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Q&A with Machine Golf’s Dave Billings

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You voted, and Machine Golf’s Delta Prototype won the GolfWRX Custom Putter challenge.

We recently spoke with Dave Billings, President/CEO of Dogleg Right and Machine Golf, and master craftsmen of the winning putter, to learn more about what went into creating the masterpiece, what keeps him motivated to keep innovating, his thoughts on counterbalanced putters and the big news of what’s next for Machine Golf and Dogleg Right.

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WRX: Dave, congratulations to you and Machine Golf on winning our Custom Putter Showcase against some stiff competition. What was your concept for developing the Delta Proto? Describe a little bit of the process that went into building such a unique putter.

DB: Thanks very much! It’s a real honor, especially given the reputations of the other participants and all their great entries. Congrats to the other competitors for entering and creating such cool putters. I really liked them all.

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The GolfWRX Custom Putter challenge winning putter: The Delta Proto.

As you know, the competition was described to us as really being up to us as far as how we wanted to approach it. I’ve enjoyed the Custom Biker Build-Offs for many years, and so I approached it along those lines. I saw our opportunity to create something really new and totally custom, and hopefully something new that people hadn’t ever seen before. At the same time, I wanted to highlight and showcase some of our newest customization, fitting and adjustability technologies.

DaveBillingsDaveBillings2
Dave Billings’ work station, where he dreams up ideas and crafts putters like the Delta Proto. Click the photos to enlarge them. 

So with the Delta Project, we’ve got two new patent-pending adjustability technologies here in this one putter, along with some of our other existing patented technologies. The existing technologies you’ve seen before in our putters including modular hosels, interchangeable flanges and adjustable weights and how they all work in concert with one another.

To that we added the new Delta Mod Adjusters, which allow you to adjust the loft, lie and toe hang of our putters. You can adjust each independently or in combination. We’re really excited about what this represents, especially as it applies to virtually all of our putters, and can be used in fitting and also in adjusting to course conditions such as different green speeds, grass types, so on. They are really small — you can hardly see them, but they work in a big way. And they can make small specification changes or large changes, or no changes, depending on your needs.

WRXdeltaProto
The Delta Proto allows golfers to adjust the back flange, as well as the loft, lie and toe hang.

The second new technology is the interchangeable and adjustable grip technology that we call the NextGrip.  This allows you to change the grip from any standard size grip to oversize, and even longer grips and counterbalanced grips. In the Delta Putter Project, we showed the putter changing from a standard length, standard setup putter all the way to a heavier head, longer, counterbalanced setup. That’s pretty cool and beneficial, because not everyone is sure they want to buy a new counter-balanced putter. This way you can test, adjust or change to find the setup that is best for you and your game. And if they don’t like counterbalanced it switches right back to standard.

And, we added a twist in that we brought back a prototype HOG Putter shaft from 20 years ago to show off the counterbalanced setup. The shaft is 1 inch in diameter, and is non-tapered, providing even pressure for both hands and a great platform to find the perfect balance point and feel for each individual. The butt also has a unique weighting mechanism, using the same adjustable weights that we use for the head. The head was made heavy for the counterbalanced setup by simply swapping one flange for the other.

There are a lot more details that went into the materials, custom milling and finishes to try to make this putter really stand out, but the concepts above are what I really wanted to enter in this competition and share with everyone. I’m thrilled that the readers liked it for what it represents.

WRX: Tell me about how the idea for the HOG putter shaft and aluminum grip came about, and what was the reaction to it 20 years ago? 

DB: The HOG Putter actually came about out of happenstance. I was working on a modular golf bag design for a new golf venture. This is back in 1994. I was making a prototype in my den, and had all these bag tubes lying around of different lengths. My son David, then 2 at the time, picked up one of the shorter tubes and started putting a ball with it. I noticed that he had this really stable, smooth shoulder stroke. I had previously given him a chopped down putter with a small grip and shaft and he had been really wristy with it, whacking it all over the place. So the larger shaft and grip just naturally and ergonomically took his hands out of the equation. So I started prototyping it and felt we really had something. My son is now 23, about to graduate college and has been working for me part time on the side, helping with CAD work and some patent work too, including on these new technologies, which is awesome. Crazy how time flies.

HOGputtergrip
The 2014 version of the Hog putter grip, made from 6061 Aerospace Aluminum Alloy, next to two leather interchangeable grips. 

The reaction when we introduced the first HOG was really wild, and it was exciting and a lot of fun to be involved with. We made it into most of the golf magazines and even Sports Illustrated from our first PGA Show and really set the industry abuzz — and started selling them all over the world. We also started getting some really good players interested, using and then winning with them, and that was also really exciting. Of course the product evolved over the years, but we really were successful in pioneering an oversized grip that was thin and light, straight and non-tapered, and also an oversized shaft technology that was stiffer, more stable, lower in torque and higher in overall MOI.  Some people say now we were just a little ahead of our time. But 20 years?

I will say this, when other companies claim to have the first, or the only non-tapered grip technology, you may want to question that — take a look at the HOG, both old and new. We think we’ve contributed a lot to the field, and have a lot more coming that players will be interested in and can benefit from.

WRX: A lot of putter companies are moving the way of counterbalance. Do you think counterbalancing is the solution for players when the anchor ban goes into effect?

DB: Counter-balancing is a good solution for lots of players, not just those looking for an alternative to the belly, long or broomstick putters. Certainly those who are needing or wanting to switch because of the upcoming anchoring ban should give them a try, and experiment with different specs and setups. It really is very personal, so having adjustability of the weights, grip sizes and lengths is a real plus in my mind. Fitting really helps too. Others may want to try the arm-lock or arm-rest types — and our Delta Project putter can also convert to those setups as well — or even face on or side-saddle-style putting. I’m actually working on several of those in projects right now and that’s also interesting and actually a valid and historic solution. In fact, Sam Snead used a HOG side-saddle for several years in the Legends, the Tradition and the Masters Par 3 tourney and in his bag on the first tee. So it’s fun to be working on those ideas again, and bring them forward with additional technologies and our new manufacturing capabilities. I’m really excited about all this new work and what it can mean for golfers looking for the right putter for them.

WRX: Whether its modular hosels, aluminum counter-balanced putter grips or interchangeable torched SS Damascus flanges with bongo cuts, you seem to always strive to push the envelop. What pushes you to want to innovate and be different, and how has that helped establish Machine Golf in the industry?

DB: Thanks. We do try to push the envelope. We love the process and work that goes into making something that’s new. It’s a challenge, and it’s exciting during the processes of problem solving and coming up with new solutions – sometimes to old questions like weighting, and sometimes entirely new questions like how do we best make a grip interchangeable.

DaveBillings3
Machine Golf’s factory where some of the most innovative putters in the industry get thought-up and constructed.

I’m proud that we’ve done so much innovation in the fields of adjustability and fitting technologies. We have over a dozen patents issued and pending in that space and they are becoming more important every day. Now most of the industry is going that way, so that is both rewarding and validating. At least my wife and kids don’t roll their eyes quite as much as they used to when I tell them about one of my crazy new ideas.

I think our customers do enjoy seeing us take older historic designs and make them in a new way, or give them new features and benefits especially so they can be better fit and customized to their specs and preferences. Our customers know we’ll do just about any custom designing, milling, grinding and hand shaping and finishing to make the club fit them better, and look better to their eye. In that sense we try to take the effort and dedication most of the big brands provide to their tour players, but we work hard to do that for every single customer. Our customers really appreciate that. Who doesn’t like feeling like their getting a product fit and made for them as well as a tour player?

It does help a lot that we make all our products in-house in our own machine shop. That’s been a real game changer for us, as we’re able to really put our hearts and souls into each and every putter we make.

WRX: What are some new products we can expect in the near future, and what’s next on the horizon for Machine Golf and Dogleg Right? 

DB: That’s a great question, but one that I’m going to have to be less forthcoming on because of some of the new work that we’re doing that we can’t quite publicize yet. I wish I could tell you today, but it won’t be too much longer. It is safe to say that we’ve got some really exciting developments in the pipeline, and that I’m very eager to launch and tell everyone about.  So stay tuned!

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Luckily, we aren’t left on too much of a cliffhanger, because the “exciting developments” have since been revealed to the public. DogLeg Right and Bobby Jones announced their partnership on Nov. 20, and are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Bobby Jones company in 2014.

BobbyJones

Dogleg Right, with the help of Dave Billings, hand-crafted three series of putters — Silver Anniversary, Grand Slam and Bespoke Art — to celebrate. All three of the designs will feature Machine Golf’s innovative technologies, including adjustable weights, interchangeable necks, and the ability to adjust lie, loft and toe hang of the putters.

“When you study the history of Bobby Jones, one of the many things that comes to light is Mr. Jones’ passion for the science and art of club making,” said Andy Bell, President/CEO of Jones Global Sports. “We’ve known since taking over the leadership of the Bobby Jones brand this was an area where we wanted to expand our footprint strategically. This expansion begins with putters and we’re thrilled to partner with Dave Billings and Dogleg Right. They are putter experts and their committment to custom design, performance, playability and world-class service is readily apparent. We are proud that the first putters bearing Bobby Jones name in 25 years will be produced in partnership with the best in the business.”

Silver Anniversary ($699.99)

BobbyJonesprototype

The “Silver Anniversary” model celebrated Bobby Jones’ 25th Anniversary with modern classic designs crafted from “American Rustless” 303 steel, with a multi-faceted satin finish, and hand-polished soles. They also come with Bobby Jones’ logoed grips, head covers and shaft labels.

BobbyJonesgripheadcover

Grand Slam ($799.99)

The “Grand Slam” line has four different putters that commemorate Bobby Jones’ “Impregnable Quadrilateral” from 1930. The GS-1, GS-2, GS-3 and GS-4 are crafted from fine metals and hand-finished, and come with various custom options. This line will also come with Bobby Jones grips, head covers and shaft labels. This will be a super-limited edition release, with only 10 putters made of each model.

Bespoke Art ($1,499.99)

The “Bespoke Art” is a one-of-a-kind model that’s crafted individually by Dave Billings to the customer’s every spec and aesthetic preference. Each putter will come with a Certificate of Ownership, notes and drawings from Billings. These are made from options including Carbon Damascus, Mokume Gane and Titanium Demascus. Their precision, uniqueness and quality of metals justify the lofty price tag.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. MTek VersaSpeed

    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Walt, let us both celebrate & congratulate Machine Golf for its wonderful achievement in winning GolfWRX’s Custom Putter challenge this time hey!

    If you start a new thread in the forums mate, i’ll be there for a looksee.

    Dave, if i may ask – the mix between tech v looks when producing a new putter for market. Is there a fine line there? Or is it all about the end result (sinking the putt)? Any thoughts?

    Thanks for your time & patience!

    cheers, Mark
    Mtek VersaSpeed

  2. Walter Graves

    Dec 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Putter Challenge

    Dave Billings

    Double Duty-The divot repair putter.
    I would like to issue a challenge to Dave Billings and any of your associates that are willing
    to take my putter and use it against any other putter on the market in a putting contest on its
    putting ability only.
    If you have the nerve to do this, I will supply you or them with all the Double Duty Putters necessary( Up To 5 ) to meet the challenge.
    The putter and all the pertinent information may be seen at http://www.divotrepairputer.com

    Thank you for your time and I wait your reply.

    Walt Graves
    WH Golf LLC
    Divot Repair Putter
    3251 Lyndon Drive
    Little River, SC 29566
    (843) 399-4043

  3. Mtek VersaSpeed

    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Dave, your work is truly world class & its heartening to see Machine Golf (& a few other putter makers tbh) take on the real big boys head on with products that are super innovative, attractive & effective. Its no wonder there are so many happy golfers using Machine Putters around the globe, keep up the great work Machine Golf!

    ps – would love to know more about your Delta Proto! I had a adjustable mallet prototype conformed (by the USGA) way back in 2001 along the same lines as your Delta Proto. It went on to become …:) Good to see i’m not alone in the philosophy behind the innovation on your Awesome Delta Proto! Pm me if you like Dave!

    Cheers, Mark
    Mtek VersaSpeed

  4. TT X

    Dec 1, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Great to see/read about some serious innovation regarding the interchangablity and adjustability. Look forward to trying Dave Billings putters!

  5. tim

    Nov 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I love my machine putter. Dave was wonderful to work with. It will never come out of my bag. I may tinker with it some, but it will be my last putter.

  6. dion

    Nov 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    really nice putters but I have had my circle T scotty o two years ad I don’t know how these compare

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pga tour

K.J. Choi WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Valero Texas Open (4/18/2018).

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6x

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Ozik Matrix MFS M5 60X

3 Wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7x

5 Wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8x

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees)
Shaft: Atlus Tour H8

Irons: Ping G400 (4-PW)
Shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour 120X

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50-12SS, 54-12SS, 58-10)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Ping Sigma G Wolverine T
Grip: Ping Pistol

Putter: Ping PLF ZB3
Grip: Super Stroke KJ

Putter: Ping Sigma Vault Anser 2
Grip: Ping Pistol

WITB Notes: We spotted Choi testing a number of clubs at the Valero Texas Open. We will update this post when we have his 14-club setup confirmed. 

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Choi’s clubs. 

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Accessory Reviews

I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went

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Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.

Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.

It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.

The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.

But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.

Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.

“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.

On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.

The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.

We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.

Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)

Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.

Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.

But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.

Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.

Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.

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Equipment

Titleist AVX golf balls passed the test, are now available across the United States

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Titleist’s AVX golf balls first came to retail as an experiment in three markets — Arizona, California and Florida — from October 2017 to January 2018. AVX (which stands for “Alternative to the V and X”) are three-piece golf balls made with urethane covers, and they’re made with a softer feel for more distance than the Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls.

After proving their worth to consumers, Titleist’s AVX golf balls are now available across the U.S. as of April 23, and they will sell for 47.99 per dozen (the same as Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls) in both white and optic yellow.

According to Michael Mahoney, the Vice President of Golf Ball Marketing for Titleist, the AVX is a member of the Pro V1 family. Here’s a basic understanding of the lineup:

  • AVX: Softest, lowest trajectory, lowest spinning, less greenside spin and longest
  • Pro V1x: Firmer than the Pro V1, highest spinning and highest trajectory
  • Pro V1: Sits between the V1x and the AVX in terms of feel, spin and trajectory, and will appeal to most golfers

Different from the Pro V1 or Pro V1x, the AVX golf balls have a new GRN41 thermoset cast urethane cover to help the golf balls achieve the softer feel. Also, they have high speed, low compression cores, a new high-flex casing layer, and a new dimple design/pattern.

For in-depth tech info on the new AVX golf balls, how they performed in the test markets, and who should play the AVX golf balls, listen to our podcast below with Michael Mahoney, or click here to listen on iTunes.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the AVX golf balls

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