Discovering Utopia with unique putter
Monday, November 16, 2009
My friend Dave Lagarde worked 42 years at the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. When he wasn’t hustling people on the golf course, he was a sports columnist.
Lagarde, now retired from the Times-Picayune but still a spirited Internet golf writer, putts better with a sand wedge than most golfers do with a putter.
His method is straightforward: Using a putting stroke, Lagarde contacts the equator of the golf ball with the leading edge of his sand wedge, and the ball comes off the wedge with an impressive hug-the-ground roll. The ball usually does not bounce or waver.
I mention this because a new putter – called Utopia in honor of Utopia, Texas, where it is handmade – is based on the same principle. This putter face has a sharp ridge that runs across the face from heel to toe.
As a result of this design, the ridge contacts the ball in the same way the leading edge of Lagarde’s sand wedge contacts the ball. The ball appears to roll with overspin. There is no visual skipping. Best of all, it is surprisingly easy to putt with the Utopia.
The concept is not new. MacGregor had a putter 50 years ago with a bulging face. The TearDrop putter of more recent vintage used the same kind of rolled face.
The Utopia, though, is the first putter I’ve seen that attempts to replicate a leading edge in the middle of the putter face.
When I contacted inventor Scott Saunders on the phone, he confirmed what I expected: He putted so well with a sand wedge that he sought to create the same cause and effect with a putter.
Saunders is a real estate agent who specializes in ranches and farms. He also owns an irrigation and landscaping company. His passion, though, is golf.
The Utopia putter (www.utopiagolfproducts.com) was the result of countless hours at the 9-hole Golf Utopia course. At first, Saunders welded a ridge on the face of a putter. He says he made 10 straight putts from 10 feet.
Next he went to a small welding shop and designed a putter from scratch. Finally he took his invention to a machine shop, where a putter head was milled from a stainless steel block.
“I started getting real excited,” Saunders said. “For the past four or five months, it’s been all about the putter.”
He currently has two models – the Anser-style TXR 1 and the mallet-style TXR 2 – that carry a suggested retail price of $199.99.
Although his stock lengths are 33, 34 and 35 inches, he will make a putter at any length. “They’re completely handmade anyway,” Saunders said, “so each one is a custom putter. We’re working on some new finishes right now.”
The putters have been sent to the U.S. Golf Association, although approval has yet to be granted. However, the timing of the Utopia submission probably is perfect – the USGA, under senior technical director Dick Rugge, is strongly encouraging innovation in golf clubs.
Saunders may have to shave the bottom of the face so the putter does not appear to have two striking surfaces (the ridge and the flat face), but the USGA has shown a willingness to work with designers in the creation of conforming clubs.
“So far, so good,” Saunders said. “I love putting with this putter, and I think a lot of golfers will feel the same way. Just wait until they see how the ball rolls.”
As a wise philosopher might say, they could discover Utopia.