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Archive for Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wood putters eliminate hopping

August 13, 2006

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— To walk through Dave Musty's workshop is to see wood putter manufacturing in its rawest and most beautiful forms.

Tucked into a discreet business park off the San Diego Freeway, the nondescript shop looks like an ordinary garage at first glance. But past the stacks of exotic wood piled up near the back entrance, a craft is revealed.

Bandsaws, sanders, drills and an industrial-size machine that cuts blocks of wood into putterheads, three at a time, are housed in a large woodshop. Beyond that, in a walkway, hundreds of polished heads rest on shelves and in a graphic design shop where logos are stamped into the clubs.

Past that is an enclosed practice putting area where about 100 examples of the finished product - putters in different designs made from different woods - lean against the walls. Musty sits in a tiny office in the front and explains his business in eight words that belie the slick operation.

"We are your basic mom-and-pop outfit," he said.

Musty is among the last manufacturers of a forgotten breed of golf equipment - wood putters. Only a handful still produce the club, which largely fell out of use by the turn of the 19th century.

Louisville Golf is perhaps the most well-known producer. Others exist as smaller operations like Musty's, which has seemed to tighten its grip on the wood putter market.

Musty, 53, is a fast-talking former custom home builder who wanted to create a putter with the weight balanced in the center of the putterhead, as opposed to the sole, to promote an enlarged sweet spot and eliminate the hops that occur on impact with traditional putters. Wood happened to be the only material he could use to implement the design.

Musty patented his inertia-based weighting system in 1991 and began showing it around. When a company ordered 200 of them, Musty knew he was on to something.

He makes about 5,000 putters a year, all custom fitted, ranging from $225-$2,500. The New England Patriots recently bought 275 putters from Musty and had him as a special guest to do the coin flip at one of their home games. Other clients include the Dodgers, Clint Eastwood and the cast of "Desperate Housewives."

"I never knew this was going to happen," Musty said of the popularity.

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