My Shot: Scotty Cameron

Scotty Cameron

Photographed Oct. 27, 2005, at the Scotty Cameron Putter Studio in San Marcos, Calif.

January 2006
What's next in equipment (and why don't we make that little four-footer)? A putter guru takes you inside the lab to explore the difference between fact and myth

Age 43 • San Diego, CA

I custom-make three to four putters a year for Tiger. He wants backups. They're almost identical, but because I make them by hand, they aren't exact duplicates. Tiger likes a little dot on top of the putter, which I insert with a drill bit and then fill with paint. One day I get a call from Tiger. He says one of the dots on one of the putters is bigger than the others. I check them, and sure enough he's right — it was too big by an almost immeasurable margin, about the thickness of a piece of paper. It so happens that every drill bit wobbles imperceptibly. I haven't made a putter for him since without that little dot on my mind.

As great as many quality putters were and are, I always thought it odd that the dots or sightlines on top of them weren't always directly above the sweet spot. Golfers who instinctively used the sightline as a guide wound up not getting results from what was actually a great putter.

There are people who aren't sure that Scotty Cameron is a real person. I'd like them to know I'm not a fictitious commercial character like Mr. Clean, but on the other hand I don't want to be a public person. So I convey my presence through my creations.

You don't want your eyes directly over the ball at address. That's a myth. It causes you to align your eyes to the left, and consequently you take the putter back to the outside. Most people stand too far from the ball, which is worse: You naturally look too far to the right, the clubhead is too upright and aimed to the left and you take the putter back to the inside. The perfect setup is one where your eyes are one inch inside the target line when you look down, below the tops of your eyebrows.

I operate in a world about five inches wide and a couple of feet long. That's the size of a putter's path back and through the ball, and when the club contacts the ball that world gets a lot smaller, and very fast. The putter doesn't have a lot of speed when it contacts the ball, but the dynamics of what happens are still much too fast for the naked eye to discern. That's why I use high-speed video.

A large sweet spot will improve the quality of your misses, but no matter how large the sweet spot is, a miss is still a miss. Any time you miss the exact center of the clubface, you're going to lose something. That's why there's a trend among the best putters away from the large, forgiving putters. When a great pro like Phil Mickelson misses from 10 feet, he wants to know immediately if it was his stroke, a misread or if he missed the center of the clubface.

If football is a game of inches, what do you call golf?

Research shows that sound has more to do with feel than feel itself. By far it's the No. 1 source of feedback. I can give you three identical-looking putters with varying face thicknesses so they impart different sounds, and after testing them there's a 99 percent chance you'll tell me one of them is clearly the best in terms of feel. If I gave you a set of earplugs, had you hit putts and then asked which was the putter you loved so much, you wouldn't have a clue.

There's athleticism in putting. There's touch and feel, of course, but where it comes into play is in the ability to adapt. Tiger came to the studio one day. He wasn't happy with his putting. He found his shoulders were aligned a little left of the target, which caused him to take his putter back outside the line or with the face open and then steer it through impact. He couldn't release the putter, or he'd pull the putt to the left. He squared up his shoulders, which is a big adjustment to make. Tiger's first putt after the change missed. The rest were perfect. One putt was all it took for Tiger to adapt to a huge change in his technique. He might be the best athlete I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot.

What's the next breakthrough in putters and what we know about putting itself? I'm on the verge of something that will show the player exactly what should happen during the ideal putting stroke, along with clear direction on whether you're achieving it. Is it a putter? A training aid? An analyzing device? I won't elaborate, except to say that it will alter the future of putting and markedly improve the ability of golfers as a whole.

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