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Q&A with Sam Bettinardi of Bettinardi Golf
24 Aug 2014
by AmateurGolf.com Staff

see also: Equipment Reviews

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Stuart Goldstein of New Jersey has taken being an AmateurGolf.com "Player Staff" member (a group of 100 golf equipment enthusiasts who help us review and evaluate new products) to the next level. Stuart has been speaking to some of the golf industry's top executives and we know you'll find these brief conversations to be fun and insightful.

In this edition Stuart speaks to Sam Bettinardi, of Chicago putter designer and manufacturer Bettinardi Golf.

Q: Give us a little insight on how Bettinardi Golf got started.

A: My father, Robert Bettinardi, first got the idea to start making putters in the early 90’s after walking into a golf store in cold December in Chicago. He saw an ad on the wall for a putter that was milled on an old Bridgeport milling machine and wondered why they were still using this technology, when at the time he owned a machine shop with CNC machines (computer numerical control). He called the person in the ad to talk about his capabilities with new technology and they collaborated to make putters from 1993-1997. We started Bettinardi in 1998 and the rest is history.

Q: How important is it that your products are made in the USA?

A: Very important to us. To be able to sit at my desk and look out a window onto our shop floor is very cool. It continues to remind me of our high quality control standards, and the fact that I can walk 20 feet away and pick up a putter and check out all aspects of manufacturing. Not many golf companies make their products in the USA, and we will continue to be different in that regard.

Q: As VP of Sales and Marketing what is your typical day like?

A: A typical day includes talking to our domestic sales team, skyping with our international distributors, making changes to our website and posting on social media, and also trying to learn about the manufacturing process as much as I can. Milling a putter start to finish is a lengthy and time consuming process!

Q: You played golf collegiately.  Did you ever think of taking your game to the next level?

A: I definitely did think of playing professionally, but I wa s honest with myself and real ized that I was never going to make a career out of my golf game, and had a better future in business. As the PGA Tour slogan goes, these guys are good!

Q: Matt Kuchar uses a Bettinardi arm lock putter. How did that design come about and was Matt influential in its design and R&D?

A: Matt has a long history with our company back to 2002 when he won his first PGA event with our putter. Matt knew
what our machining capabilities were and to create the arm lock putter to his specific standards was a fun project for us. We must have sent him over 20 prototypes in 2012 until in January of 2013 he finally made the switch to the one he liked.

Q: How has the USGA’s ban of anchored putting changed your product profiles? Do you agree with the ban?

A: The ban has helped our product profiles because the #6 golfer in the world, Matt Kuchar, is a Bettinardi brand advocate. He is on our putting staff and uses the arm lock putter which is the best alternative to the anchored putting stroke. We engineered his putter to contain 7 degrees of loft in the face, and a 2.5 shaft offset, which are now known as the Kuchar Signature Models. I think the ban definitely has merit after the resurgence of players putting well and winning majors with the belly/long. Do I think it was an unfair competitive advantage, not necessarily. You still need to get the ball in the hole.

Q: How important is it for a golfer to get fit for a putter and what are some of the important specs that need to get customized: lie angle, swing weight, look?

A: Most golfers want to gain distance off the tee because its’ sexy to hit it long. However 40-50% of your strokes in a round come from the putting green, so getting fit is critically important.  Hitting a little white ball into a 4.25 inch diameter hole takes precision, and getting fit will help dial you in to be more precise, and in return, lower your scores.

Q: Every now and then you see a story where a PGA pro picks up a putter off the rack at a local retail shop and wins a tournament.  Is that just a matter of something looking good to the eye?

A: We believe putting is all about confidence. So if a player decides he has no confidence in his current gamer, and picks something up off the rack and makes the first three putts, then he may now have found the right tool to give him confidence in his putting, and in return will carry throughout the rest of his game.

Q: Putters are a growing piece of your business.  Tell us about the rest of your businesses and how milled putters integrate with those businesses.

A: We also manufacture a variety of different parts that includes pieces for hydraulic companies, medical devices, and the defense industry. Milled putters are not the most high- tolerance parts to manufacture, but because we machine everything under IS09000:20 08 standards, it has to be made the same way start to finish. Every putter goes through a variety of different tests and inspections before it reaches the finished stage. I guess you could call it overkill, but that is what we pride ourselves on.

Q: You must see a lot of golfers , of all abilities, come through your shop.  What is one tip all golfers should use to sink more putts?

A: Fin d a putter that suits your game, and stick with it! I am a victim of switching putters  to whatever the flavor of the month is. I think this does not help your game in the long-term, and would be best to stick with the same putter and grind it out.

Q: What is it like working for your father, who is so highly respected in the industry, as well as having your name on the door and your products?

A: I know that working with my dad is a dream job. It has been amazing the last 2 years to see our business grow the way it has, and also sell and promote something you care so much about, because our name is on it. We want the Bettinardi brand to keep its strong image and we know it will if we keep up with the current formula.

Q: Do you see yourself expanding into other areas of the bag like wedges or irons?

A: We just released a wedge line overseas about 1 month ago, stay tuned for wedges in the States!

Q: Every putter manufacturer has a  “Anser” type model in their line.  What makes this style of putter so popular and 20 years from now will putter styles be that much different that today’s styles?

A: When someone thinks of a putter they think of an anser style (BB1) putter. [Karsten] Solheim was a pioneer in the use of perimeter weighting which resulted in higher moment of inertia (MOI) clubheads which resulted in less clubhead twisting on off center hits. This model continues to be our best seller and seems to remain what people expect out of every putter company. 20 years from now I think this will still remain a strong staple to every putter brand, however we will see more experimentation with different materials, weighting such as counterbalance, and head shapes. We are working on a game changing design right now, something no one has seen before so we will let you decide how different it really is.

Q: What is the difference between working with a tour pro and your average amateur golfer?

A: The tour pro understands his stroke a lot more in depth than the amateur. The pro knows exactly why he putts a certain way, and is looking for minute adjustments. The amateur is looking for that magic wand that will make him the envy of all his friends, and is more moldable to what the fitter thinks is best for his game.

Q: Who wins in a putting contest-you or your father?

A: Right now, I win because I am very confident with my arm lock putter. In the past, my dad would win every time because he is a great putter, not someone you want to play as an 8 handicap!

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