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From Player to Hacker, is There a Real Collector?

Jan. 31, 2006     By     Comments (14)

A word to you heathens of the links, use your money for lessons before investing in expensive weaponry, armaments in which you have no idea on how to wield.

Thrash TalkMy final year at Kent State University, home of professional tour pros like the 2003 British Open Winner Ben Curtis, PGA Tour rookie John Mills, Nationwide Tour veteran David Moreland IV, and second-place finisher at this past weekend's Movistar Panama Championship Kevin Gessino-Kraft, I had the opportunity to student teach at a middle school for an entire semester in order to receive that all empowering piece of paper, a diploma. I found the experience quite rewarding, teaching you see is my profession, but I digress.

It was while I was under the tutelage of a highly esteemed educator during my student teaching program when he had told me he collected PING putters. I knew about hickory shafted clubs, mashies, spoons, and the like - those are antiques and highly praised amongst collectors. However, I was not aware of the collect-ability of PING putters.

The gentleman that I had gotten to know quite well throughout the better part of a year was a collector indeed, amassing dozens he had once mentioned. He had given up the game years before though, due to a back injury, but remained steadfast and kept right on collecting those clubs.

I began to do some research on PING putters, and read up on Karsten Solheim and the empire he launched. Solheim was an innovator, laying the groundwork for all other club designers that followed in his footsteps, namely, Scotty Cameron.

The Scotty Cameron name and logo has become somewhat of an iconic symbol in the world of golf. After reading up on the man and his catalog of product, two questions came to mind: why are his putters so expensive? What makes Cameron putters so special?

Is it the striking colors of paint he uses, the partnership he has with Titleist, or the fact that his putters have won dozens of professional tournaments? Maybe because his putters are considered works of art and Cameron himself has revolutionized the way people putt?

Mr. Cameron has been called the guru of putter design for a number of years now. Many PGA Tour professionals like Tiger Woods, Brad Faxon, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Ben Curtis, Davis Love III, and Mark O'Meara brandish the Cameron steel whenever they stalk the greens of the PGA Tour.

No matter what the answer, as a proclaimed Duffer of the sport, I cannot justify spending $180 on a single putter. That price is just for most of the low-end models. Please, do not get the wrong idea here, I applaud anyone who owns a Cameron putter, I really do. You have made a sound investment. These things are like the Spanish dubloons of the twenty-first century. Their values continue to increase as more and more people want them.

However, I do have to shake a finger and curl my brow at anyone who is looking to buy a game. That issue has been around since the time of the first club makers. Players and hackers alike are always on the look out for the next great product that will knock off those last few strokes of their handicap. Justified.

However these hacks, these pieces of work are the type you will see on your local courses trying to intimidate through expensive clothing and astronomically priced clubs rather than their quality of play. A word to you heathens of the links, use your money for lessons before investing in expensive weaponry, armaments in which you have no idea on how to wield.

You see, this is one of my biggest pet peeves on the course. Golfers who dress the part and equip themselves to play as such, but cannot stand and deliver.

I hope you all understand though, these counterfeit players are a walking/riding paradox. On one hand, you have their horrendous and slow play and their usually obnoxious attitude. On the other hand, these people are the folks who keep the golf business alive. Paying ridiculous prices for clubs, outrageous greens fees on courses they have no business being on, and buying the tackiest of clothing because Golf Magazine has deemed it Cool.

I for one, am no such conundrum and am not a superb player by any means. I recognize my faults and where I belong. I know what I need to do to achieve a higher level of playability and what courses are completely out of my league. If only more start-up and novice players understood their limits.

You may be asking yourselves "what the hell does all this have to do with Scotty Cameron?" Scotty is a business man and his product appeals to both the player and the hack. The player likes his putters because of the innovation, the ingenuity and craftsmanship that is behind every Cameron putter. The hacks covet his putters because the players have them.

It is a messed up world out there, people. Everyone is scrambling to be the best or pay to be the best, or even just pay to look like the best. Pride, humility and maybe a little self control have taken a backseat for some time now, while instant gratification and vanity have prevailed.

I think back to that esteemed educator I knew years ago and wonder if he still has his collection of PING putters and why he even started collecting them in the first place.

Discussion

  1. Doug Hardman says:

    I've got a couple of different ways I can comment here...

    I couldn't agree with you more on people that think they can learn to golf with an Amex. I'm all for having nice stuff, but I'm secure enough with my horrible game that I can go a season or two with an older driver.

    What Cameron are you finding for $180? Most start at $300. And to be honest...that's about the only club in my bag that I DO spend a lot of money on.

    Putting is the one aspect of the game that everyone...no matter the handicap...can have a chance at hitting the same shot a pro does. I'll never drive a ball 300+ like Tiger. But I CAN sink a 6-footer.

    My theory is that any driver/wedge/whatever is dependent on technology. I've ever met a putter...however old...that can't get a ball from one end of a green to the other. I think a global "WTF" on that one is a bit mis-directed.

    The whole 'collector' thing is a matter of taste. There are people out there that spend $$$$ on little porcelin figurines. I'll NEVER understand that. Just like they'll never understand me spending $5,000 on a rare Cameron.

  2. jr says:

    It is interesting how you seem to stereotype people in your article. Perhaps golf courses should tailor their dress code to a person's handicap? The higher their handicap the more casual and non-conforming their attire should be. In addition, the age and value of the clubs a player carries should also be dictated by their handicap. That way we would all know where we stand and anyone could tell the hackers by what they are wearing and what clubs are in their bag.

    Just remember, that the player with a 7 handicap that considers the player with a 20 handicap a hacker, is probably considered a hacker by the player that is a scratch golfer. Because of physical limitations, many players will get more benefit from game improvement clubs than that extra lesson or two. And if using a Scotty Cameron putter gives a person more confidence on the putting green, by all means, spend some extra money and buy one, it will shave a couple of strokes off their game and give them something to be happy about.

    Here is your statement about Cameron putters:

    The player likes his putters because of the innovation, the ingenuity and craftsmanship that is behind every Cameron putter. The hacks covet his putters because the players have them.

    Why can't a "hack" appreciate a putter because of the innovation, the ingenuity and craftsmanship that is represented by the club? Can only professional race car drivers appreciate a fine automobile; can only an artist appreciate fine art works, etc.?

    Here is another point to consider. If not for all those "hacks" you are blasting in your article, there would be a lot less players playing and your greens fees would be 2 to 3 times what you are paying now and a lot fewer courses to choose from. Yes, everyone would like fewer players on the course when they are playing. If you want an course with few delays and less players, you can always spend the money you are saving on clubs and join a private club.

  3. Ryan says:

    So it's ok to buy a new driver every year that's over $300 because you think to can hit it longer? And in a few months, if you're lucky ,to get maybe a 1/3 of the value? The putter is the most used club in the bag. Scotty is the best and are very collectible.

  4. Ted says:

    The putter is responsible for about half your game. Certainly if you will pay big bucks for a driver you may use 14 times a round, (though most hacks shouldn't use it at all) you should spend two or three times as much for the club you you two or three times as often?

    Putting is a mental game. After you have your stroke and a smooth game, all you can do is improve your mental confindence. Do you have more confidence in a putter you picked up for 50 bucks that might not have ever been played by a PGA pro, or something that you know has the backing of a great company, designer and many PGA players behind it? At the very least if you miss, you know it ain't the equipment baby when you buy the best!

  5. Matt Karlak says:

    Doug,

    I usually scavenge for clubs at stores that sell used clubs. Golf Galaxy and the 2nd swing are excellent places to frequent. You can find some Camerons for that price point.

    JR,

    I like your idea about tailoring a persons garb to their handicap. I'll run that idea by some of my fellow feudal lords at our next meeting.

    Hacks can appreciate/buy whatever they like, this is America. My point is that hackers, players, duffers alike, should always know what their limits are in regards to club purchasing. Is a first year player going to need a $500 putter to play with? Probably not.

    To collect? Sure. But know why you're spending $500.

    All this is relative of course.

    Remember, "hacks" are a walking/riding paradox. Slow play on one hand, keeping the business of golf alive on the other.

  6. joe says:

    If you're so worried about what clubs other people are putting with / using on the course, you're definatley worrying about the wrong things. There's an old saying that you never tell a man how to spend the money he's earned.

    I'm not too sure if I like the Sandtrap's new "edgy" column, seems a little too in your face . . .

  7. Joe, this column has been around for awhile. The author is simply (rather) new. I'll gladly take a column from you if you have something to say! :-)

  8. jesse says:

    maybe he's just bitter because he got sniped out on ebay for cammy proto....

    or maybe he really stinks at golf and his putter has had the yips for years now....

    or maybe he is upset that Ben Curtis has barely made a cut in three years since winning the open...

  9. Thorsten says:

    Mixed feelings about Matts article from here...
    Several times I've been watching amateur golfers with premium equipment and thought: "Why for Gods sake does he/she playing with that stuff?" Having thought about Matts article for a while, I've come to the conclusion that the price of equipment - handicap link is not an appropriate method to say "sense" or "senseless". Imo any golfer can spend as much on equipment as he/she likes and can afford.
    But: Spending the money on the right equipment for you is the crucial point here. If a player with 70 mph driver swingspeed buys a set of graphite shafted TM R7 CGB Max irons for 1300 bucks to help him getting the ball airborne, that's fine for me. Even if he's also bought the predecessor model a year ago, that's fine for me. If he's good putter, he also can play any putter he wants to, no matter how expensive the putter is.

    Where I would raise an eyebrow and ask for sense would be if the same slow-swinging player tees up with a set of high-center-of-gravity muscleback irons Titleist 670 Davis Love ltd. edition with stiff project X shafts an an 8.5 degrees R7 TP with a tour-stiff Fujidila NV 757, combined with an Pro V1x.

    In other words - as long as you buy stuff that suits your game, you can spend whatever you like.

    Even if the bought equipment is not 100% right I can justify a buy - as long as there is some sense in it, e.g.: I'm a 12 hcp "weekend and evening hack" but I love to work on my swing, love developing feel and want to know how good my swing really is. So when I stumbled over a set of KZG ZO forged blades with the flex I normally use on ebay, I couldn't resist. I use them for training most of the time because of the superb feedback I started to learn what my body is really doing. Practising with the KZG on a regular basis and then switching back to my Cleveland TA2's is good fun, I can tell you. When you start to hit the blades straight and then switch back to a more forgiving iron, you learn the meaning of consistency... :-)

  10. Jeff says:

    I agree with Thorsten... your sticks should complement your game. I'm pretty much a hack but have improved since moving from larger game-improvement irons to a little sleeker cavity back. Titleist 804.OS to 690.CB.

    I think there is plenty of reason for someone to buy nice clubs merely for the joy of playing them. Its the same with a lot of things. I like guitars and years ago after playing nice but middle of the road instruments I saved up and bought what I feel is a great guitar because as a dedicated player I can tell the difference and enjoy playing a higher end axe. Same with clubs. If you like nicer sticks then get em, if not, don't.

    Granted, buying expensive equipment just to look cool is pretty lame too.

  11. JK says:

    Found an old ping putter while looking for what I actually collect; vintage surfboards.
    Put the putter in my bag and forgot about it. My next trip to the links, some guy sees me my putter in my bag while I'm waiting for our groups tee time. Seems that I have a Ping by Karsten, Redwood City Calif, Model A1. nice to have a valuable club in the bag, still 3 putted that damm par 4.

  12. grmccune says:

    I have found one of the original Ping Putters as well. It is a Redwood City, A1 marked #11. What's it worth?

  13. Jim Taylor says:

    Where can I find some info on a Ping putter that I have?. I've eMailed a number of the "experts" with no replies. The club is a bronze-head like the Ping Ansers but is marked quite differently. It has "Karsten" on the heel flangs and "Ping" on the toe. The cavity has "Pat. No. 213509" / Phoenix,Ariz. / Pat. Pend./ 85029.- I have had a number of different Ping Putters but have not seen any that are marked like this one. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Jim

  14. golfbum says:

    the reality is that most people who buy SC putters do so to sell them at a profit period.

    Good article.

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