1. The Kenneth Smith Golf Company
Few in the area recognize the importance of a small local company in Shawnee, Kansas that gained world wide recognition: The Kenneth Smith Golf Company. This legendary company was started by an ambitious and talented local man named Kenneth Smith.
Kenneth Smith started in the world of golf in 1916, quitting his job delivering newspapers to become a caddy at Mission Hills Country Club. While still in high school, he apprenticed to the club maker at the County Club pro shop. Smith received a degree in Business Administration in 1924 from the University of Michigan. In 1928, he started his business making custom golf clubs in Kansas City. In June that year, a pro by the name of Horton Smith stopped in to the shop for a custom-fitted set of clubs. Horton Smith soon became the leading money winner on the tour and from that point on, the demand for Kenneth Smith golf clubs flourished.
In 1935, the company moved to Shawnee with seven employees. It became known for quality craftsmanship and innovative design. Kenneth Smith, with over 25 patents and innovations to his name, is credited with successfully integrating science into the art of making golf clubs. Many of his innovations, including the perforated non-slip grip, are still widely used today. Smith also developed a personalized fitting chart that stream-lined the ordering process, allowing him to conduct 85 percent of his business by mail.
Over the years Smith’s clientele included not only golf pros but also celebrities, presidents and royalty from around the world. Bob Hope, Errol Flynn, Billy Graham, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, King Leopold of Belgium and King Hassan of Morocco all used clubs from this Shawnee-based company. Despite his world-wide reputation, Smith remained a modest man, committed to quality workmanship until his death in 1977. The Kenneth Smith Golf Company continued until early 2004, when it officially closed.
Today the legacy of the Kenneth Smith Company lives on in the Smith house and factory building located on 71 Street between Quivira and Pflumm. Nestled amongst picturesque green hills, the facility looks more like a club-house than a manufacturing building. Smith dreamed that the property around his business would become a golf course. The land, however, was recently sold to a developer. Although the Kenneth Smith home and factory have been identified as potential state and national register properties, they are scheduled for demolition at this time.
Mr. Smith died in 1977 but his company has continued to operate in the same low-key,
high-quality manner he championed. Kenneth Smith clubs are played by kings, celebrities
and just average folks. Regardless of the buyer, each club is meticulously hand-assembled
to the needs of the individual, just as Kenneth Smith had done from his early days
at Mission Hills C.C.
Although Honma and Maruman may be top dogs in the orient, Kenneth Smith clubs are the Rolls-Royce of clubs on this side of the Pacific. For shear prestige and status, Kenneth Smith clubs still rate as being among the finest hand crafted tools built for those desiring to project that nothing but the highest quality sticks available will belong in their bag.