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The Art of the Shape, Part 1

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Vol. 2017  No. 02
Many moons ago, I had the pleasure of talking to Scotty about his early years of putter making. This time period pre-dates his work with Titleist; heck, it’s before he joined forces with Mizuno. All of his putters were made by hand, forming the basic head on the vertical Bridgeport milling machine. He did not use a CNC mill to create heads that today, are virtually perfect out of the machine. Scotty willingly shared that his skills with the vertical mill were not the best, and that he learned to take the raw head and shape it the way he wanted to on a grinding wheel. That, he was really good at. I’d agree.

I’ve said this countless times, and I’ll say it again: one of the reasons why Scotty has experienced great success is that he’s better than anyone else in listening to what the tour pros want when they look at a putter, and translate it into a finished product. Success on tour leads to collector demand-it’s been that way for 4 decades of club collecting.

Even in the early 90’s utilizing CNC technology, putter heads did not come straight from the mill perfectly as designed. Limits to the technology lead to limits on design. Seeing that I first got interested in milled putters in the late 1980’s and saw many early examples of CNC heads from various manufacturers, I can verify that not every milled putter was a piece of artistic design. Even with Scotty’s early Classic I, his version of the legendary Ping Anser Scottsdale, the end result was not as appealing to the eye of discriminating tour players. Yes, the one piece milling from a solid block of carbon steel certainly created a much better feel, but the look wasn’t quite what some tour players wanted.

To the benefit of a few lucky collectors today, Scotty decided not to settle for good enough. Seeing that Bernhard Langer won the 1993 Masters with an early Classic I, the basic head was still awesome. Scotty made between 15 and 20 very special Classic I’s that he stamped either Scotty Dale, Scoty Dale, or Scottsdale. Not only were they stamped a little special, Scotty probably spent up to 5 hours on each head hand working them, softening the sharp lines that were a characteristic of the stock head, and turning them into his milled version of the Scottsdale Anser. Look at the comparison pictures for the evidence. Necks were rounded at the edges. Heels and toes were shaped and softened. The bumpers were blended into the edge. The final result? A putter that just melts into the ground visually.

With modern CNC technology, putters can be produced with these softer edges. Look at the picture of my 009-and see how soft it looks in comparison to a stock Classic I. Scotty has taken the 009 Masterful and cranked up the soft look even further by increasing the beveled trailing edge across the back of the flange. In addition, he’s also changed the milling of the sole, with the first 1/3rd of the sole from the leading edge with a certain amount of ‘bounce’ then having his typical sole relief so the putter doesn’t sit closed (a no-no for tour players) doesn’t sit open (a no-no for amateurs) but sits perfect.

While I’m on the subject of the sole of the club, how Scotty used to grind the sole of certain putters to ensure they sat at address like the PGA player wanted will be my next article in this series, The Art of the Shape. Come back in a few weeks to learn some more.

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