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Codde Golf on verge of mass production of clubs for tall people

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Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2002 12:00 am

LIHU'E - Please don't call jb Codde's products golf "clubs."

They are instruments, occasionally requiring fine-tuning along with the users of those tools.

And also kindly refrain from calling him a "custom-club maker," though he used to be one. Now, he is a "club designer."

And his instruments built by him from scratch to help the itch of taller-than-average golfers are slowly but surely gaining popularity.

Former Pres. Bill Clinton has one of Codde's drivers. And a young collegian, one Eldrick Woods of Stanford University, was once fitted with some of the early-generation Tall Stix.

That young collegian is now known pretty much exclusively by his nickname, "Tiger," and his now internationally known swing speed was too much for the early Tall Stix.

Not anymore.

Codde Golf, with offices, showroom, indoor swing cage and manufacturing facility along Rice Street in the Lihue Town Plaza, is poised to mass-produce several different styles of golf clubs (uh, instruments), for folks five-foot-six and taller.

Tall Stix irons, and Litening drivers, are one to five inches longer than regulation clubs, and need to be "proportionately fitted" to the taller golfer, says Codde from experience.

Standing six feet, three-and-a-half inches tall, he used himself as the test driver, so to speak, for the first longer-than normal clubs he developed, several decades ago.

The result was a double hernia and back problems, from using standard-sized clubs that he lengthened himself. They were too heavy.

"It was like swinging a sledgehammer at a circus," he said.

So, it was back to the drawing board, literally and figuratively, as he used his engineering, physics, geometry and life backgrounds to design new golf instruments from scratch, using steel, graphite and titanium shafts, and also designing from the ground up the rest of the instrument - heads and grips.

The Litening drivers now weigh less than one pound. In addition to sand wedges, Codde has also developed a line of putters as well. Shaka Stix, for those just a bit taller than normal, are coming soon, too.

While doing research, he found out that the U.S. Golf Association standard for club size is based on an average-sized golfer in 1916, and is still in existence today, even though the average-sized golfer is much taller.

By his own exacting calculations, for every inch a person is above 5'8" tall, he or she should have clubs at least a half-inch longer than normal.

He has also engineered and manufactured instruments with what he calls "center-faced balance," making it easier to consistently hit the "sweet spot" on the club for maximum distance and accuracy.

Clubs need to be matched with each individual golfer to prevent injury or re-injury as a result of the pressure on and unnatural movement of the lower back region that comes from swinging ill-fitting clubs, Codde says.

His experience is backed by laboratory research done for free by a doctor who purchased a set of Tall Stix.

When Tall Stix were first introduced in 1994, Codde sold 200 sets in two months. When he went back to his native Michigan in January this year for a golf show, 35 people ordered sets.

All the clubs are guaranteed, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee, and one-year warranty. Over the years, only one person has brought a set back for refund.

If Codde can get his clubs into tall golfers' hands, in nearly 98 percent of the cases they become buyers and users of his products, he said. With that comes satisfied customers who see their scores come tumbling down and their time in the fairways up.

The clubs were offered at Kauai Lagoons Golf Course, replaced later by brand-name sticks. By popular demand, though, Tall Stix will soon be available in the pro shop there again, he said.

He does fittings of golfers to instruments each Tuesday and Friday at Kauai Lagoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and other days and times by appointment.

Codde's goal also is to get at least one set of Tall Stix to each golf course for rental-club programs, and through a foundry in China to produce 300 sets a day once some fine-tuning occurs.

The cost is $695 and up for irons, and around $200 for woods.

Back when he first started designing clubs, Codde, now 67 and figuring he has around 30 years of golfing left in him, fantasized about qualifying for the Senior PGA Tour.

With that goal in mind, he designed and built his first lengthened clubs. The result was the injuries described earlier.

He has given up on the Senior PGA Tour dream, and now he's on a mission to educate tall golfers about the need for taller clubs for taller golfers.

Testimonial letters have flowed in, from J.J. Stokes of the San Francisco 49ers, Clinton, LPGA pro Susie Berning, Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs, and many others.

One retired judge in Canada, 82, used Tall Stix to claim his club championship, and tells Codde he has 10 more years of golf ahead of him because of Codde's instruments.

In a warehouse in Lihue Industrial Park Phase II for two years after starting out at Puakea Golf Course near Kukui Grove Center, he moved into the Rice Street location earlier this year.

That was after running a successful golf-instruction school on O'ahu for a quarter century.

The Lihu'e location is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and other times and days by appointment. For more information, please call 245-7849, toll-free 1-866-522-6333, e-mail tallstix@aloha.net, or see www.tallstix.com.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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