In 1937, Sam Snead was just about to quit the game. His drives were fading left, and he couldn’t do a thing to correct the problem. As he stood on the driving range before competing at the Los Angeles Open, fellow golf pro Henry Picard made him an offer. For the princely sum of $5.50 (about 90 bucks today), Picard would sell him the George M. Izett driver he had in the trunk of his car.
Snead went on to win a record 82 tournaments with that driver, including seven majors. It was a precise weapon for his particular swing. Several years later, Picard offered to buy back the club. “Not for a million dollars,” Snead replied.
Little has changed about Izett Golf’s philosophy since. Stroll into the back room at its Ardmore headquarters, and you’ll find a collection of relatively ancient equipment and machinery that would seem to have no place in a golf world saturated with futuristic technology and cutting-edge gear. A medieval-looking sand blaster sits on a walnut work table that migrated to Izett from Wanamaker’s department store in the 1940s. A 1970s-era Dubble Bubble chewing gum bucket holds 50-plus club grips that might never see use again. In the back corner is a tollbooth-style compartment used for painting clubs. “You’re seeing this at its worst,” says Mike Morrison, Izett’s proprietor and a sherpa to golfers throughout the area and beyond.
Izett’s sprawling work area features enough vintage stuff to make one wonder whether the company is trapped in something of a time warp.
The sprawling work area is in disarray. It features enough vintage stuff to make one wonder whether the company that helped turn around Slammin’ Sammy Snead’s game is trapped in something of a time warp. But stroll into the adjoining room, and it’s easy to see why so many players are fiercely loyal to Izett and its system of fitting clubs precisely to their builds, swings and habits. There’s a computer with enough data about each client to satisfy the most discerning techie. Nearby is a large net designed to catch golf balls fired by clients during their fitting sessions, which last more than two hours. Ask Morrison about any of it, and be prepared for a meandering explanation about load, shaft stiffness and swing plane. It might just be enough to make the average golfer cry out, “Can’t you just give me the club so I can go hit with it?”
But the fact is, no one else in the country has matched golfers to clubs with the same painstaking precision for so long. Izett Hand Made Golf Clubs began operations in 1935 in Haverford. It was founded by George M. Izett, a transplanted Scot who’d apprenticed under Ben Sayers, one of golf’s most accomplished clubmakers. Izett emigrated to America in 1928 at the age of 22 to work for Ben’s son, George, then the head pro at Merion Golf Club. Izett became the top pro at Seaview Golf Club at the Jersey Shore before starting his own business in ’35. On the eve of the 1930 821 W. U.S. Amateur tournament at Merion, Izett repaired the driver of the legendary Bobby Jones, who went on to complete the first “Grand Slam” as we know it today.
By 1941, Izett and his new partner, George Bailey, were in Center City Philadelphia, making and repairing clubs for John Wanamaker. Five years later, when Wanamaker’s stopped selling golf equipment, Bailey and Izett moved to the current Ardmore location, which was close to Izett’s house. When he died in 1980, his son, George G., took over. Morrison became the driving force after George G. passed away suddenly in 2019 at the age of 70.
These days, business is good. Golf was one of things people were allowed to do during the pandemic, and local duffers flooded the courses. “Last year, there was no slow time,” Morrison says. “We usually are slow in November, December and January, but that didn’t happen.”
Right now, clubs line the shop’s entry area, awaiting the Izett treatment. Fitting sessions produce blueprints that allow Morrison and his staff to accommodate clients perfectly. Berwyn Pizza owner Pete Bottos has been an Izett devotee for 15 years. “They are absolutely amazing at what they do,” says Bottos. “They’re real craftsmen and perfectionists.”
After the fitting session, Morrison’s crew takes the six iron and configures it to a player’s specific needs. That’s it—one club. “The theory and thought process and everything behind what’s done here is so different,” says Drew Gregoire, who began working at Izett last year. “Everything else is cookie-cutter.”
If the golfer is happy with the one club, Izett will fix the rest of the bag. Or they’ll custom-make a set of sticks. There’s no pressure, no sales pitch—just a promise that the work will be done precisely and to an individual’s unique specifications.
There’s a computer with enough data about each client to satisfy the most discerning techie. Fitting sessions last more than two hours. It might just be enough to make the average golfer cry out, “Can’t you just give me the club so I can go hit with it?”
Scott Briner is a perfect example of the loyalty Izett engenders. He was introduced to the company in the late 1970s, when he had some clubs refitted. After going with someone else to work on his gear for a few decades, he returned to Izett and is now extremely loyal to Morrison, whom he calls “a genius.” A Media resident who plays at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Briner has a nephew in his 30s who’d been playing golf since high school but who wasn’t very good. “I said, ‘You need golf clubs that fit you,’” Briner recalls.
He brought his nephew to Izett to get outfitted. Since then, his handicap has dropped from 18 to seven. “I call [Morrison] a mad scientist,” says Briner. “He loves what he does.”
Morrison does indeed love his work, and while it might seem like a dramatic departure for a one-time CFO, it fits his affection for golf and his precise nature. He once balanced companies’ books. Now, he brings stability to golf swings. “When we get a new customer, it’s like ripples in a pond,” Morrison says of his ever-growing customer base. “We’re never not busy.”