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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.