By Jeffrey A. Rendall
It's funny how the game of golf is geared towards equalization--with so many different ways to handicap golfers in order to make the game a little more even for duffers competing against each other.
First off, there's the USGA handicapping system, where the less gifted receive extra consideration when tallying their scorecards--in the form of strokes subtracted from their net score.
Then there's tee box handicapping. Most golf architects provide four, five, even six sets of tees to try and reach a median yardage figure compatible with each individual's golf game. Pros play the Championship tees, which are usually so far back you'll strain your eyes to see them, and ladies play the red tees -- which are often 'over' handicapped, because they take away too many hazards and have awkward sight lines. Everything else is fair game.
But there's one area where everything in golf is the same -- with no offsets or handicaps granted. And that's the 'stroke' -- the basic scoring unit of golf. A 300 yard drive counts the same on the scorecard as a tap in two-inch putt. I've often thought that's not fair. It unfairly punishes those of us who routinely launch big drives, but have the yips on putts inside five feet. It certainly equals things out, though, and requires every golfer to become well rounded. Yuck.
With all the new and improved drivers, irons, and golf balls out there, giving virtually everyone a chance to go long and straight, I'm waiting for the day when the USGA changes the values of shots -- and bases scoring on distance. A big drive will equal one stroke, and a missed two-foot putt will only be worth point-five.
It's actually much better golf's counted the way it is. Despite the aforementioned improvements in equipment and golf balls, you still must excel in the short game to score well. Not even a handicap will help you if you can't put the ball in the hole -- and playing from the silver tees will only allow you to club down so much.
In other words, half the game is played from 100 yards and in -- and there's nothing you can do about it -- except get better.
For those shots, you'll need good technique, steady nerve, and technology that matches the most advanced 45-inch driver shaft.
As a result, I've called on Titleist's Bob Vokey and Scotty Cameron to help me out. I've used Vokey's wedges for the past five months now, and they've greatly improved my chipping and bunker game.
But up until a few weeks ago, my putting game still needed work. And who else better to answer my 911 call for putting assistance than the most noted flat blade craftsman in golf today, Scotty Cameron. After all, more PGA tour players and winners chose Cameron's putters over the last four years than any other designer. The proof's in the pudding -- or in this case, the money list. If the pros benefit from Cameron's work, then perhaps so can I.
Now's also a good time to try out a Cameron putter, because Titleist and Cameron introduced the new four-member Studio Design Putter Line earlier this year -- blades milled from a solid block of soft carbon steel that not only performs admirably, it looks impressive. Cameron commented: "I wanted the Studio Design line of putters to look as good as they feel. With feedback from the best players in the world, along with my own testing in the Studio, I have been able to create just that."
The alloy used for the blade is very unique -- I don't recall seeing anything similar. It's got a high-buff black oxide finish, which calls for special attention to keep the putter looking nice. The four members of the Studio Design Series all come with a new distinctive bright yellow/orange headcover with the new 'Dancing Cameron' logo, and a piece of soft felt-like cloth to wipe down the putter after every use. The soft carbon-steel is very sensitive to moisture, so the headcover and rubdown cloth will help keep the blade's integrity over prolonged use.
The headcover also contains a slot for the patented Cameron Divot Repair tool, which is available as an accessory. It's a utility piece designed to help golfers help the groundskeeper--in keeping their favorite greens rolling true, while putting their Scotty Camerons to the test.
After taking a good look at the Cameron Studio Design putter and pushing a few balls towards the hole on the Astroturf practice green in my favorite golf shop, it was time to try it out on the course. I could tell from first handling the putter it had a real nice balance to it. It seems like the putter's weight is concentrated in the blade itself, which helps to swing it more like a pendulum. Better strokes equal better putts.
The blade's also quite a bit smaller than my previous putter. I learned the game using my Dad's old Bulls Eye, and maybe I should have stuck with a smaller blade -- because I used to be a much better putter. I liked the look of the Cameron Studio Design right off -- it was a throw-back to a bygone day in golf when putters were milled from a single block of material. Nothing extravagant. No Gimmicks. Simplicity at its finest.
Chris McGinley, Titleist's Vice President of Golf Club Marketing, echoed my impressions of the Studio Design Putter's looks: "The Studio Design putters represent a return to Scotty's roots as a designer, and gives Titleist a classically crafted line of blades."
I hoped the classic putter would return my putting game to classic form. In this respect, it did not disappoint. After using it for four rounds and practicing all different types of putts on the practice green, I'd say it's the softest putter I've ever used.
To me, softness in a putter equates to confidence in striking putts. When you've got a soft blade, you don't feel a need to 'baby' putts. Soft putter and soft golf ball produces firm strokes and true putts. I'm not going to say this putter guaranteed everything from under 20 feet, but it certainly helped with short putts -- and that's where I've had a lot of trouble.
For one thing, it's easier to line up ball and target. The design of the blade is the reason -- McGinley says "The high-toe topline design helps insure proper alignment by eliminating the common desire to raise the toe of the blade at set up. Each Studio Design sole is carefully milled with slight negative bounce to insure the putter never sits closed. The new line also features a specially designed U-shaped, arch paddle grip, which helps to line things up visually."
I also liked the fact there's only a single dot on top of my Studio Design putter (model 1). It doesn't get any easier -- dot behind ball in a perpendicular line to the hole. Hit the putt firmly. Take the ball out of the cup. Now that's breaking it down to the bare essentials.
I will say I'll need more time to get the proper speed down on putts, but the Cameron Studio Design putter takes away a lot of the alignment and 'feel' problems I was experiencing. I'd say right off, it helped me improve by a couple strokes -- simply because I made more short putts than I normally would.
And I look forward to using it for a long time--maybe it'll even help me become a proficient putter. If that's the case, I'll withdraw my petition to the USGA, asking it to base golf's scoring values on the length of the shot -- and maybe spare myself a little egg on the face in the process.
Titleist Scotty Cameron Studio Design Putters
Designed by Scotty Cameron
Retail: $275. Divot Repair Tool: $9.95
Available at Fine Pro Shops and Golf Retail Stores.
Check out more about Scotty Cameron Putters at: www.titleist.com
Scotty Cameron Studios: www.scottycameron.com
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