James Patrick Harrington, who has a reputation as one of the best wedge makers in the business, doesn’t want to lose the garage-shop mentality of his roots. These days, the Wisconsin native finds himself in the catbird seat after Titleist hired him from his mother’s garage—where he had been making custom wedges for customers all over the world—and gave him the keys to its Oceanside kingdom.
Earlier this year, Titleist launched the JP Wedges line of custom clubs, each of which is created personally by Harrington and comes with a one-on-one fitting session at the Titleist Performance Institute. One of the most notable attributes of Harrington’s clubs is that they have much more camber—or curvature—than many other wedges on the market. This lends the club a softer appearance—although at setup, it will appear just as square as the wedge in your bag that it’s about to replace. The pronounced camber helps the wedge glide more smoothly through the turf and prevent digging, resulting in you sending less of the course airborne. Advanced players should see enhanced consistency with each stroke.
Each wedge is handmade by Harrington, just like in his garage. He starts by guiding you through a 3-hour fitting process in which he uses high-speed cameras and radar to electronically calculate your angle of attack. He then puts together a demo club—complete with a shaft he also designed—for you to test that best matches your personal requirements, which helps him make more detailed adjustments. Once you feel comfortable with the clubs, he’s off to the build shop. Unlike most wedges you buy off the rack, JP Wedges come in every degree from 45 to 60, meaning you’re not going to get a 58-degree wedge bent back to 57.
But the customization and individualized fitting process is not the only thing that makes JP Wedges special; they are made from some of the best materials available. Harrington builds the wedges from premium 1025 carbon steel, adding tungsten weighting as he shaves the wedge down to make up for the loss of mass. This helps push the club’s center of gravity toward the center of the face, yielding more consistent strikes and better distance control. The final piece of the “puzzle,” as Harrington puts it, is a lightweight titanium back plate that “creates strategic weight savings, allowing more tungsten to be used to fine-tune the center of gravity and increase forgiveness.” The other benefit of that titanium plate is that it gives Harrington a canvas on which to unleash his creativity with unique stampings and engravings. A quick check of his Instagram feed shows examples of the unique personalities that of each of his clubs possesses.
Since the product line launched in May, Harrington has conducted 40 fittings and sold 200 wedges. And that doesn’t even include the “grindhouse” pieces that he considers to be works of art that may never come to market. The build shop isn’t that much different from the one in Harrington’s mother’s garage, but this time it’s planted right next to Titleist’s R&D facility. For his part, Harrington is excited to have found a partner in one of the world’s leading golf brands—one that has deep pockets and a commitment to club making that matches his own.
Harrington and Titleist don’t anticipate these products coming to scale anytime soon. So much of Harrington’s own personality and technique are embedded in each one that it’s hard to imagine how such clubs could be delivered to the masses—which is why they come with a hefty price tag. A fitting and three wedges will run you $2,000, with à la carte pricing for specialized custom engravings and designs if one chooses.