EQUIP­MENT

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - jerry tarde

The put­ter that aims it­self.

EveryHot List year lookingabout th­is­for a time, new I put­ter.pore throughI have one the in mind this year, but if it’s like the past 32 years, I’ll stick with the very odd-shape put­ter pic­tured on this page that I started us­ing in 1985. I’ve gone through eight of them, and I have eight more iden­ti­cal ones in a box in my garage, which should get me to the fin­ish line. There’s a story here, of course.

work­ingIn the on earlya re­search1980s, Dave project Pelz with was tour mi­s­aimed­pros and se­ri­ous­right or am­a­teursleft of their who putting uni­formly line, forc­ing a correction dur­ing the stroke. For ex­am­ple, Lee Trevino aimed left and pushed his putts (pretty suc­cess­fully). Most golfers aim poorly and can’t com­pen­sate, which led Pelz to search for a more ef­fec­tive aim­ing de­vice or de­sign for the put­ter­head.

A pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mary­land told Pelz that no lines or square edges or club­head shapes ac­tu­ally aided in aim­ing as long as there was a ball on the ground be­ing aimed. Golfers nat­u­rally aimed the ball, not the put­ter­head. Pelz said his test­ing with Jim Si­mons,Andy North,Tom Kite and oth­ers cor­rob­o­rated this find­ing. “If you took the ball away, you’d aim the put­ter bet­ter,” Pelz said.“Once the ball is in front, the mind is moving from the ball to the hole, and the put­ter­head be­comes a blob in your sub­con­scious.”

This gave Pelz the idea of de­sign­ing a put­ter re­sem­bling a line of mul­ti­ple golf balls: the more balls, the eas­ier to line up. Pelz said he mounted six balls in a row, and “wow, did the guys aim it bet­ter!” He even mounted 10 and 12 balls in a row with im­proved re­sults, but they were too un­wieldy to swing. He set­tled back on three plas­tic balls, which he patented and brought to mar­ket in two vari­a­tions. One model had a short face of about five cen­time­tres and a long fin be­hind the balls; a sec­ond model had a long face and a short fin in the back (above). D A Weib­ring won the 1985 New Zealand Open us­ing the short-face put­ter, and sev­eral other pros put that model in play. The USGA moved swiftly.The first model with the short face was judged to vi­o­late the rule that a put­ter must be longer from heel to toe than from front to back. Some ar­gued that the heel-to-toe mea­sure­ment doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the front of the put­ter, but could ap­ply to the longer back fin.“I had fun cross-ex­am­in­ing Weib­ring and (Lon) Hin­kle about where to find the heel and the toe of a golf club,” re­calls Lee Abrams, the USGA’s coun­sel at the time. The Pelz Big Face Put­ter, as it was called when sub­mit­ted to the USGA, was ruled con­form­ing, with a re­view to come af­ter a 10-year grace pe­riod.The late USGA se­nior ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Frank Han­ni­gan told me that some­one on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee said dur­ing the re­view:“Tarde’s the only player still us­ing it, and he can’t beat any­body, so let’s leave it con­form­ing.”And the USGA grand­fa­thered it in­def­i­nitely in 1995.The heart­less Royal and An­cient, which gov­erns out­side the United States and Mex­ico, doesn’t gen­er­ally grand­fa­ther equip­ment, so it ruled both put­ter mod­els non­con­form­ing in its ju­ris­dic­tion. But that’s not the end of the story. A few years later, I played in a pro-am with Call­away’s chief de­signer, Dick Helm­stet­ter, and we dis­cussed Pelz’s aim­ing theory.A while af­ter that, I heard Helm­stet­ter had ap­proached Pelz and of­fered him $80 000 for the patent. Pelz de­clined, ask­ing for $2.50 per put­ter. Helm­stet­ter de­clined, but the two even­tu­ally agreed on a flat $250 000.

Pelz’s three-ball de­sign be­came the ba­sis for Call­away’s Odyssey 2-Ball put­ter. It’s very likely the per­son read­ing this ar­ti­cle ei­ther uses one or did at one time. More than five mil­lion 2-Balls have been sold, rank­ing it with the Ping Anser (50 years old in 2017) as the all-time best­sellers. TwoBall mod­els won gold medals in this year’s Hot List (page 68).

What I won’t go into here is that a nasty law­suit was brought against the USGA in 1986, which ended in Pelz’s com­pany go­ing bankrupt and Pelz ex­it­ing the club busi­ness to fo­cus on in­struc­tion. (This law­suit and a sub­se­quent square-grooves case played a sem­i­nal role in af­firm­ing the right of sports gov­ern­ing bod­ies to reg­u­late equip­ment.) Bar­ney Adams was a top ex­ec­u­tive in Pelz’s com­pany and went on to launch Adams Golf with a suc­cess­ful fair­way wood called Tight Lies, which con­trib­uted to the devel­op­ment of hy­brids. He took his com­pany pub­lic and hired a rel­a­tively un­known ex­ec­u­tive named Chip Brewer to run Adams Golf.

In the nat­u­ral sym­me­try of the game, Brewer now is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Call­away Golf.And the search for a new put­ter goes on.

Trusted part­ner I’ve got eight more avail­able, just in case.

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