Scotty Cameron, Titleist’s master craftsman for putters, launched his latest line of mallet putters, the Phantom X. The renowned puttermaker spoke with Golf Digest equipment editor E. Michael Johnson about what makes these putters “the most technologically advanced,” he has ever produced, the importance of putter fitting and whether he ever goes back to an old putter.
Your new Phantom X line is touted as your “most technically advanced putter line to date,” and a “major leap in performance.” Some might be skeptical that is possible in a putter. How do you make a quantum leap in a putter?
Materials and design have evolved. In this putter line you notice I’m not talking much about hand-crafted and some of the things you might have heard me focus on in the past. This is much more high-tech, almost aerospace computerized design. Next year when I re-do the Select line we’ll talk much more about craftsmanship versus high-tech. On the Phantom X—and I changed the name from Futura simply because I felt it was so different it needed a new name for people to realize that—there is no insert. I received some feedback that the insert brought uncertainty of feel. They wanted a solid feel instead. So having the one-piece face provides that. At the Hawaiian Open virtually everyone preferred that feel. The lines also are raised up, so if someone uses an alignment line on their ball, it will touch the putter where the alignment lines are. This was the result of feedback from players such as Adam Scott and Justin Thomas. Jimmy Walker was big into this as well. I have thoughts and sometimes I ask things in a way that they confirm I’m on the right track. I don’t believe many people think of some of the crazy things I’m thinking of. For example, the face height on the current Futura is taller. And some players feel that when the face gets too tall they have to forward press to hit the ball in the center of the putter face. Or if it’s too shallow or low profile, they feel they have to come up and out of it to hit the center of the face. So we made these different models for face height and I spent time asking them about what height looked best to their eye. The new Phantom X came about as a result of that input. There are a bunch of these little things within this product that make a major difference.
How much has improvements in technology allowed you to take what you have in your head or on paper and make it a reality?
It’s been huge. The best design to me is when a person and the hands get involved with a computer and computerized milling and they collide together to make it more precise. But I don’t want everything looking like a robot did it, either. Let’s look at my 7 model, for example. If you look at the face profile, it arches from toe to heel like an old Zebra or Ray Cook mallet. I used a classic look, so it’s familiar to people, but have added some hard, angular shapes for alignment. So mixing angles and softness. But, coming out of the head and getting it onto scratch paper and then getting it onto the computer. Then we run prototypes along the way to get to a finished design. Then, after that, you have to create the tooling to manufacture it in quantity. Tooling is very time-consuming to hold the different angles to the different milling. This started over a year ago, working with the design and the input of the players and then its evolved with the tooling. Our milling operation we now run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Milling aluminum and stainless steel. So it’s very computerized, but we’re always making sure it doesn’t get too much so, or too technical. The human touch of giving it feel versus technology is always important. This one has been tough because it’s so unique. Not a lot of it was normal.
Are mallets more fun to work on because there’s more to work with?
No doubt, at least for me. Here’s why. When I do a Newport 2, which is the bread and butter of the blades, when I update it and try to make improvements, there isn’t as much that I can do because you’d hate to do something to the design, hand it to a tour pro or a consumer and have them say, “That looks nothing like a Newport.” So they’re used to seeing what a Newport looks like. With a mallet there is more freedom because there is less expectation as to what a mallet should look like. I can do a lot more things because I’m not so set as to what it should look like. It can be anything.
Can you quantify how important putter fitting is for the average golfer?
I think if golfers were to try it, their first reaction would be “Why didn’t I do this sooner.” You don’t have to be fit for any club, but you’re much better off if you are educated on what equipment works with you best. There’s no denying that. It makes the game more fun when you play with clubs that you know and trust. And you gain confidence with that knowledge.
Do you, as a golfer, ever go back to an old putter like most golfers because it’s something familiar? Or is it always something new?
I do. I also design some blades and flanges for the Gallery in Encinitas here. There are certain people that are looking for that old-school style and I do, too. So I am still making blades with flanges and flanges with pockets. I love the craftsmanship and feel of carbon steel and such, so I love that end of the classic side. But I also like high tech and the wings of the new side and it really does depend on the mood I’m in. It’s fun for me to try different things.