By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Slotline
RICHMOND, VA – Looking at today’s golf equipment, there’s little doubt that things are much different than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Today’s oversized irons, big-head titanium drivers and funky putter styles certainly bear little resemblance to their forbears in golf museums around the globe.
It almost makes you forget that golf equipment’s got a history, just like everything else.
And then every once in a while you’ll see a product that not only reminds you of the old days, it’s actually got a tangible connection to the past. Such is the case for Slotline Putters – yes, the same ones you knew all those years ago, though with contemporary technology and materials that’s moved with the times.
|Slotline SL-700 family of putters.|
And here you thought the ‘Back to the Future’ concept was just in the movies.
It’s hard to overstate Slotline’s impact in the eighties, with just about everyone having owned one in one form or another. Like all good stories, there’s a human element to the Slotline tale, beginning with the company’s original founder, Clovis ‘Duke’ Duclos (pronounced doo-cloh). In the early 1970’s, Duclos wasn’t happy with his putting, so he decided to use his background as an aerospace engineer to ‘build’ something better.
From Duclos’ early tinkering emerged the first Slotline putter – a putter that included a slot (on the back edge of the top-line) and line (located directly beneath the slot). When lining up for a putt, if the line is completely visible in the slot, Duclos reasoned, your eyes are where they should be over the ball.
And if you’re lined up right, you’ve got a better chance to put the ball in the hole – isn’t that what a putter’s supposed to do?
|The Slotline Raider SL-784 back view.|
Duclos’ friends apparently were impressed with his new invention, as he received a number of requests to make more putters – and the Slotline Golf Company was born in 1972. The company grew rapidly from there, even convincing Duclos to leave his job at McDonnell Douglas to concentrate on designing golf equipment (irons, woods and more putters), which he did in 1975.
Moving forward a bit, Duclos became fascinated with the heel-toe weighting of Karsten Solheim’s Ping Anser putter – and began incorporating the concept into his own designs, with a bit of a different twist. Using his physics and aerospace materials background, Duclos conceived of a putter with two different metals – lightweight aluminum in the center and encapsulated lead in the heel and toe sections, which produced a moment of inertia (MOI) 2.5 times higher than a blade putter, and 1.8 times higher than his inspiration, the Ping Anser.
The Slotline putters’ unique weighting reduced twisting upon impact – in layman’s terms, it means the ball will roll straighter.
Slotline’s innovative products took off in the 80’s, having grown as a company from just Duclos in the beginning to 175 employees – and eventually offering over fifty different models of putters, irons and woods, and reaching sales of $13 million (which placed it second only to Ping) one year. The company also enjoyed success on the professional circuits, including a win at the U.S. Women’s Open.
|Slotline SL-500 family of putters.|
Moving forward once again, Dynamic Brands (the parent company for The Bag Boy, the Baby Jogger and AMF Golf) acquired Slotline Golf in 2007 – and now, Slotline is back in golf shops to golfers’ delight.
Chad Lehr, Slotline’s Production Manager, says they’re merely building on the Slotline brand that everyone’s already so familiar with. “Since we’ve ‘come back,’ the Slotline name has been well received in the marketplace and media due to name recognition and the brand’s legacy. Because there were over one million Original Inertial putters sold in the late 80’s, we brought back some of the original designs for re-introduction so people could fall in love all over again.”
Lehr continues, “Duke set the standard pretty high with his original designs, and it was our intent to stay true to his vision. The (current) 500 Series putters have been updated with better materials and manufacturing processes, the direct result being a product with a higher MOI than even the original. We also carried the colors, logos and badging forward due to the brand’s familiarity.”
The company is currently focusing on putters, as it no longer offers irons or woods.
|The Slotline Raider SL-784 sole view.|
Lehr’s putter design philosophy is simple: to provide the consumer with a product that will improve their putting (scores) and includes value for the dollar while staying true to the original vision of Duke Duclos.
“When you compare the features and benefits of all Slotline putters with the competition, you realize the value,” Lehr lectured. “A good example is the 300 Series, which sells for $99.95 and contains 30 grams of Tungsten in the sole to stabilize the head -- which gives it a larger sweet-spot. Slotline putters have some of the highest, if not the highest, MOI numbers in the industry at their respective price points.”
As far as what separates Slotline from its competitors, Lehr points to the technology (multi-metal design, tri-milled face, Tungsten weighting, materials and manufacturing processes) that’s available at each price point. Proof of the quality is the fact Slotline putters have been put into play on the Champions Tour without any endorsement money as incentives.
And when professionals play a product for free, you know it’s something they think will help them earn dollars in other ways – by winning.
|The Slotline Raider SL-784 top view.|
For the rest of us non-professionals, we can also take advantage of Slotline’s products, which can essentially be broken down into three series. The 300 Series line offers a cast 431 stainless steel head, Tungsten weighting, tri-milled face, Slot and Line alignment, and a secondary alignment line – all for under a hundred bucks.
The 500 Series putters includes multi-metal design, forged 6061 Aluminum heads which are milled for an average of ninety minutes before reaching final shape, proprietary Tungsten heel/toe weighting to bring the head to final weight and increased MOI, tri-milled face, and of course, the Slot & Line alignment system.
The 700 Series line offers multi-metal design, 100% CNC milled 6061 Aluminum heads which start out as a 2.4 pound block of solid Aluminum and spend 2 ½ hours on a milling machine before reaching their final shape. They’ve also got multiple weighting systems incorporating Tungsten to bring the head to final weight and increase the MOI, and a tri-milled face – again, with the Slot & Line alignment system that’s made Slotline famous.
The 700 Series also has the highest MOI ratings.
|Slotline SL-300 family of putters.|
We tried the SL-784 Raider model from the 700 Series, which we found closest to what we’d remembered from the traditional Slotline putters from yesteryear. The head feels fairly heavy and stable, and the black and gold colors give it a polished, sleek look.
On the greens, the putter lived up to its billing. Like any putter, it took a period of adjustment to get used to the weight, but the slot and line system was extremely helpful for lining up putts – especially short ones. Putting is all feel – and like any other product, we’d recommend that you try the Slotline putters along with the competition, to see where your ‘feel’ fits in.
Lehr says it’s all about having more fun: “We’d want the Slotline brand to be known for a great performing product that allows you to make more putts and lower your scores – which will make golf more fun.”
It’s hard to argue with that – and sometimes you can even look to the past for the golf solutions you’re searching for today.
Where to buy/find Slotline putters: To find a retailer near you or to order on-line please visit www.slotlinegolf.com or call 1.800.955.2269.
|Related Links||Comments on this article?|
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor: