Monday, August 31, 2015

The Search for Flatstick Nirvana - Part I (8.31.15)

I’ve had some good times with the flatstick and I have had some horrific times with the flatstick in my golfing ‘career.’

 One of my favorite times was sinking a 35-footer for par in a playoff that I had no business winning against a rival of mine on his home course where about 200 people were rooting for him to 3 people of them rooting for me. There was the summer when I was 16 years old and had purchased a Wilson 8802 with the old leather Neumann putter grip and I have witnesses that will tell you that I simply did not miss a putt inside 5-feet with that putter

There was the time that I carried 2 putters in the qualifier of a tournament. The Ram Zebra and the Wilson 8802. Outside 15-feet I had an uncanny way of making a lot of putts with the Zebra and I was deadly from inside 8-feet with the Wilson 8802. So, I carried them both and my friends thought I was nuts and I finished 2nd in the qualifier for the event. Eventually, some bastard with no soul stole my precious Wilson 8802 right out of my bag while I was eating lunch. I really loved that putter. One of the best short games I have ever seen belonged to a friend of mine and I remember him and another friend saying it was almost ‘unfair’ that I had that Wilson 8802 because it ‘basically rolls the ball right at the hole on its own.’ Even more unfortunate, I could never find another 8802 that felt the same much less performed the same.

I also remember putting pretty well with a Ping B61 while everybody favored the Ping B60 model. Here’s a shot of the Ping B61 model, as you can see, the hosel is more off the heel.

There was one summer, when I was 14 years old and my dad, a workaholic, had accrued something like 2 full years of vacation time and finally decided to use it for almost a full month during that summer. This consisted of me having to get up every day at 6 am to eat breakfast and play golf with him and then go home after lunch and do chores. I used to refer to that as ‘The Summer From Hell.’ One morning we got up and I was watching the 6am telecast of the British Open and saw some player using a forward press with their putting stroke. I decided to use it on the Ping B61 putter and went from putting pretty well with the B61 putter to putting lights out with the B61 for the rest of the summer. And the B61 was only replaced by my beloved Wilson 8802.

Of course, the bad times were there as well. Like the 4-putt in the lowest round of my life of 64 when the course record was 63. Diligently sticking with a Ping Anser 2 putter because I liked the finish on it and couldn’t make a thing to save my life. I eventually chucked it into a creek at Wild Wing Golf Club in Myrtle Beach. Or the time that I couldn’t make anything with the Ram Zebra and decided to putt out the back nine with my Sand Wedge (now called ‘pulling a Robert Streb’) and actually putting better with the S-Wedge than with the Ram Zebra.

Since I got back into the game in 2009, my putting has been inconsistent at best. The game has changed and especially putters. More mallet style designs. Heavier head weights and shorter shaft lengths making for lighter putter shafts. The grips tend to be oversize and heavy (i.e. SuperStroke) with flatter lie angles and more loft (The original Wilson 8802 only had about 2 degrees of loft).

I have become more interested in the feel of the putter as well. Not only in terms of the contact feel, but the putter’s heft. The modern putters feel lighter or if they are heavier, it’s usually due to counterbalancing which places the weight up on the grip end.

And with that, I’m searching for my own Billy Baroo.

I’m looking for that customized, special putter that is meant for me and fits me like a glove. Much like that old Wilson 8802 (I’ll get back to that in future posts) that just felt…well…perfect. Except I would use this putter all of the time, not just on special occasions like Judge Smails. A putter unique unto itself that when it is unsheathed from the bag like a sword from a knight’s armor, everybody knows that it’s time to see the touch of a surgeon with the precision of sniper with the magic of Ricky Jay.

A craftsman should have his own tools, shouldn’t he?


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