A Crime of Passion

The following is my elaborate rationalization for spending $400 on a custom Slighter Tacoma.

Thrash TalkI, 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.

26 thoughts on “A Crime of Passion”

  1. Pros have been known to win tournaments with $40.00 putters they by in the pro shop…No putter is worth $400.00 and if you think its making you a better golfer, it’s all in your mind…

  2. Wow, guys, what’s with the putter hating?

    The argument “my three-year old can put paint on a canvas too” isn’t valid when you’re discussing a Rembrandt, “my dog played the piano once” doesn’t mean he’s composed a symphony equivalent to Beethoven’s, etc.

    Masters at any craft appreciate the beauty and functionality of a good tool. We (consumers) regularly see no problem spending $400 on a driver we’ll use 14 times per round for one or two years, but $400 on a putter that’s used 30-32 times per round for, perhaps, three decades? Why’s that so silly?

  3. Well, you probably wouldn’t blink at spending $400 on a driver – and you’ll use the putter more than the driver in a round of golf!

  4. I don’t see an issue with spending $400 on a putter whatsoever. In fact I agree with what Malcolm said, as well as add that I believe that a putter is probably the most important club in the bag.

    HOWEVER, after looking at the posted pick of your putting, I would say that it looks eerily similar to a scotty putter and not one that was custom made by another company. If you were willing to spend that much money and wanted something that looked similar to a scotty…why not just by a scotty?

  5. In the world of marketing hype driven product launches, this is a great story. We live in a world where artisans are diminishing or increasingly commoditized. The opportunity to collaborate on “your” creation has soul written all over it – an attribute that the big brands struggle to buy through big-name players.

    Benjamin – I hope you soak in every putt you make. Enjoy your putter!

  6. We (consumers) regularly see no problem spending $400 on a driver we’ll use 14 times per round for one or two years, but $400 on a putter that’s used 30-32 times per round for, perhaps, three decades? Why’s that so silly?

    1) On the one hand, most people would like to be able to reliably use a putter only 30 times per round. Some PGA pros don’t average 32 per round (sure, that means they are at the back of their pack – but they’re still on tour).

    2) On the other hand, how many people use the same putter regularly for 3 decades?

    IMO, this sounds like art – it’s not cost justifiable, it’s just really nice to have something you think is beautiful, like the Pearl of Great Value.

  7. Putter technology never really changes. The Anser style and mallet style have been the only major changes. Drivers, which can cost $300-$400 with stock shafts, become obsolete within a year. People can play with a putter for years and not have to worry about a technology change.

    And who said anything about cost justification? It’s not an investment; it’s a sunk cost. If anyone has the cash to buy a $4000 putter, go do it if you want to. If anything, it’s better for the economy than saving it.

    I would never buy a $400 custom putter without trying it out though.

  8. While I find Erik stating that some people use a putter for three decades slightly exaggerated due to the fact that very few can keep a putter in good enough shape to do so, I think he is just getting his point across. When I was seven I received an original titliest bullseye putter from a family friend. It was horribly abused with probably 10% of the putter face missing from dings and dents. But I still have that putter and I plan on restoring it as soon as I graduate and get a true job. If you have a putter you like, whether its free (the bullseye) or $300 (my Cameron) or $400 hundred dollars get what you want.

  9. Erick,

    I’m not “hating” on the putter, I just think it’s crazy to think it’s going to help you play better…

  10. On the other hand, how many people use the same putter regularly for 3 decades?

    I may have exaggerated a bit, but to answer your question, how about this: a lot more than use the same driver regularly for three decades. 🙂

    I’m not “hating” on the putter, I just think it’s crazy to think it’s going to help you play better…

    For many, putting is 90% (give or take) confidence. If I feel more confident with an attractive, well-built, precise piece of equipment in my hands, odds are I’m going to putt better.

    I know studies have been done on this. People were given the same putter. Some were told it was a $30 putter. Others were told it was a $300 putter. The people with the $300 putter made more putts.

    Obviously if you’re completely confident in your inexpensive putter, more power to you. Others aren’t.

    P.S. The number of pros that win with “$40.00 putters they by [sic] in the pro shop” is many times smaller than the number of pros playing with custom putters worth several hundred dollars. It’s happened, but it’s incredibly rare. The last time may have been Mark Calcavecchia, and his putter was at least $140 IIRC.

  11. I disagree with the “90% confidence”

    Although, I agree it has alot to do with confidence; I dont think its that high, unless you found that to be a fact somewhere…

  12. Slighter does great work, and he’s a really nice guy. I haven’t pulle the trigger on one yet, but I very well may one of these days. I do own a Byron Morgan 007. I love these craftsman putters. They’re as close as we’re likely to get to the kind of quality and customization that tour pros get from SC. Of course, we have to pay for ours.

    BTW–$400 for a putter is not all that extreme these days (and is a good deal for having something made to your specs). Almost every manufacturer is offering a $300 putter these days. And, if you ever want to give yourself sticker shock, search Google or eBay for GSS Camerons, esp. 009s. $400 will start to look like a pretty good deal.

  13. I did the same, and ordered 2 years ago a Slighter Tacoma

    (you can see it at :
    http://sg.tiigslair.com/products/examples.php?id=569&abc=J&type=Tacoma )

    For me the point is the following : the putter was built to MY personal preferred specs : length, lie, loft, weigth, sound slot, alignment lines, face treatment, cosmetics, etc

    After testing probably more than 10 putters in two years, and not finding the EXACT putter I wanted, I followed more or less the same process as Ben, and ordered a Slighter.

    So, that 2 years was waste time and waste money. Now, the search is over. I´m delighted with my Tacoma, and Tom Slighter (himself treats with you) is a pleasure to deal with.

    At the putting green, people watch it, ‘hey, what´s that? Ah, it´s custom made. May I test it? Ohhh, sweeet…..’

    I can see a wild envy in thier eyes

    So, if you think it doesn´t worth the money, I´m OK with this. I´ll continue sinking zillions of putts with my Tacoma, that´s the confidence I have in it.

    Note : as Seve Balesteros once said, “I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I am thinking, ‘I am going to bury you”… with my Slighter Tacoma 😉

  14. Way to go! A Slighter putter is on my list for sure. First was a Studio Select 1.5 I sent off to be customized. Then came a a Bettinardi prototype followed by a C&L, a Machine putter, and now a Byron. Enjoy the hell out of that beauty and be proud of that purchase!

    There is one nice thing about guys like Slighter and others (BOS for example): they do some refinish work for good prices so you can turn that $100 used putter into a custom job that looks like it cost 3 times that. I sent a $135 Cameron Mil-Spec to be refinished with a new paintfill for not a lot of cash so add that up and you’re golden.

  15. I took the plunge three years ago and couldn’t be happier!! As a true club ho I change everything in my bag but the Slighter probably 2 – 3 times per year, searching for equipment as good as my putter. I have had 18 hole rounds with as few as 22 putts, almost never 3 putt, and the Slighter has removed one of the biggest variables of the game for me. Tom is a delight to deal with, when I wanted to add a sight line he did so quickly and painlessly. I can’t recommend a golf manufacturer more than Slighter Golf.

  16. Recession what recession. Your an idiot. I shot a 65 at my home course with a used ping answer 3 50 dollars at Play It Again Sports

  17. I shot a 65 at my home course with a used ping answer 3 50 dollars at Play It Again Sports

    I shot 59 with a tin can attached to a piece of driftwood at my home course.

  18. Recession what recession. Your an idiot. I shot a 65 at my home course with a used ping answer 3 50 dollars at Play It Again Sports

    You mean to say, “You’re an idiot.” However, nobody is an idiot if they are buying what they wish responsibly. Only a shmendrick would think otherwise.

    Another reason one may wish to buy a custom made putter is that one may not be able to use an off the rack putter; after all, not all of us fit into precise physical categories.

    Owning a beautifully crafted club that will be used per round more than any other club, if for no other reason than it inspires confidence, is appropriate. Having the ability to appreciate the aesthetic quality of such an object is an added bonus of pleasure that may, for some, be worth the price of admission.

    On the other hand, if you can putt with your middle leg, it will cost you much less than even $3.50, certainly no more than an extra Advil per round; although, if you damage or break it, it may be more expensive to replace than a Slighter. Would that be called diminishing return on a cheap investment?

  19. Recession what recession. Your an idiot. I shot a 65 at my home course with a used ping answer 3 50 dollars at Play It Again Sports

    That time of the month, Jonathan? And let me know what PIAS you got that answer putter–I thought those were tour only.

  20. I can be almost certain that 50% of the people bashing his decision on paying $400 for his putter have payed $300 for a Scotty.

    Great story, and I’m happy you are happy with your new putter.

  21. In the world of marketing hype driven product launches, this is a great story. We live in a world where artisans are diminishing or increasingly commoditized.

    Sunil nailed it. You are buying a piece art as much as a tool. Artisans and craftsmen are hard to find, but products that are are a result of the passion of the gifted are worth every penny.

  22. Recession what recession. Your an idiot. I shot a 65 at my home course with a used ping answer 3 50 dollars at Play It Again Sports

    Vote #1 most retarded comment of the year.

  23. If it works for you great, you should buy whatever helps you with your game.

    If you can play well with a $15 putter, why not.

    In general I feel things are too expensive in golf, but on the other had if people pay the price and nothing compels them to buy it at that price, it the market at work.

    I just did a rough calculation and I think my entire set of 14 clubs comes to some $1880. Wow, I had no idea.

    I know I spend roughly $2880 annually on green and cart fees for 70 rounds in Tampa, FL.

    I must spend an additional $250 just on golf balls. I usually buy 8 or 10 dozen used balls at the local flea market. All of one kind and one grade.

    Golf is just expensive!

  24. Tom Slighter truly handmade me a custom Portland to my exact specifications. It took us 2 weeks of daily e-mails for me to describe exactly how I wanted it. Tom was patient and very helpful. He is a true gentleman. He is the most professional and friendly person I have dealt with, and his putter is even better. I have used Studio Bettinardi’s and Cameron’s. They are not even close to what you get in a Slighter putter experience.
    $400.00? With all my customization, I paid $646.00 and it is worth every penny. One, because it is the best putter I have ever used and two, because it is the LAST putter I will ever have to buy!
    Thanks Tom,

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