In this episode, we discuss Bob Bettinardi’s legacy in the golf industry, the new BB Series putters coming out January 2018, the new Bettinardi wedge, current Bettinardi staff player along with some new exciting additions and much more!
Tom Brassell: Welcome to the Worldwide Golf Shops Insider Podcast. Hello, everyone. Tom Brassell here. Thanks so much for joining us. If you’re a first-time listener, long time subscriber, maybe fall somewhere in the middle. Doesn’t matter. Either way, we’re just glad that you joined us.
Especially glad you joined us today. Our guest joins us from up near Chicago, Illinois. From Bettinardi Golf known for precision, performance, and excellent in putter design, Mr. Sam Bettinardi. Sam, thanks so much for joining us. It is great to have you.
Sam Bettinardi: Great to be here, Tom.
Tom Brassell: Hey, Sam. For those who may not know about the Bettinardi story and what’s behind the curtain, share with us a little bit about that because it is absolutely fascinating.
Sam Bettinardi: Yeah, we do have a pretty interesting story. We’re actually coming up here. 2018 will be our 20th year in business. And we’re really proud about that. I’ve worked here five years, and my father’s the one that started the company back in 1998.
But it all started … He walked into a golf shop in the winter in Chicago. So as you know, it’s probably pretty cold here. And was just tinkering around and saw an advertisement for a putter that was milled on a bridge port milling machine. And for those of you that don’t know, bridge port machines were old school machines where you crank by hand to make metal product.
At the time, my father owned his own CNC machine which is computer numerical control. So he saw the ad for the bridge port machine that was making a putter, and he figured, “Hey, why are they using this old technology to make putters. There’s CNC machines out there. Maybe I can do it better.”
And as you know, that’s how a lot of entrepreneurial stories start. People trying to do a different process better, and he was able to call the person in the ad and get a hold of them and told them he could be of service to help them make putters, and he was able to fly to California and meet this company and learn how to make a putter.
Went back to Chicago, and it took him about 45 to 50 putters, trying about two months to be able to end up making one putter out of a solid block of steel. And the reason this is significant is because they used to in the old days is make the body, mill the body, and then mill the neck, and then weld the two together. And this is two pieces. Well, my father is the one that was able to figure out and trademark the name one piece technology which is, in fact, making a putter head out of one piece of steel.
And this was really solid for not only manufacturing efficiencies but also the acoustics of the putter being milled from a solid block of steel. So really cool.
So throughout the early to mid-90s, a lot of players used one-piece milled putters. There’s only about eight in 1993 using milled putters. And by 1997, there was about 80. So my father had a really big part in that working for some of the other top OEMs, and ’98 happened. And he went and started his own business.
Tom Brassell: Talk a little bit, Sam, about the difference between a milled putter and your typical cast putter because I’m lucky enough. I have one of your BB1 putters. And the difference in feel is incredibly noticeable, and it’s just fantastic. Talk about that.
Sam Bettinardi: Yeah. So the difference between milled and cast, you know, if you look at a cast putter, they’re actually taking metal, like, molten hot metal and pouring it into a mold and then letting that mold cool for a while. And then the putter comes out later, okay? And the problem with this is that there can be imperfections in the mold, air bubbles, hot spots which is not consistent.
So if you compare that to a milled putter, where we’re milling it out of one solid block of steel, it takes about an hour and a half, two hours to make one head. There’s no imperfections because it’s just a solid block of metal. So you’re just going to get a better consistent feel, solid speed, better acoustics, the touch is just second to none. And there’s actually been players, if you think about some of the cast putters out there and the inserts that they use, that have experienced shifting of the inserts in hot conditions or the insert would melt because it’s plastic.
So that’s why we believe in a one-piece solid milled putter versus any of the other technologies out there like casting or forging to be able to produce that product.
Tom Brassell: Well, Sam, you mentioned some of the tour representation and how it increased as the process evolved. But right now, share with us a little bit about your tour presence. Everyone thinks Bettinardi, you think of Kooch, Matt Kuchar right out of the shoot, but it’s much more broad and deeper than that too, isn’t it?
Sam Bettinardi: It is very broad. And we’re very fortunate to be able … we worked really hard the last few years to try and continue to grow our tour staff. And it’s really hard in a time in which there’s all the big companies out there that are paying top dollar to get the players to switch their brand, and they’re trying to get people to use 14 club deals versus one putter or one club.
We’re just trying to get one club in the bag. And it’s just not as easy. So for us, we’ve been able to have some success in the PGA tour. Guys like Matt Kuchar who’s our biggest print advocate. We just signed Ben Silverman. He was number 10 on the Web.com last year who won on the tour. And he’s using one of our BB0 tour models. We have Jim Herman, Bryan Gay. We’re just getting ready to sign Francesco Molinari. He’s top 25 in the world. Big guy for Bettinardi and the European tour and the PGA tour. Fred Couples, long time Bettinardi user who’s finally getting ready to join our tour staff. And then we have Eddie Pepperell, top player in the European tour. Edoardo Molinari, Francesco’s brother who won this year in the European tour. And other players such as Adam Shank, J.B. Holmes, good list of Web.com guys too.
So our tour staff is definitely growing. We attribute this to the quality of the product that we’re able to make and the amount of service they were able to offer some of these places and cater to by being a company that makes all their product in-house. If a player calls and draws a putter on a napkin and says, “I want my putter to look like this,” we can do it. We could turn on a dime. It’s not like we’re like some of the other larger OEM companies out there that may take a lot of different hoops to jump through or to be able to produce that product. We do everything in-house. So it’s able to be done very quickly.
Tom Brassell: And one final important point too, Sam, that not many others can say: made in the USA. Made right here in America, right?
Sam Bettinardi: Absolutely. And not only is it made in America, it’s made 10 feet from my office. So I can walk 10 feet out of my office door and onto our manufacturing floor. There’s really nobody else that can claim that in the golf industry whether they’re outsourcing it to different manufacturing companies or machine shops or they’re talking to their factory in China 14 hours ahead. It’s a really unique facet to our brand and the craftsmanship that we can provide my making everything in-house and having our team of engineers, machinists, polishers, assembly, paint filled. It’s pretty cool.
Tom Brassell: Well, Sam, we have you on because something new and exciting is right around the corner. Can you peel back a little bit of the onion and tell us what’s coming from Bettinardi Golf?
Sam Bettinardi: Yeah. So our new line … we do two-year product cycles at Bettinardi Golf. So 2018 will be a BB series and Inovai year for us in addition to a new wedge line. So the BB series … we’ll start with the putters. BB series are joining the Studio Stock and Queen B. And they feature four new models. Three classic style head shapes, two blades, a mallet, and then a really cool technology story.
All the putters have an electric yellow paint scheme with a matte black … we call it our stealth black finish. Really good look. 350 grams in weight of a super fly mill face milling. Very, very soft because of the face milling and because of the putters are milled out of carbon steel. Most manufacturers right now are using stainless steel which is a really quality metal. But it produces a firmer feel where we really like carbon because it allows us to broaden our finish options and of course the feel is second to none.
So that’s really cool for us there. The BB56 I think is going to be our best seller. Not only is it a high MOI mallet, but it also has a raised center of gravity. And not many putter companies are talking about COG in putters, but what we were able to do is raise the center of gravity by milling out the sight line and making that material stainless steel. And that’s a heavier material up top which should, in turn, get the ball rolling and overrun quicker and have a very solid feel off the putter head.
So expect that. That’s what Francesco Molinari is using right now, and it’s not even out yet. He loved the feel. So keep an eye on that model for you guys out there and ladies that are looking for a really stable high on lifestyle putter.
Tom Brassell: That is so important, and you here more and more about that is getting the ball rolling right out of the shoot versus skidding it and then bad things could happen that way.
Sam Bettinardi: Sure. Yeah. When you go get fit for a putter, one of the first things people look at is, of course, your length lie loft with a loft and seeing how the ball rolls off the putter head. And with our new technology by raising the center of gravity, we feel like we’re able to manipulate that a little bit by having more mass up top. So that’s a really cool putter.
Our two Inovai models … our Inovai 5.0 is a great … another MOI style with all the weight in the rear, bunding aluminum and stainless steel. And then also new for us are updating our wedges. Our new wedge line which is also available January 18.
And a really cool thing that I like to talk about on our wedges is the material which is 303 stainless steel. All the other golf companies out there are using carbon steel which is fine. It’s a very soft metal. But stainless is very durable and has a very solid impact properties making it be able to last a long time. Very good around the greens. And we were also able to add our honeycomb face on one of the wedges which still gives it that nice Bettinardi look and nice solid feel. By adding the honeycomb, we’re able to create a little bit more friction between the club head and the golf ball, adding more spin.
So it’s a really cool lineup for us this year between the new putters and the new wedges so we’re really excited to get it out on stores and see how it performs.
Tom Brassell: Yeah. And talk to us a little bit about some of the old veterans that will be staying in the line.
Sam Bettinardi: So like I mentioned before, these models are joining the Studio Stock and Queen Bee Series. The Queen B 8 is a wide body blade with a slight cutout in the back. And then the Studio Stock Series, another widebody blade. The Studio Stock 28, like what Matt Kuchar is using.
So throughout the line, there’s something for everybody whether you’re looking for a blade or a mallet or a soft feel or a firmer feel or the different finish options. We want people to think of Bettinardi as their go-to company for all the different looks and feels you could find in a putter.
Tom Brassell: Sam, one final thing before I let you go. And you brought this up. You said the words “putter fitting.” What should somebody do when they’re making a change? What are some things that they might not even think about that are must-dos if you’re going to invest in a new putter?
Sam Bettinardi: Sure. The big thing about putter fitting is everybody is trying to gain distance, right? They want to go to the driver. They want to hit it farther. I want to go from 250 to 260 or 265 to 280. A lot of that stuff’s great, but it’s not going to help you score that much better. Driver for show. Put for dough.
So the biggest thing for us … we have a studio here above our factory floor just outside of Chicago. And people come in here, and the biggest thing we have them do is out of the 30 to 50 putters that we have available for people to choose from, we want them to find a head style that suits their eyes.
So we believe that if you can find a putter that looks good to your eye, you’re going to have confidence which is, in turn, going to help you make more puts. So find something that looks good to you, and then have the fitter who’s working with you one your fitting determine if that style is best for your stroke. If you go through a putter fitting, and you really like blades, you know, classic answer style heads like our BB1, you may realize that, “Oh, the blade style putter, this BB1, is not best for my stroke even though it looks really good. Well, I’m going to try and find something else that looks great but actually fits my stroke.”
So, so important on the look side of things and having your fitter work with you to determine if that’s the best model that will actually help your game.
Tom Brassell: Great point. Sam Bettinardi, thanks so much for joining us. I believe you said January 18th is the big day? Final words from Sam to our listeners?
Sam Bettinardi: Yeah. Thanks, everybody, for listening. I think you’ll be really impressed with the looks and the feel of the new models coming out. And like Tom said, it’s so cool to not only make the product ourselves but make it in America. Just the quality is unsurpassed. Coming up on our 20th year, it’s really awesome to think about the legacy that we have in the golf industry and hope to keep building on that.
Tom Brassell: Sam, thanks so much for joining us. Let’s do it again soon. We’ll see you in Orlando before too long. It’s going to be fun.
Sam Bettinardi: Absolutely. Tom, we’ll see you down there. Thanks a lot.
Tom Brassell: Sam Bettinardi from Bettinardi Design are here in the USA. Make sure to check out that whole new line of Bettinardi putters at your Worldwide Golf Shops retail location or at worldwidegolfshops.com.
Well, special thanks to Sam for joining us today and to you our listeners. And we’ll do it again next time we have another episode of the Worldwide Golf Shops Insider Podcast at worldwidegolfshops.com. So long, everyone.