Scotty Cameron is one of golf’s most sought-after interviews. The noted puttermaker for Titleist always draws a crowd and speaks passionately about creating putters for the best players in the game as well as for everyday golfers. Cameron recently spoke with Golf Digest’s equipment editor, E. Michael Johnson, about the fine line of technology and art in putter design, the origin of the red dots on his putters and the coolest item at the Scotty Cameron Gallery store in Encinitas, Calif.
How much have improvements in technology allowed you to take what you have in your head or on paper and make it a reality?
You’re right on track with that thought. I’m not sure we could have done some things that we do today 20 years ago. With this technology and computers and tooling and milling machines and location devices, we’re taking putter design to the next level with these technologies. And the man power. Better engineers, too. Get it out of my head, get it onto paper, and then work with it in design engineering, tooling, manufacturing. You see it in your hand, but to get it there often is an absolute grind. But every time we do a project we learn something for the next project.
What are some of the things outside of golf that you draw your inspiration from?
I look at jets and the wings in back and how they angle and end. A lot of cars. The cherry dots in back of the putter, for instance, came from my father taking me to the race track. Every time the carburetor comes out of the hood, the butterflies on the hood would move and there would always be red dots. When I saw that it was exciting to me so that’s where the red dots come from on my putters.
Is it more fun to design putters now because of all the tools at your disposal or is it less fun because it might take away some of the artistic?
A little of both. My goal is to make the design look like a design not done by a computer. So the technology of milling and engineering is one thing, but I also think you have to keep the aspect of the art and craft of the old putter makers and combine the two. I also like to work on some special projects so that everything doesn’t look like it’s computerized.
What’s the coolest item you have in the Gallery right now?
I made a putter for myself. I think alligator is such a gentlemanly, cool material. So I made myself a Gatorback putter. It’s kind of like an 8802, but with a wide-bodied flange. I can do the wide-body flange because I have an aluminum sole plate. But the back has something that looks like the dashboard from a Bentley. But then that long, round flange in the back is kind of a plain area of blankness. So I milled a little pocket back there that has a rim of stainless steel, then I created a stamp the shape of the mill pocket, cut out the alligator. I used a special glue to inlay the alligator into the back of the putter, so it has a Gatorback Bentley back and bottom. It’s spectacular. And then I matched it with an alligator grip. Then I took the alligator to make headcovers to match the grip and the back. It is expensive and it’s a pain to do, but when I was done with it I went, “Oh my goodness.”
What’s the next frontier in putter design? Do you see a lot runway left?
I do. The problem, however, is the expense to do so. For example, with our gallery in Encinitas, I can create putters that will knock your socks off, but it’s expensive to use key materials. So when I do that, I put them in our Gallery for sale and they do sell, but I am governed a little by the expense standpoint of what I can do for the masses. But when I do it for the Gallery and dream big and produce that, it does help me learn ways on how to do it in a more cost-effective manner and keep our putter category at a $399 retail price. So yes, I think the future is bright.