The name Scotty Cameron has become synonymous with high-quality putters, and Titleist’s master craftsman for putters (that’s his official title) has worked with scores of the game’s top players. From Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson, Brad Faxon to Jordan Spieth, they’ve all come to his California studio to have their putting stroke scrutinized, and to have Cameron and his staff make them a putter.
Cameron, 54, recently spoke at length with Golfweek‘s David Dusek about trends, finding just the right putter to match your stroke and more.
David Dusek: I have learned that some of the simplest questions are the most difficult to answer, so I’m going to toss one to you that couldn’t be easier: How do you fit a player to a putter?
Scotty Cameron: Hmm … Number one, eye position. For example, the simplest way to look at that is to put a CD or DVD on the ground and then put a ball in the middle, where the hole is. We have found, not through theory but through testing for the last 22 years, that the best putters in the world have their eyes on the inside of the golf ball.
Now, a lot of guys are testing on things like the new TrackMan putting system and seeing what the ball is doing, and that’s important, but a person’s setup and eye position set up his stroke. Instead of looking at the swing or the setup, the shoulders, the thighs or your feet, they’re simply telling you to look at the ball and it will tell you what to change. Instead, the player affects the putter, and the putter effects the ball. You can’t just look at the ball, you’ve got to look at all three of those things.
Look, I have theories, but with the tools I have in my studio, I can prove them into facts and then share those facts with the best players in the world.
DD: When it comes to drivers, there are ideal numbers and things fitters do to optimize distance. But when it comes to putting there is no ‘ideal’ method. Does that make putter-fitting an under-appreciated skill?
SC: Maybe, but whether it’s Jim Furyk or Justin Thomas, we still have to get the putter onto the ball. So let’s say that Jim Furyk is aiming left and doesn’t know that he’s aiming left, and maybe he aims left and takes the putter back to the outside. But like his full swing, he re-routes it so that at impact, he’s good. He may do things differently, but to tell Jim Furyk that he needs to change his path going away from the ball … I’d never do that simply because he’s great and he can repeat it.
I’ve never seen anyone’s putting being exactly like another guy. Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer … everyone is different. It’s all about putting the putter onto the ball, but I think we can help people be more consistent.
If we can get a putter in someone’s hands so that the length is proper and their eye position is proper, that will create the setup. The setup creates the backstroke. If those three things are all good, then just let it go. But if one is a mess, then two are a mess and then coming into the ball has to be a manipulation. That’s when you get inconsistent when you are under the gun.
DD: Have you seen a trend toward mallet putters on the PGA Tour and at retail?
SC: No doubt about it. About seven years ago, 75 percent were heel-toe weighted blades like a Newport or Newport 2, but current day it is about 50 percent on the PGA Tour.
Why is that? For years, I have been making mallets, but I have not made them face-balanced. I made them so that the toe hung a little bit to encourage a putting stroke that went to the inside. Everybody else in the world was making mallets that were face-balanced, which is for a square-to-square stroke.
Nowadays, when you look at our mallets, our Futuras or even the mallet putter that Dustin Johnson uses, the neck is smaller and it is not face-balanced. Therefore, you can have an arc-styled stroke using a mallet head. These mallet heads have alignment features and MOI features, but now they create arc, so we have seen 50 percent mallets and 50 percent blades on the PGA Tour. In sales, about 55 percent of the Select line (sales) have been blades, like a Newport.
DD: Adam Scott showed up on the PGA Tour using a heel-toe weighted blade and won the Players Championship with it in 2003. Then he went to a mallet, and then a broomstick-style mallet. Today he is using a high-MOI mallet. As the man who builds his putters, how has his philosophy on the greens changed?
SC: He and his father are tinkerers with putters, and when Adam goes home to Australian in the offseason, his father has a workshop filled with putters and they tinker. When he came on the scene he was very conventional, but he’s a thinker and he wanted to get better.
Looking back on it, one of the greats, Brad Faxon, used to come out and see me about three times a year and ask how he could get better, too. Adam will say to me that he’s seeing this or feeling that, when he really wants to be seeing and feeling something else.
You referred to his Rev 10 putter, which stands for revision number 10. The putter he is using is the 10th revision of that model that we’ve made for him, which eventually became the Futura 6M. So working with great minds who want to do things better, it lets me pick his brain while he picks mine, so we can come up with something that is more stable, that has bigger lines and that is more stable on off-center hits.
DD: I also want to talk about Justin Thomas. He had been using a heel-toe weighted blade but came to you about a year ago and said he was having trouble making putts. He left your studio with a custom-made mallet. Since then he’s won four times, including the PGA Championship.
SC: He likes an open-closed stroke, which is great because, as you and I have talked about forever David, the lie angle of the shaft creates an arc, but most mallets as Justin was growing up were face-balanced. So we came up with a shorter neck, we call it a .5 neck, that I welded on a Futura 5W. It simply created a mallet that created an arced stroke.
He likes the arc and likes the longer lines. It’s a combination of a mallet’s performance with his blade’s performance into one. We worked a lot with him on high-speed video, having him hit his Newport 2, then the 5W .5. He said to me that he could aim it better, align it better and he loved the way that it felt in the hands, meaning that it had an arc to it when he thought all mallets had to be face-balanced.
DD: So if a proliferation of mallet putters that encourage an arced stroke is driving the overall mallet trend, why did we not see putters like this before?
SC: If we go back 20 years, when I started using high-speed video to understand face-balance, back then everybody was talking about square-to-square (meaning a straight back, straight through putting stroke). But the high-speed video showed that while it would be great if the shaft could enter the head at 90 degrees – we could put it between our legs and face the target, we’d look at the hole the way we live, and the face would swing square-to-square – but the USGA won’t allow it. The rules say that it must be at least 10 degrees from vertical (which means a maximum lie angle of 80 degrees), and whenever you have a lie angle to the shaft, you have an arc. The flatter the lie, the bigger the arc.
So now we’re trying to match putters with the arc. But for so long people were into face-balance, laying their putter against a 2×4 and making it go straight back and straight through. But it’s kind of a manipulation, and you have to time it just right to go square-to-square when the shaft wants to go to the inside. I’ve always talked about the putter fighting you, but if we design things around the stroke, the lie angle and face rotation, to have a slight arc is a good thing.