Bettinardi Golf raises bar, price on putters

If Bob Bettinardi didn’t raise the bar, he certainly raised the price.

When he started his little putter company, Bettinardi Golf, in 1999, his putters carried a suggested retail price of $275 to $325. Today his range is $275 to $500. Can the $1,000 putter be far behind?

If you try to find Bettinardi Golf headquarters, you may have trouble. That’s because there is no sign. The Bettinardi building says X-Cel Technologies.

“I am the sole owner of X-Cel and Bettinardi Golf,” Bettinardi said. “Before we ever made a putter, we were here making parts for smart bombs, for the communications industry, for the medical industry. We had all this experience with X-Cel before we ever got into the putter business.”

After Bettinardi caught the golf bug, he spread it to a few PGA Tour players. In 1999, Jesper Parnevik won with a Bettinardi putter at Greensboro, totaling 99 putts for 72 holes. Phil Mickelson won at Colonial in 2000, shooting 63 in the last round. Jose Coceres and Matt Kuchar also won with Bettinardi putters.

Suddenly, Bettinardi was hot around the world. Early in 2002, his putters climbed to No. 2 on both the Japanese Golf Tour and the PGA European Tour.

Why is this? The answer, according to Bettinardi, is precision. As I watched, a computer-driven machine milled a putter from a solid block of stainless steel. There were no flaws, no uneven surfaces.

“I really consider myself a non-production house,” Bettinardi said. “I feel I’m doing smaller lots, smaller sizes, but I’m making it better. I’m spending a lot of time on quality. If there’s so much as a scratch, it gets donated to charity. It doesn’t go out to stores.”

Bettinardi isn’t the only premium putter maker. Titleist, with its Scotty Cameron putters, is No. 1 in PGA Tour usage. Cameron has produced a new milled Studio Series putter with a suggested retail price of $325.

Recently Ping began offering a new $425 forged titanium putter called the JAS. But let’s consider some lower priced models.

The Ping Anser, arguably the most celebrated putter of the last 50 years, has a suggested retail price of $95. The brass Bullseye from Titleist is even less expensive at $75.

All putters can be purchased for less than their suggested retail price, so the popular $215 Odyssey 2-Ball putter is widely available for less than $200.

What putter is causing golfing hearts to flutter? The STX Sync Tour, which won the PGA Championship in the hands of Rich Beem, has a suggested retail price of $140.

Buying a new putter is fun, but I still believe the most crucial element of putting is alignment. You can have the best putting stroke in the world, but you aren’t going to make many putts if your alignment is faulty.

So you might consider an alignment device (there are many) from Gary Wiren’s Golf Around the World (www.golfaroundtheworld.com) or another supplier of training aids.

A terrific and inexpensive putting accessory is Fuzzy Zoeller’s Putting Peg (www.puttingpeg.com). You stick it in any practice green – there is also an indoor model, the Putting Pod – and it makes a ball-in-the-cup sound when struck by a putt. The retail price is $9.95.

After tracking down Zoeller, who once had been a notorious critic of all training aids, I asked him about the Putting Peg. “Most training aids are BS,” he said, “but this one truly does help. My deal with putting is this: You want to hear the sound of the ball falling in the hole. This reprograms your mental computer. When the green is cluttered with players, guys on the Tour go over to the edge and putt to tees. Well, putting to the Peg is much better.”

Or, for the price of 50 Putting Pegs, you can buy one Bettinardi.




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