By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images Courtesy of Bettinardi Golf
TINLEY PARK, IL – “One day in 1991, my dad walked into a golf store and saw an advertisement for a milled putter,” said Sam Bettinardi, talking about how his father, Bob, got started in the business of making top-end putters.
Sam (who serves as VP of Sales and Marketing for Bettinardi Golf) continues, “He owned a small machine shop at the time and figured he could try his own hand at making putters. Seven years later, Bettinardi Golf was founded.”
It took Bob Bettinardi 15-20 tries before making that first solid putter, which subsequently led to gaining those seven years of valuable experience before branching out on his own in 1998. During his “apprenticeship,” Bob worked with some of the sport’s top putter manufacturers and craftsmen, including Scotty Cameron.
In making a career out of working with metal, Bob Bettinardi was only carrying on a family tradition begun by his father. The senior Bettinardi exposed Bob to the field of engineering, and from the age of 12 on, his summers were spent learning the craft in his dad’s machining facility. Bob then went on to earn a degree in engineering.
Bettinardi Golf’s initial Tour victory came in 1999, when Jesper Parnevik won the Greater Greensboro Open with a tournament record 99 putts. For those who are a little math challenged, that’s less than 25 putts per round. Not bad for a start-up.
Since that time, Bettinardi Golf has earned a reputation for quality and performance (including majors won by Jim Furyk in 2003 and Vijay Singh in 2004). And perhaps further setting the company apart from the competition, Bettinardi did not pay players to use the product (a note on this a little further down).
One more thing. “We’ve always kept our manufacturing process in the United States,” Sam added. “This separates us from the large golf companies who are seeking volume and need product made very fast at a very low cost. Bettinardi does it right by milling a putter out of a solid block of steel, never compromising quality for cost.”
Taking nothing away from companies that manufacture overseas (which describes most of them, actually), it’s nice to see jobs staying right here at home. Bettinardi Golf now has over 50 employees designing, crafting, and fitting One-Piece putters (and now high-end, stylish Buckles) for players around the world.
All head covers also have a “Milled in the USA” symbol on them as well – a nice touch.
For our purposes, we liked the looks of the new Matt Kuchar line of Bettinardi putters, selecting the Kuchar Model 2 for this review.
Seeing as Matt Kuchhar has enjoyed a stellar year with the putter in 2013, we wondered how he became involved with the company – and how his line of putters differed from others in the Bettinardi collection.
Again, Sam Bettinardi elaborates. “Matt approached us after having had recent success with his arm lock putter, and since his method of putting was so unique, he wanted to create a signature model with the best putter company in the world. He had other companies trying to make him the same style of putter -- but no one could produce the results he wanted like Bettinardi.”
“The Kuchar putters differ in the fact that they have a professional golfer’s signature engraved on the sole, and the arm-lock models have 7 degrees of loft, where most of our putters have only 3 degrees. Kuchhar provided a good amount of input to get the putter looking and feeling the way he wanted based on his personal preference, keeping the casual golfer in mind,” Sam said proudly.
Just as a side note, Bettinardi Golf does pay Kuchar for his name and input, but the investment has certainly paid off. As of this writing, Kuchar is ranked seventh in the world rankings, largely on the strength of his Bettinardi-aided victories at the WGC Accenture Match-Play Championships and the Memorial Tournament earlier this year.
In addition to the “know how” that goes into creating putters (which Sam describes as 50% science and 50% art), the metals used also make Bettinardi distinct. The Kuchar line of putters is made of Bettinardi’s Soft Carbon Steel, which is also utilized in the company’s other putter lines.
Naturally, the Kuchar line offers arm-lock models, which is Kuchar’s putting “signature.” Sam says there’s a difference in designing an arm-lock putter.
“The technology used has a hozel that is milled forward around 7 degrees. When you arm-lock a putter, you push the putter shaft forward against your left forearm, which automatically reduces some loft. If the putter did not have 7 degrees of loft, the ball would dig right into the ground causing it to skid, creating an imperfect roll.”
Further, all Bettinardi putters have a honeycomb pattern on the face, which is achieved with a vertical jewelers’ tool to create the flattest face in golf – while also creating an attractive, distinctive look in the process.
One final innovation you’ll find with all Bettinardi putters is a Velcro-free putter head-cover, which slips snuggly and easily over the putter head and cushions it with loving soft feel.
The Velcro-free part stems from Tour caddy input. Caddies complained that the Velcro noise was distracting around the green and also wears out quickly. Velcro also has a tendency to retain sand and dust, which can scratch a putter. Best to just get rid of it!
No problem here. We tried the Kuchar Model 2 Standard (meaning no arm-lock), a mallet-style putter with beautiful looks and pillow soft feel.
From the Bettinardi website: “The Kuchar Model 2 Standard is a soft, pear-shaped mallet with a double tier, heel-toe weighted, face balanced head. The Model 2 also features our patented F.I.T. Face technology which removes 55% of material from the face resulting in a remarkably soft feel at impact. The Model 2 standard features 1 shaft of offset. This elegant mallet is milled from proprietary Soft Carbon steel and boasts our non-corrosive Pewter P.V.D. finish.”
As usual, we’ll leave the technical details to the experts. We can say, however, that we absolutely loved using the Bettinardi Kuchar Model 2, primarily because of its soft feel. Like with all putters, it took a period of adjustment to line it up properly (with a bit of Mickelson-like forward press), but the results justified the work.
The feel greatly aided in judging lengthy lag-putts – it’s truly an example of a finely crafted tool.
We recommend that you try Bettinardi if you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line putter. The company’s products aren’t inexpensive, so it’s best to look at it as an investment. But if you want a putter that will help you putt your best, Bettinardi is worth looking into.
There are many models to choose from as well. The company will certainly continue to be seen as a leader in the industry, and responsive to the latest trends.
How do the Bettinardi people see putters evolving?
“I see alternative putting styles becoming more popular such as the arm-lock and belly/no belly type of putter with counter-weighting. What players on the PGA Tour use, the general public usually follows suit. Matt Kuchar has propelled to #7 in the world with his Bettinardi arm-lock putter and other people are starting to notice. Justin Rose won the US Open with a counter-weighted putter and a lot of guys on tour are trying it,” Sam said.
Nothing quite like a glimpse into the future – and Bettinardi Golf will be right there, helping to shape it.
7800 Graphics Drive
Tinley Park, IL 60477
Fax: (708) 802-7401
Check the website for more locations and availability.
Bettinardi also features quite a selection of accessories.
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