Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Stan Steuter, one of the country's leading golf club repair and restore men
The first rule of being a golf doctor: Never ask how the clubs were broken. If people volunteer how it happened, sure, you listen. “The bag tips over in the garage and the wife runs it over by accident—that happens more often than you’d think,” says Stan Steuter, one of the country’s leading golf club repair and restore men. Steuter owns and runs the Golf Club Hospital not too far from Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis. He bought it from its founder, Edina Country Club golf pro and legend Arnold Chester, who opened it in 1967.
By the time Steuter took over in 1982, he had already been repairing golf clubs for almost a decade. He liked the craft of it, and working with his hands. Growing up the third-oldest boy in a family of 12 kids on a Nebraska farm, he used tools from a young age. A gentle person with a soft voice and kind eyes, Steuter came to Minneapolis to pursue priesthood at St. Thomas. Once here, he thought perhaps he’d be a teacher instead, but then fell in love, married, and had a child, and the folks at the golf store where he had a part-time job offered him a full-time gig. The rest, as they say, is history.
If Steuter has suspected over the years that some of those bags of golf clubs were run over in anger (or by the golfer, not the unwitting spouse), he’s kept those thoughts to himself. Steuter knows how it goes: Golf clubs tend to break in mysterious ways. “Nobody ever wants to admit they broke it. They always say they lent it to one guy, and he broke it. That one guy, he gets around.”
The other notable causes of golf-club injury: flood, fire, children who hit rocks in the yard, and dogs who get their teeth on hickory-wood antiques. Also, interestingly: car accidents. “Lots of guys always have their clubs in the trunks of their cars, they get tail-ended, they end up here.”
Steuter’s Golf Hospital workshop has every single thing anyone would ever need to fix any kind of club, every sort of varnish, every sort of enamel, every length of graphite. The workbenches are scarred with 40 years of his hands brushing past with tools. Some of the scissors on the pegboard are older than Tiger Woods. The oven for baking on metal enamel is handmade, shed-sized, and definitely not relocatable. In his 1,000 square feet, Steuter patches up the life essence of golf as surely as any operating room patches up the life essence of humans. He restores metal clubs by replacing shafts, buffing and straightening, and completely re-chroming or re-enameling metals.
Steuter restores woods using any of a hundred steps, including carving fresh persimmon wood inserts. He’s one of the world’s leading restorers of museum-quality golf collectibles and has a basement full of authentic antique hickory-wood shafts for replacement parts. He’s also one of the go-to guys for “Hickory Golfers” who play only with vintage clubs (the Hickory Golf Association claims 3 million members).
History intrudes in other ways: He adjusted the clubs of a man killed in the 9/11 attacks—the man’s brother, who inherited them, wanted to play in his honor. Steuter routinely finds himself sprucing up grandpa’s or grandma’s clubs so they can be displayed in a den or office. One man with terminal cancer had his favorite wood and putter refinished so he could be buried with them. Steuter went to the funeral, and was glad he made his good customer happy.
Many of the Golf Hospital’s repair clients are not local. Clubs get mailed to him from all over the world. “I did a refinish last month for a guy from Hong Kong,” he says. The week I visited him, Steuter had orders in from 40 states, though most of the hickory-wood antiques for rebuilding come from locals cleaning out their garages and attics. The main thing Steuter does for golfing locals is fitting clubs. He can tell how many miles an hour you can swing your club just by eyeballing your swing, though he uses a radar gun because customers don’t believe how good his eye is. He also repairs thousands of local golf club grips. He’s so good now he can do a hundred a day.
March kicks off Steuter’s busy season, when he puts in 10- and 12-hour days sprucing up the nation’s clubs. He does all of his work onsite, with the same drill press he started with, the same belt sander, and even one of the same oil cans. “It’s very satisfying, working with your hands,” he says. “You wouldn’t believe how rewarding it is.” Spoken like a true doctor.