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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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Equipment

Forum Thread of the Day: “Deep faced fairway woods?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Mainehacker21 who is in the market for a deep faced fairway wood to primarily use off the tee. Our members give their recommendations to Mainehacker21, with a range of deep faced fairway woods getting a mention.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • VNutz: “5Deep has been my go to for this. Great deep face for tee shots, extra loft making it more playable off the deck. Such a good club.”
  • ML413: “I bought the G400 Stretch searching for the exact same thing and have been really happy with it.”
  • cardoustie: “x2 hot 3 deep, I carry one for tee shots that require a low shot or a fade, tough off the deck unless you have a perfect lie.”
  • manima1: “If you can find a 2016 M2 “tour issue deep face” that is the best out there. Very low spin so even in 3HL they are bombers, but still elevate easily off the deck. You can find them on eBay. FYI – you know it’s a “deep face” if it has a paint break on the hosel. Another decent option is the 2017 M2 tour head.”

Entire Thread: “Deep faced fairway woods?”

 

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Oldest club in the bag that you use regularly?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from 14max who asks WRXers what’s the oldest club in the bag that they regularly use. Our members list the clubs that have been playing the longest and their reasons why – with trust often playing a significant role behind their decision.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • el_rousso: “I’m still regularly playing an old (about 25+ years old) American Open 56* wedge, the grooves on it are likely too worn to be of any use but it’s still pretty much the club I trust the most around the greens, the rest of my bag is around 2005ish (irons) or 2011ish (woods and other wedges), but I recently pulled the trigger on a driver upgrade…”
  • SecondandGoal: “Odyssey White Steel Tri-Ball SRT. Made in 2007, got it for $25 on Craigslist about 4 years ago. I’ve changed every other club in the bag at least twice since then. Going to be hard-pressed to get this out of the bag.”
  • lefty1978: “I don’t always bag this club anymore. But I have a 17° Controller driving iron from around 1999. I like it because it hits low running bullets.”
  • James the Hogan Fan: “Putter- 65ish years old, Irons from 2003, Woods from 2008, Driver from 2014, Wedges from 2016, but, one from 2002. Quite the mix I’d say.”
  • ChipNRun: “A few years ago, it was a Ping Pal putter from circa 1973. I sent Ping a photo of the clubhead for verification: they said it was legit, they just couldn’t tell what batch it came from due to primitive data markings. Until about a year ago, I played Callaway X20 Tours (2008 origin); CPreO sold me a display set in 2011. Right now, the Tour Edge XRail 7W (2012) – and sometimes its brother 4W – hold the record.”

Entire Thread: “Oldest club in the bag that you use regularly?”

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2020 Odyssey Golf launches new Bird of Prey and Stroke Lab Ten putters

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Odyssey Golf is taking Stroke Lab technology and innovation further with the release of the all-new Stroke Lab 10 putters along with the introduction of the Bird of Prey putter for 2019 and 2020.

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten Bird of prey putters golf 2020

2020 Odyssey Bird of Prey, Stroke Lab Ten putters: The details

To say Odyssey Stroke Lab putters, along with the revolutionary mass-shifting Stroke Lab shaft, have been a success both on tour and with regular golfers would be a huge understatement. On the professional side—since their introduction at the beginning of 2019 as a prototype product, Stroke Lab putters have become the number one putter on all tours and won more professional tournaments (65 to be exact) than any other brand on all tours combined.

Now, Odyssey’s General Manager Sean Toulon and his design team are looking to advance designs again with what many would call familiar shapes but with unconventional advantages.

Odyssey Stroke lab ten putter golf 2020

First off, we have the Stroke Lab Ten. And, yes, even Sean Toulon himself is willing to admit it shares similarities to a particular arachnid-style putter that he helped originally design at another OEM many years ago. But, as a modern equipment historian, I believe it’s important to point out that as much as the “arachnid” style has been popular for quite some time.

There was another putter that predates it (released in 2005), which offered an extremely high MOI design but without the catchy name: the Ping UG-LE. The UG-LE pushed mass way back and to the corners of the head to create (at the time) the highest MOI putter on the market.

But here’s the thing: Putters and material design have come a long way since the introduction of the UG-LE and the original arachnid designs, and Odyssey is here to prove golfers just how much better with the Stroke Lab Ten.

The Stroke Lab Ten’s frame is made from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene…don’t worry, I had to look it up too). Here’s a further explanation

“It is an amorphous polymer comprised of three monomers, acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. ABS is most commonly polymerize through the emulsification process or the expert art of combining multiple products that don’t typically combine into a single product. When the three monomers are combined, the acrylonitrile develops a polar attraction with the other two components, resulting in a tough and highly durable finished product. The different amounts of each monomer can be added to the process to further vary the finished product. The versatility of ABS plastic properties contributes largely to its popularity across several industry sectors.” (Thanks, Adreco plastics)

According to Sean Toulon, what the ABS material allows is maximum distribution of metal (heavy) mass parts to the back and extreme perimeter of the putter to blow past other putters’ MOI (Moment of Inertia: a measurement of forgiveness) but also in sound and feel.

“The sound and feel of this putter is special (thanks to the material advantage of ABS)”  Sean Toulon, Odyssey Putters General Manager

Beyond just the shape of the putter, the sole has been meticulously crafted to help the head aligned square when grounded towards the target in the playing position. Sean continues

“We got these putters to the point where ( with the alignment on top ) they have become point and shoot” 

There truly is a lot going on to make sure these putters do everything they can to help both regular golfers and touring professionals align properly and get the best possible result when putts are not hit absolutely perfect.

The Stroke Lab Advantage

Considering the MOI of these designs, you would think that the highest of high handicappers would be the target market, but in that assumption, you couldn’t be more incorrect. The designs of both the Stroke Lab Ten and the Bird of Prey were entirely driven by the tour and player desire to get every last bit of performance out of their putting games.

These putters will all come stock with the Stroke Lab shaft, which pulls mass from the shaft and redistributes it under the grip and into the head for even greater stabilization. Odyssey has proven that the shaft alone can help stroke consistency across the board, and the most notable stat is the 13 percent increase in face angle delivery at impact. This increases the make putt percentage, which when you think of a round of golf, equates to strokes saved.

If there is one more thing Odyssey knows about putters, it’s roll and inserts. With the new Stroke Lab Ten and Bird of Prey designs, the company is using an all-new Microhinge Star insert to increase the sound for better player feedback. Generally, inserts are used to decrease the sound, but in the case of the New Microhinge Star, engineers at Odyssey wanted to recreate more of the original sound and feel of the White Hot putter but with the added benefit of the Microhinge to increase forward roll.

Odyssey Stroke Lab Putter Insert roll Ten Bird of prey

This new Microhinge Star insert improves the correlation between the sound and expected distance a player will hit the ball—firmer means further. This is just another step in the design process put in place to help players of all abilities putt with greater consistency since without audible feedback, all players will have a more difficult time controlling distance.

The new Stroke Lab Ten and Bird of Prey putters will be available starting November 1. For more information check out OdysseyGolf.com

 

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