How and why did a retired aerospace engineer design the ultimate custom golf putter?As an avid golfer since age 13 and I have enjoyed many rounds of golf from coast to coast, from Bay Hill to Pebble Beach. I played golf for the University of Florida in the late fifties and early sixties where I got to watch a lot of great college golf by Doug Sanders, Tommy Aaron, Frank Beard, Bob Murphy, Andy North, and Andy Bean.I am a retired Professional Engineer with over thirty years experience in the aerospace, defense communications and environmental clean up industries. (In fact, I even helped put the first men on the moon).Long before the first metal wood was introduced, I began playing golf in 1952. And I have been involved with putter testing since the very beginning. From the early blade putters like the “Bullseye” up through today’s latest Odyssey Two Ball, Titleist Futura and Gurin Rife models. With my aerospace engineering and product manufacturing background I have always experimented with different putter designs trying to find ways to improve.Let me tell you, there have been many changes, additions, and discoveries related to putting since my early golfing days. I have personally tested hundreds of different putters and have hit tens of thousands of test putts. Of course it has helped to have my own personal test putting green in my backyard.With my engineering background I felt that putter designs were not taking full advantage of the physics of motion nor of the design technology available. But, with a full time engineering career and a family, I did not have the time to really pursue my ideas for putter improvements until I retired. When I retired in 1998 I founded Golf Lab, Inc so I could pursue my dream of developing the ultimate game improvement putter. I converted my garage into a Putter Research and Development Lab by adding a variety of machine shop tools and test instruments.The above tools along with a couple of very powerful computers with Computer Aided Design software let me accurately design, weigh, measure, cut, drill, bore, form, machine, polish, and coat metal putter heads and components. Finally, I could actually turn my ideas into prototypes and do comparison testing.My earlier testing had shown that nearly all putters had a number of significant limitations such as:
Improper Fit- Golfer must adapt to available off the shelf putter length, weight and lie angle.
Difficult To Align- Conflicting shapes and markings confuse the visual image.
Poor Putter Head Stability- Head twists easily on off center hits.
Poor Roll- Weighting and face design not optimized for roll.
Poor Feel-Putter head constructed of multiple parts thereby compromising a solid feel.
Poor Balance- Putter head not symmetrical and has curved shaft mounted off center.
Poor Stroke Stability-Putter not properly weighted and balanced for pendulum stroke.
Putter Release Conflict- Hand position even with ball requires precise release timing for square impact.
Excessive Loft- Forces hands ahead of the ball at impact to prevent hopping.
Poor Quality-Inconsistent performance caused by poor manufacturing and assembly quality.
USGA Non-Conformance- Not legal for competitive play.
So my design goals for the ultimate putter became pretty clear:
Proper Fit- Golfer may select desired length and then adjust lie angle and weight as desired.
Easy To Align- Open frame design with centered alignment line for best visual image.
Good Putter Head Stability- High Moment of Inertia to minimize head twisting on off center hits.
Superior Roll- Weight distribution and face design optimized for pure roll and great distance control.
Superior Feel- Machine the putter head from a solid block of metal for excellent feel.
Excellent Balance- Putter head symmetrical and with straight center shaft.
High Stroke Stability- Putter properly weighted and balanced for pendulum stroke.
Automatic Putter Release- Reverse off set for hand position behind the ball minimizes release sensitivity.
Minimal Loft- Eliminates hopping and directional error due to improper hand position at impact.
High Quality-Consistent performance through use of computer controlled machining and finishing methods.
USGA Conformance- Legal for all competitive play.
The Ultimate Putter Design Concept Had Been Born!So, let me guess…You really are wondering how I came up with the final design of my new putter and if it meets all of my design goals for the ultimate putter?For the past several years I had been researching and testing putter designs relative to the golfer’s ability achieve correct alignment and to control the distance the ball rolls.I had concluded that correct alignment is achieved by having parallel elements that frame the ball and indicate the line to the target. Good distance control is achieved by the quality of the putting stroke (force, online, hitting sweet spot, etc) and the physical dynamics of the putter head design!My testing had shown that a putter head design with a high percentage of its weight as far behind the putter face as possible and below the center line of the putter face provides the most consistent distance control.In fact, the proper putter head design can even help a golfer improve the quality of their putting stroke by helping to reduce twisting on off center hits.The Design ChallengeThe design challenge was how to put all of my “good science” into one putter head.I began to experiment with different ways to mount the shaft with all sorts of complex shaft bends in order maintain true face balance and allow a high percentage of weight behind the putter face. It soon proved to be a near impossible task until I began to work exclusively with center shaft configurations.But, a center shaft in the middle of the putter head still did not achieve the one key design goal of an adjustable lie angle while maintaining true face balance and heel/toe balance. Having such an adjustable lie angle was the ONLY WAY to allow all golfers to PERFECTLY FIT themselves. This one area had me stumped for some time.Then late one night (actually early in the morning) a mental light bulb came on and I awoke with the perfect solution—-a shaft mounted in the center of the rear of the putter. This idea was so unique that it actually led to a recently issued U.S. Patent.After the mental light bulb went off, I started with the basic features my testing had shown were essential and then began fabricating and testing a series of prototypes. Each successive prototype was an effort to maintain all of my “good science” while moving to a more and more pleasing appearance for the putter.The unique rear mounted shaft concept was so powerful that it allowed me to meet all of my design goals for the ultimate putter.