Even Off the Course, a Golfer’s Got a Risk-Reward Decision To Make

The chance to buy a limited edition Phil Mickelson prototype putter should be cause for celebration. Until the price tag smacks you in the face.

Thrash TalkI’ve got a really tough call to make – do I play it safe, or do I pull out the 5 wood and try to carve one into a green surrounded on three sides by water? If I pull it off, I’ll have the equivalent of an eagle putt. If I don’t, I’m not just digging for another ball… I’m sleeping on the couch.

Golf’s a game of calculations. It’s all about risk and reward, about weighing the likely benefits and the potential costs. Do you pull driver on that short par four or do you lay back safely? That tucked pin looks tempting, but the fat of the green should ensure a two-putt par. Do you lay open that wedge and flop it a mile high, or opt for the reliable bump and run?

The choice in front of me mirrors so many of those we face over the course of 18 holes. But this one happens in my recliner. I’ve got the chance to buy a limited edition, specially designed left-handed putter, modeled after the one Phil Mickelson used to win the Masters. I learned the game putting with a blade putter – my Arnold Palmer Original was the first new club I ever owned and was in the bag until a year ago – and Odyssey’s never bothered with the 8802 style all these years. Called the Protype 82, it’s the classic 8802 shape with a sight line like Phil’s, and even the built-up grip he prefers.

They made 82 right-handed and 82 left-handed models, and held a first come, first served online sign up, with “winners” to be announced a week later. As much as I’d love the idea of owning a putter just like Phil’s, the price tag stopped me in my tracks – $500.

Phil Mickelson's Putter

I figured at the very worst I’d sign up and get on some Callaway (the parent company of Odyssey) mailing lists. Maybe I’d hit the lottery before it was time to ante up. But on first glance, there was no way I could cough up five bills on a putter. I’m a newspaper man, not an investment banker. My wallet creaks when it’s pried open. I’ve played the same irons for a decade because they were doing the trick. I’ve upgraded my bag over the past two years buying used stuff on eBay. I brag about the $35 Vokey wedges, the $49 906f2 5 wood, and $105 905R driver I’ve got in the bag. I felt like I really splurged when I finally broke down and spent $250 on a set of used $900 irons after a successful trip to the casino.

But here I am, asking how I can shell out $500 on a putter, one I’ve never held in my hands, that I’ve never stroked a putt with. Hell, the reason I had to replace my Original was that over the 16 years I’ve had it, my gut’s grown to the point the end of the putter shaft was jabbing into my stomach. That’s right, my eating habits have turned a 36-inch putter into a belly putter. So what’s to say this 35-inch PT82 will hole a single putt for me?

Add the fact my wife and I are on the verge of buying a house, and it’s a no-brainer, it’s not even worth considering pulling out the credit card.

A no-brainer… until the email arrived saying I’d made the list, and had a week to decide if I want one.

Suddenly, the reality is I can own my very own Phil Mickelson model putter. And let the rationalization begin. It’s the 8802 style I grew up on! It’s got a sight line! The head cover is really cool! It’s a limited edition! It’s just like Phil’s!!!

Since I’m down to crunch time, I need to make a decision. First, add up the risks: I lose all ability to ask, “you paid how much for those shows?” My equipment buying is done for at least this year, and likely 2011, too. I might not even be able to swing it without my gut getting in the way. For that money, I could go out and have a putter designed to Ron Varrial specs, not to those of a guy who stands 10 inches taller.

Then take a look at the rewards. Golf’s about feeling good, and how cool will it be to know Phil and I are gaming the same short stick? As a limited edition, these puppies are already selling on eBay for $1,000, so in theory I could sell it off if I have buyer’s remorse, and might even turn a profit. It’s a putter, which takes the least abuse in the bag, and technology won’t make it obsolete, so it’s got a virtually infinite shelf life. Divide the $500 over the next 20 years and suddenly it’s not bad at all. If I’m happy in golf, I’m a much more pleasant person to be around, according to my wife, so it’s a benefit for her, too. To top it off, since she’s the greatest, sweetest, most wonderful wife on earth (yes, I’m hoping she’s reading this), I’ve get her blessing if it’s something I really, really want.

I place the pros and the cons on a scale and it teeters. For one minute it sways to the “Grab the credit card!” side. Then it swings back to the “Are You Crazy?” side. The settles right back into the middle.

I’ve still got a bit of time, but not much.

I’m 230 from the green, and eagle is dangling in front of me. But that pond is waiting to gobble up anything off line. What to do … what to do? Luckily I’m on the clock, but don’t need to decide before this column publishes. Anyone out there want to be my caddie? I can use the advice. And make sure to check back in a couple days to see if I pulled out the fairway wood, or decided to lay up. I’ll post an update below – unless I’m grounded and banned from all golf-related activities.

19 thoughts on “Even Off the Course, a Golfer’s Got a Risk-Reward Decision To Make”

  1. Ron, you made your own answer clear- If you have any buyers remorse, sell it on ebay. Let’s be honest, really, the only cons are that it costs a lot and it might make your wife mad.

    I’m in the same boat, even if it costs a lot, I can usually reason myself into it. That’s why I have a new driver and 3 wood (thanks for the 3 wood, dad). Bottom line is, if your con can turn into a pro, even AFTER you’ve made the purchase, this is EASY. Buy it.

    I guess I would equate it to this—let’s say you pull out that 5 wood and go for the green (you buy the putter).

    You get it, your wife sees it, sees the price, goes bananas on you, or for some reason it doesn’t fit you right (your 5 wood sails well into the water).

    You sell it on ebay for a nice little profit! (Some bird out of nowhere swoops down to catch your ball JUST before it lands in the water, and procedes to drop it on the green, where it trickles just next to the hole for an eventual tap in eagle)

    Or better yet, wait 5 years and that club will be worth even more. Put it in a box, only take it out to brag about it, pull it out and see if its going for even more on ebay.

    Ron, please, I beg you, buy the club.

  2. I’ve spent $350, $200, and $250 on the last 3 putters I’ve owned. I sold them for much much less than what I paid for them. My point is, if you pay $500, you will at least get your money back. I actually lost about $250 total on those 3 putters when I re-sold them… but here you have a chance to spend $500, never worry about getting your money back, and get to enjoy a great putter in the process.

    Look at your par 5 analogy like this… thats not water on every side, its fairway. The worst thing that could happen is you miss the green but your less than 25 yds from the pin with a great lie. And with that Mickelson putter in your hands, its a guarenteed birdie!!!!

  3. Ron,

    It sounds like you’re making this purchase with your heart and not your head. You’re a big Phil fan and want to have a connection with him via playing the same putter. I get it. However, finding a putter that fits your eye is a very hard thing to do and you’re about to spend $500 on one sight-unseen. That’s ridiculous. (And the marketing tactics being employed by Callaway to get you to mentally justify this purchase to yourself is a little offensive. I mean, seriously. The whole “You’ve been chosen as one of a select, lucky few who can buy this putter… but this offer won’t last for long. You only have one week or this putter will disappear forever” is like a bad infomercial.

    Go ahead and pass on it for now. Don’t buy one of these putters because Callaway is making you believe this is the only chance you’ll ever have to own one of these. Wait for a few months and then, if you still want one, go ahead and pick one up on eBay. I guarantee they’ll be less than $500.

    By the way, I’m a huge Callaway fan, so please don’t think I’m just bagging on the company.

    Good luck.

  4. I’d definitely go for it. Even if you don’t like that style, it’s almost an arbitrage. Buy it. If you don’t like it, sell it. With so few made, I’d bet there are tons of guys out there who were on that list, didn’t get picked, and would gladly drop more than 500 on it.

  5. I see that putter on Ebay…$999 start with 0 bids and 19h to go. Granted it’s a lefty. Make sure when you factor in what you can sell it for it’s what it is actually selling for in completed items, otherwise you are basing that decision on what sellers are asking not what others are gonna pay. A different putter that is a phil copy is going for used $480 (11 bids), while still a decent return on used if you try to compare buyers thought process it’s still a good step down from 1k you might be eyeing.

    If I were buying it to sell it I’d look at is as such and not look at it as a putter. Keep it in the original packaging and sell it as soon as I got it (or put it up somewhere where it’s out of mind, to let the other 80 or so get sold first and be more exclusive) to keep temptation from playing it away and lowering it’s value.

    As a putter to use I would never cough up 5 bills without trying it out. I assume based on the money conflict you would be in the same boat, so why would this one be any different. Maybe you hate the grip at first so you change it out. No biggie if you stick with it, Then down the road you just want to get rid of it for whatever reason because it doesn’t suit you at all. You’ll still be looking for higher money because of the phil putter concept, but someone else buying it as a collectors piece or whatever will probably balk at the grip change making it unoriginal.

    In short if it’s an investment that’s what it is, no longer a putter. If it’s a putter then it deserves to be treated as any other putter you’d buy with the same scrutiny. It’s the indian not the arrows.

  6. I was presented with the same decision. I was contacted by Callaway with the opportunity to buy one after putting my name on the list. I never intended to use it as I love my Cleveland classic @ $69 (which replaced an Odyssey white hot insert putter that I wasted two seasons with). I figured if I actually could get my hands on one I would sell it on Ebay. But after seeing a few up there around $999 with no bids I decided against it. In the end I determined it wasn’t worth the time to try and make a few bucks… I’d rather be on the course. BTW, nothing against Callaway, I love the X22’s.

  7. Don’t buy it. First of all, while it is the same model as Phil’s, only Phil has Phil’s putter. You would be buying a replica, a copy.

    Secondly, as others have pointed out, it may be for sale on ebay for $999, with no bids. Let’s wait and see what it actually selles for, I suspect not near $99.

    History shows that most “collectibles” never re-sell for more than what the original buyer paid. And these putters are not rare. And what is to say another “series” will not be built in five years? Rare is the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics or a Rembrandt.

    Of course these are all logical reasons not to buy the putter. They can easily be pushed aside for love. But then again, “Ain’t no one happy if the wife is not happy.”

  8. It is a tough putter to play with, especially when it isn’t fitted for you. This is marketing at its best. This putter as an Odyssey would be priced at 125 and sit on the rack forever. At a shop I frequent they have a Tiger Woods putter for like 50k, he played with it. But this is just a chance at being just like Phil, only your not him and you can’t be him by owning a mock version of his club. What is funny, if he plays well with it its 500 dollars, if he tosses it after crashing in The Open, watch the cheap bin for it. Skip it, thank Callaway and ask for a discount on a Upro instead.

  9. Hey, you know you want it and it sounds like you don’t do this all the time so DOOOOOOOO..IT.
    If you do you’ll help me feel better about the new set of Titleist AP-2’s I ordered today after mulling about them for over a month! So do it to help your fellow golfer.

  10. Limited stuff is always a good investment – get it, wait a couple months or years til Phil gets really hot again – sell it – profit….

    Maybe you can even take it to an event and get it signed by Phil – HUGE profit.

    I wanted to buy a Scotty Cameron last year – which was sold public in 2001 or so and wasnt limited in any way, but it was kind of rare – they went for 3times the original price on ebay. Putters dont lose that much in value.

  11. Do they guarantee that you will miss three four-footers every round? And by holding the putter, will they guarantee you will grow c-cups?

  12. Life is too short so if the putter will make you happy then don’t think twice and buy it. If the repercussions out weigh the happiness then it isn’t worth it.

    Good luck with your decision.

  13. Buying the p[utter will give you some joy. The reality, though, is that even if you catch the green you will likely three jack it for par. My point is, $500 won’t cut strokes any better than $50 on ebay and will most surely perform worse than using what’s in your bag and paying $500 for short game lessons. Too many people have great technology without the game to use it while teaching pros sit idle in the shop. If you have the game and 1 stroke off will make a difference then it is a no brainer. Otherwise, you are keeping up with the Jones’ and looking to the blog site for justification.

  14. wait for the guy who buys it, then has buyers remorse, needs the cash and YOU buy it now for $250 or less….it will happen

    don’t be that guy

  15. Go for it. You will live a life of regret if you don’t. On the other hand, you can sell it for profit if you decided it wasn’t worth it.
    Just go for it and don’t think. Money comes and goes, but things like these come only once in a life time.

  16. By the way… you have to let us know what your decision is! Even better, you can let us know if we helped!

  17. I don’t think I would buy it. Perhaps talk yourself into only paying half of what you would have on the putter and spend $250 on something you really need in your bag.

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