Jacob Sanborn, A.K.A. The Wedge Wizard

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The Wedge Wizard; before he was the Wizard

Everyone has a different perspective on what portion of your game is the most important. But it is almost a universal consensus that scoring happens 100 yards and in. So how did former server while in college, score his own customs department at Fourteen golf? Through a bit of luck and a lot of passion, we will detail the biography of one Jacob Sanborn and his rise to The Wedge Wizard. Follow along on the story of one of the industries next big names and an up-close look at his work that will continue to keep him in a league of his own.

Jacob resides in California and is Fourteen golfs go-to for all custom club needs, including irons and more popularly custom wedges. Not that many sit around and pine how industry folks got into their respective position at a big golf OE, but if you ever did, you would by assumption, take a quick glance at Jacobs work and believe he has been tearing up the industry for many years.

Everything from his ideas, finishing, product showcasing, etc. gives the impression of a seasoned vet. But in all reality, it has been less than a decade since Jacob was serving tables while attending community college.

During his time as a professional culinary currier, errr waiter, he was attempting to make his junior college golf team. At this point in his life, like so many of us, he was looking for more. More of his passion, something that provided more internal fulfillment. For Jacob, that was golf. He spent loads of time at the Carlsbad Golf Center practicing his game, networking, and pursuing his passion for tinkering.

It was what happened next for Jacob that could arguably be that fork in the road of life that so many great stories start. One evening at the Carlsbad Golf Center, his home away from home, Jacob decided to take a run at employment with the manager of Carlsbad. It was time to hang up the culinary uniform and do something he was far more passionate about.

After an ultra-brief interview, where this California kid showed up in a three-piece suit, the job of driving range ball collection specialist was had! The wizard’s first official impression left on the golf industry was shagging range balls and holding up the counter at the pro shop of Carlsbad golf club. Don’t worry; it gets even better.

Quickly a habit of tinkering on the range with equipment and understanding players selection of golf gear became an obsession for Jacob. His interest pivoted from being around golf to fitting golfers into the best possible equipment to make them successful on the golf course. He began fitting customers in all aspects of their game, as well as building clubs for customers. This is where Jacob found true happiness.

Having hobbies of hot rods and choppers became transparent to his enjoyment in building something with his own hands. Living in California provides Jacob no shortage to the custom car and hot rod culture. At any given time, California offers the gearhead with hundreds of annual car shows, industry icons, and numerous famous custom shops. Growing up in this type of culture became a great platform in which Jacob is making a name for himself in the custom golf builder realm.

While getting to know Jacob we shared many similar interests. Hot rods and classic cars were one of those interests. He told me about such a memorable story of him meeting Chip Foose, an icon in the fabrication and custom car culture. It was in a Subway restaurant where Chip stopped and gave him one of the most detailed autographs a star-struck fan could ask for. A quick sketch on a napkin for Jacob that is now framed and kept in the house as one of the more pivotal influencers of Jacobs’s career.

He explained to me that Chip, along with names like Jesse James, has always been his real inspiration. Master metal workers like these two have continued to push the envelope in the industry, and Jacob looks to do the same. And not long after his time at Carlsbad golf club as a professional range ball retriever and fitting extraordinaire, Jacob got his next big break.

The Big Break

Fourteen Golf is a premier club designer and manufacturer committed to ensuring that each golfer has the greatest chance of success. Established in 1981 by one of the leading club designers in Japan, Fourteen Golf has pushed the limits of club design to make the game more accessible and playable for golfers of all handicaps.

Fourteen Golf has been recognized as a worldwide leader in wedge design and has earned a reputation for producing some of the most classically designed, tour inspired, forged irons in the world. The brand name “Fourteen” was created from the maximum number of clubs a golfer is allowed to have in the bag during competition. The company strives to reach and surpass its fundamental principle, “To equip golfers with the best 14 clubs” with every golf club they develop.

 

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How in the world did a young kid get involved with one of Japans premier golf brands? Jacob sums it up to a boatload of passion and a large serving of luck. After seeing an opening being posted, Jacob rushed to apply and with much graciousness, was granted an invitation to join the team. But the truth is, it only takes a short amount of time spent with The Wedge Wizard to understand that Fourteen golf was the one that got lucky here.

The passion for making the game better and more fun leaks out of his pours. He is incredibly humbled by the opportunity to build someone a custom set of wedges and or irons that he genuinely treats each experience with such grace and charisma. To date, Jacob might be the most talented, yet understated industry leaders that I have met. He has so much to learn, and so much more to offer the game, but he embraces that with open arms.

His current role had changed from when he was first brought on board, and will probably change ten more times, but is currently best described as “Custom Club builder for Fourteen Golf.” Jacob takes care of tour professionals, just the same as he does weekend blog hackers. Every build gets the same amount of his attention, and he seeks the same level of happiness with every custom order that leaves his shop.

The Brainstorming began.

When we first linked up to discuss a wedge set for my game, we probably talked on the phone five times just going over ideas and identifying what my needs in a wedge set were. Jacob, of course, took note of things like grinds, gapping preference and where I most often play. After that was narrowed down, he let me run with some ideas. Not long after I vomited all my custom wedge ideas, we both determined that the best way to do this thing was to provide Jacob with some inspiration. But, really give him free reign to build the wedge set in a way that gives him artistic freedom. That way as the build takes shape; he can change things as needed based on experience and expertise.

The one thing we both settled on was “hot rod.” Red is my favorite color, and also the paint code for our 64 Chevelle; I believe Jacob had all the ammo he needed, but still plenty of room for his creative touch.  If after reading this article, you head straight over to his Instagram and place an order for a wedge set, I recommend you follow this same direction. Giving an artist some ideas and inspiration but at the same time, full creative freedom will typically leave you with a masterpiece of significant proportions.

One of the greatest pleasures Jacob takes in making custom clubs is the ability to create custom grinds. He feels this is one of the most significant add-on features he can deliver to his players. We spent some time discussing the ability to improve someone’s game from 100 yards and the ability to dial in a player’s needs on every club that leaves the shop.

More than making something that resembles art, Jacob feels strongly about improving golf. And in his opinion, by giving people the right tools to play better golf, we will continue to propel golf in a positive direction. In comparing most large OE makers, they have different grind selections available, but in almost every case, you would need to find a custom builder to do any custom grind work. Jacob takes pride in being able to offer that all in-house and feels it is a substantial value-add that his customers love taking advantage of.

My Build

Fourteen golf has a total of 6 wedges to choose. That in itself is impressive when most big OE companies offer one style until they decide to change it to the next model. For my build, I let The Wizard chose my weapons based on my needs and his expertise. That left me with a 52, 56, 60 degree; all with custom grinds and Wizardry. The set is made up of two models; RM-22 Tour Raw and the RM Tour raw.

RM-22 Tour RAW

RM 22 Tour Raw

Fourteen’s Signature Reverse Muscle Design The same reverse muscle design that made our wedges such a hit on the worldwide tours is back in full effect with the RM-22 Tour RAW. By moving the mass up to the top section of the blade we are able to raise the center of gravity, This creates more stable, higher spinning, and more consistent performance.

 

Mirror Face Milling: This process of milling the face allows us to create one of the flattest faces in the golf industry.  This perfectly even surface allows for the ultimate canvas for sort game artistry.  This is one of the main reasons our wedges produce the exceptional level spin on all types of shots.

 

Trapezoidal Groove: Our tour proven trapezoidal grooves are milled right to the limit of both volume and angle. This precision milled groove paired with the exceptionally flat mirror milled face creates unmatched levels of spin.

RM TOUR RAW

RM Tour Raw

Fourteen Golf knows the importance of the short game. The company has garnered a reputation throughout the world as being the preeminent wedge designer, and the RM Raw Wedge verifies it. This tour wedge features the same trapezoidal grooves and Reverse Muscle Technology Fourteen Golf is known for. It is the same wedge used on the PGA, LPGA and Web.com tours. For years the same Raw finish wedge we offer on tour has been requested. Finally, it is available at retail.

 

Touring Professionals appreciated the company’s original Reverse Muscle design. Now golfers of all abilities can experience the equipment of the Tour Player. Fourteen Golf used a forged nickel chrome molybdenum bronze because of its durability and resistance to wear. This highly specialized material allows the high quality, high-performance trapezoidal grooves to stay in perfect condition which ensures optimum performance.These RM Raw wedges used on tour have no finish they will rust and gather a weathered patina quickly.

 

There’s something different about the Wedge Wizard

One of the coolest things about working with Jacob is how involved he is with his clients. He expressed to me so many times how involved he likes to get with the builds and to make sure it is precisely what the player is looking for. In his tenure with Fourteen Golf, they have created an online custom wedge builder to give you the freedom to get on your computer and knock out a custom build with ease.

But to take it one step further, Jacob encourages you to reach out to him or his team directly before finalizing an order, just to make sure you have checked all the boxes in regards to your customization.

Of course, the online platform has been an excellent tool for Jacob and his clients at the same time, but he still believes a conversation detailing your ideas and thoughts goes a long way. I will repeat that one more time so that it sinks in. A custom builder in the golf industry, who encourages communication with his customers, so they get exactly what they want. Please let that marinate.

The Outcome

The wedge set got delivered in a gorgeous Fourteen box in a damage-free foam carrying case arrangement. I could hardly believe my eyes when finally seeing the wedges in person. As the old saying goes, pictures don’t do them justice.

While it sounds cliché, it isn’t, due to how The Wizard finished the set. A high polish always has its challenges in an outdoor photoshoot. But we tried! Each wedge has its personality, all while retaining the same paint scheme to bring the set into unison.

Jacob stamped the 52 with one of my favorite sayings, Nobody Cares, Work Harder,” spending my professional career in sales- this has always been my go-to way of thinking. Similar to a day on the course, sometimes you get bad breaks, and sometimes you get luckier than you deserve. Either way, staying in a positive and focused state of mind is something I am working on achieving each round.

Wedge Wizard

The 56 looks like something that should be sitting on display, with a half raw/half polished head-with hours of hand texture via metal working.

Wedge Wizard

Finally, the 60 displays my last name in a playful and fun way. It reminds me very much of something Marvel/DC that you would find in a comic book script.

Wedge Wizard

All together, they make up a beautiful set that looks stunning. I prefer the feel of a forged club, and these Fourteen forged heads are no different. Smooth and soft and leave a ton of good feedback. Being left in a raw finish, these wedges will patina into a great work of art.

In Closing

It was so fun getting the opportunity to learn about Jacob’s story and to see his humble vision of where he would like to make his mark in the golf industry. It was so transparent that Jacob genuinely cares and only wants his absolute best work in the hands of players.

Jacob is currently enjoying his California lifestyle with his beautiful girlfriend Kayla, who just decided to pick up the game. When Jacob isn’t building golf club art, he is at car shows or the beach. A real relaxed bro, with a ton of knowledge and talent to make your wildest dreams come to life on a golf club.

We encourage you to check out Fourteen golfs website for all your equipment needs, specifically the custom wedge builder software. Reaching out to Jacob directly via phone or direct message on Instagram is a great way to discuss your project. Follow his Instagram account to get real-time coverage of projects he is working on and past work.

Personally, I love the idea of having a new name on the short list of custom wedge builders. One who will be available to the public, one who does his grinds and finishes, and one who is just down to earth.

We love what you are doing Wizard, keep it up.

15 questions with the 25-year-old Wizard

When did you start playing golf? How did you get into the sport? 

Father-son golf tournament during Super Bowl 2001. I remember it was the Bucs vs. Raiders in the super bowl. My father and I won the scramble tournament, was hooked ever since.

When did you decide to turn it into a career?

19 years old. Waiting tables going to college, trying to make it on Junior college golf team, manager of the driving range gave a job, came to a job interview in a suit and tie, easy interview. Started picking up range balls on the range and working counter. Developed weird tinkering with frequent customers and pro shop and fit center. Pivoted focus towards equipment and fitting

Who is your inspiration/how do you find new ideas?

Jesse James custom chopper builder, fabrication, craftsman. Metalwork and metal shaping. Large inspiration. Chip Foose- custom car builder and fabricator. Love hearing feedback from friends and family after building things and seeing how they like. I am nonstop doodling in my image book.

With all the customization out in golf, how do you separate yourself? What makes you unique? 

No set menu-list of options, rather feed of creativity from the client and develop something in conjunction together to complete a client’s vision. Customization isn’t found from a drop-down menu, I want performance, aesthetics and customer service.

Music while playing?

Absolutely, dubstep and 90s gangster rap

Favorite nongolf hobby?

Photography, snowboarding, and hot rods

Would you rather take someone’s exact ideas and put it on a club or get inspiration and make it your own? Why?

Of course, can do whatever the client wants but I love feeding off someone’s direction, and ideas and running with it with free reign, that’s my favorite. But the best outcomes are derived from vivid ideas plus my creative vision of what’s possible

Will you ever build the same thing twice?

Always try not to

Why the wizard? Why wedges?

The name wedge wizard shortly after starting at fourteen-given authorization to build and test whatever I wanted. After showing up at the range with new clubs constantly, a friend at Carlsbad golf club said: “what does the wizard have today.” I said wedges, and my friend said the wedge wizard, and it was something that struck from that day forward. The Wedge is the most versatile club, carrying 3-4 off them in the bag.

The process of getting custom wedges from you? 

Start by contacting the wizard directly, DM or call Fourteen golf office, or purchase directly on the website. Always prefer to talk to the customer first, so they don’t feel limited via the website. Love to talk over the phone to make sure we can accommodate needs

What should someone budget?

$200-300 per wedge depending on customization

100 yards and in, is often argued to be where people shoot low scores, how are you making golfers better from 100 in?

Customization shouldn’t stop at aesthetics, we offer custom grinds all done by hand, in order to increase customer pool- make more grinds that are available to wider range of golfers. Giving more golfers exact fitment needs for their game

What’s a long-term picture of your goals in the industry and outside of the industry? 

Want to help push golf industry forward whether it be through technology, aesthetics, personality, invest in golf and moving it forward. Continue to encourage new players and try to grow the game. Going to do that by building sick ass golf clubs that people want to pick up and try. Want to be a dad, want to cruise down the beach in a hot rod with my hot wife and a kid.

How would your friends describe you after a bad shot?

I don’t really care. You always get another shot. I have had more memorable saves in my golf career than I have memorable straight down the middle shots. I like to look at the round of golf as a whole versus one shot. Just stick to the plan, I have more shots. Mentality

What would your friends say is your best quality is?

I love storytelling and bringing people together.

Follow JT Murphy:

My name is JT Murphy, and I have a golf problem. A relatively new resident of Houston, TX, I will be joining the round table with other members of The Breakfast Ball and I'll be adding my two cents to the discussion, reviews and of course golf in the Midwest!

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