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The Evolution of the Golf Putter

The Evolution of the Golf Putter

From the perspective of amateurs, the game of golf is about hitting the ball far. For professionals, it is about preciseness, which is paramount while putting. A confident putter is someone who believes in their fundamentals and their putter. Over the years, the putter has undergone radical evolution to the point where everyone has their favorite type.

What began as an oblong wooden putter transformed into a precisely milled metal tool, influenced by some of the greatest players to play the game.

The First Putters

The first putters used in the game of golf looked more like a modern hybrid than a putter. They were made entirely out of wood, which was standard for the time period for all golf clubs.

Putters from the earliest eras of the game in the 16th century up until the mid-19th century would be made out of wood, but particularly, the putter head was made out of hardwood such as beech.

The general shape of the first putters was thick and oblong in nature, with a flat surface on the front to strike the ball. This oblong shape was maintained throughout most of the first few hundred years of the game of golf.

The First Metal Putter Head

Interestingly, it would be modern advances in the design of the golf ball that would influence new designs of putters in the late 19th century. In 1848, the gutta percha golf ball was created by Robert Patterson.

This new golf ball was extremely durable and allowed the ball to travel further than ever, which opened up a door to new putter inventions. So, in the late 1800s, St. Andrews clubmaker, Willie Wilson, designed what is thought to be one of the first putters with a metal head.

The putter held a flat face with a half-circle curved backside made from simple brass material.

The Schenectady Putter Modernizes Golf

If there was one putter that brought golf into the realm of modernity through putter design, it would have been the Schenectady putter. 

In 1902, a man by the name of A.F. Knight had been tinkering with his clubs all his life until he created a revolutionary putter. This was the Schenectady putter. 

The Schenectady putter was unique for its time period because the shaft was offset, and because it had extra weight added to the putter head. This made it one of a kind during its time.

After giving a prototype of his new putter to a popular course designer of the time, Knight received a call from Walter Travis, the U.S. Amateur Champion. He told Knight he wanted a putter exactly like the one he showed famous course designer Deveraux Emmet.

All Walter Travis did with the Schenectady putter was win the British Amateur in 1904. The golf world burst into flames as this new putter came onto the scene. 

Unfortunately, the hype around this new putter turned into vitriol and jealousness, as the Schenectady putter was banned by the R&A. It would take nearly 50 years to rescind this unwarranted ban. 

Bobby Jones’ Calamity Jane Takes Golf by Storm

Bobby Jones is one of the greatest golfers of all time, and his story has been enshrined in the annals of history in tandem with one of the greatest putters of all time–the Calamity Jane.

The Calamity Jane was a metal-headed putter in a simple oblong shape with a hickory shaft. It had been made shortly after the turn of the 20th century but stayed in the bag of a man by the name of Jim Maiden.

One day, prior to the 1923 U.S. Open, Bobby Jones was on the course with Maiden. Jones complained about his putting. So Maiden took it upon himself to introduce Jones to the Calamity Jane. Jones immediately fell in love with it and went on to win the 1923 U.S. Open the next day with it.

Of course, Bobby Jones would go on to win all 13 of his Major titles with a Calamity Jane in his bag.

The Calamity Jane is so famous that it seems as if it is only a legend. The influence Boby Jones and his putter Calamity Jane had on the sport of golf was unrivaled.

Bulls Eye Putter Brings Golf into the Modern Era

After World War II, John Reuter wanted to design a putter that would swing like the pendulum in a clock. He eventually settled on a design that would be called the Bulls Eye putter. 

The Bulls Eye putter head was made out of soft brass metal. It took the shape of what is called a blade putter but was extremely thin. 

In 1951, Lou Worsham won the Phoenix Open with the Bulls Eye, and the putter instantly became a massive player in professional golf. 

After being put into full-time production in 1958, the Bulls Eye would be a staple of the game of golf for over 50 years, effectively bridging the gap between the old era of golf into the modern era. 

The Ping Anser Becomes the WInningest Putter Ever

In 1966, Karsten Solheim scratched out the rudimentary design for his new putter. This putter would be designed with a cavity back, a low center of gravity, and precise weighting.

When Solheim brought the putter to his wife, she said it was the “Answer” to putting. Well, Solheim ended up naming the putter the “Anser” because the “W” would not fit on the back of the putter.

The first major won by the Ping Anser was at the 1969 Masters. From that moment, it would spike in popularity to the point where it would end up with the most worldwide victories of any putter in the history of golf. The Ping Anser has won over 500 times in tournaments and continues to increase that mark today.

Odyssey 2-ball Putter

When you think of the modern game of golf, you probably think of mallet putters. When you think of mallet putters, one that always caught your attention in stores was the Odyssey 2-ball putter.

This new putter designed at the turn of the 21st century really encompassed golf’s entry into the new millennium. A unique design where two 2-d replicas of golf balls lined up behind the putter to help with alignment took over the golf industry in the early 2000s. 

The Odyssey two ball, with its unique alignment system, and famous white insert on the face, would change the game of golf. The combination of alignment and added weight behind the putter led to the Odyseey 2-ball winning many tournaments over the years. 

This is the putter I think of if someone were to mention the putter of the future.

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