I, Benjamin Alberstadt, being of sound mind and body, confess that I did recently spend $399.95 on a putter. Is there any possible justification for such behavior? In this period of economic downturn, is there any excuse for acquiring such a liability? Perhaps not. After all, the unusurpable king of the retail putter market, Scotty Cameron, only charges about $300 for a production putter.
In the world of $500 drivers and $300 greens fees, the average golfer has to make a real effort to spend significant coin on a putter - Cameron Circle T's, other tour issue, or limited availability models are the common bandits, in that regard. However, I accepted the challenge… and succeeded admirably.
How do I atone for my actions? I blame golf forums, I blame Tom Slighter, and I grudgingly blame myself for being seduced by the prospect of a premium putter built exclusively for me from 303 surgical grade stainless steel. My entire defense is as follows, but let it be known, I have no regrets.
I present to you, exhibit A. I mean, just look at this website. It's a veritable shrine to the blade and the mallet… a paradise constructed for the the multifarious whims of putter aficionados everywhere. Upon first accessing Slighter's website, I think I spent the better portion of two days drooling over the database of custom work Tom has done. If this is a crime, it's a crime of passion for I was, upon first glance, completely and instantly smitten.
Let me back up, though, for a moment. It should be made clear that even though I found my self in a state of emotional derangement and impaired reason this was not an impulse buy, or at least, that's what I've convinced myself. I had been in the market for a new putter for the better part of two years, my previous model having come from the lost and found of the club where I work (It had been there a year, and no one was coming back for it). This initial motivation had led me to spend many an evening scouring forums and putter reviews on every conceivable golf website.
After several months of this tireless effort I found myself at very peculiar impasse. I wanted something more unique than ye olde production putter off the rack and having tested every putter under the sun, (what do you think we do after hours in a pro shop?) I wasn't overwhelmed by any of the years production models.
Gradually, it became clear that what I wanted was either a production putter, such as a Cameron, which had been thoroughly worked over by his "custom shop," or a custom putter from another manufacturer, but I had serious reservations about the latter. Being the overwhelmingly finicky equipment enthusiast that I am, I had serious concerns about ordering from any company which didn't posses the R&D capacities of a Titleist, Odyssey, or Ping.
Time and again, in browsing various threads concerned with custom putter manufacturers, the Slighter name seemed more prevalent than any other. No one seemed to be doing such a high volume of custom work, or at least, no one seemed to have such an army of vocal supporters. Amongst people whom I assume to be equally as obsessive about their equipment as myself, Tom's work was receiving universally favorable reviews.
In looking at the Slighter website and reading the unsolicited opinions of the putter owners, I was thoroughly intrigued but (my wits returning) still quite hesitant to drop $400 to become another unpaid (paying, in fact!) advocate of his work.
It was at this point in my search that I first contacted Tom. I already knew from both the supporter's fervor and the website that the man had a reputation for being an excellent craftsman. I had heard, also, that he was accommodating and generally pleasant to do business with. Gross understatements. Tom responded to my initial request for a price quote within a day and it was this process of collaboration which convinced me to go with Slighter rather than seeking out other manufacturers.
It took a while to determine my base model, weight, length, loft, lie, sole alignment, sole stamping, toe stamping, shaft, cavity stamping, bumper stamping, grip, headcover, paintfill and finish, as you might imagine. After roughly two weeks of bouncing ideas back and forth, I settled on something based on Tiger Woods' Newport, simple and clean with a personal touch.
One nagging issue remained, however. As I waited the three months for my putter to go from design to completion I grew increasingly furious with myself.
Ben: You just spent two years looking for putter which would both look and feel right.
Self: Yeah, so?
Ben: You just dropped $400 on a putter you haven't seen or stroked a putt with, what were you thinking?
Self: I don't know, it seemed to be a calculated risk...and educated decision. I mean, I have faith…
Ben: Faith?! You should have more than faith when you sign a check for that much! What if you get something that looks and feels like a doorknob?
I had a variation on this discussion running through my head until my putter finally arrived. Naturally, I tore open the packaging. I was elated. My putter was beautiful, a real blend of art and craft, just an incredible piece. I smiled broadly, examining it from every angle. At address? Perfect. Sole, toe, heel? Perfect.
However, as I may have mentioned, I am a bit obsessive about my clubs, so I had the putter sent without a grip so that I could put my own on. I rushed down to the basement to begin the installation (the purchase of which is another story of research and deliberation). 45 minutes later, I dropped a Pro V1 on the carpet, addressed the ball after a few rehearsals and stroked the purest ten footer of my life.
Was it worth it? For me, I can say unequivocally, "Yes." I would recommend the Slighter Brand and creation process to anyone interested in a custom putter of the highest quality. The consensus seems to be (and my opinion is) that the look and feel of his putters are on par with any major manufacturer. Tom also does refinishing, which has been favorably reviewed. I'm not one to push products, but even the most cynical amongst us golf lovers ought to take a look at the website.
I spent $400 on a putter. Truly, I have no regrets.