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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

Members’ Choice: The top-5 drivers that golfers want to test in 2018

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Golf’s “off-season” is upon us and the PGAM Show in Orlando is quickly approaching in January, which means it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming driver releases.

We’ve seen a few companies launch their “2018” lines already — such as Cobra with its new King F8 and F8+ — while speculation swirls around the companies who have yet to announce their newest products. For instance, we’ve spotted a new “TaylorMade M4″ driver, and a new “Rogue” driver from Callaway. If history repeats itself and Titleist remains on a two-year product cycle, then we’ll see a replacement for the 917 line sometime in 2018, as well.

The question we posed to our GolfWRX Members recently was, which new or unreleased driver has you most excited heading into 2018? Below are the results and a selection of comments about each driver.

Click here to join the discussion!

Note: The comments below have been minimally edited for brevity and grammar. 

Titleist (7.39 percent of votes)

BDoubleG: I know it’s well down the road, but the Titleist 919 is what I’m most looking forward to. I played the 910 until this year and loved it, but I realized that I wasn’t getting much in the way of distance gains with the 915/917, and I was just leaving too many yards on the table. I know it’s a cliche, but I was seeing considerable gains with my G400LS, then my M2 I have now.

I feel like Titleist has been hurting in the driver market share category (and probably elsewhere), as I think a lot of people think that the 913, 915 and 917 have been minor refreshes in a world where almost everyone else has been experimenting with structure (jailbreak, turbulators) or with COG (spaceports, SLDR, G-series extreme back CG). I think if Titleist is going to recapture some of their market share, they will need to start taking an interest in stepping outside of their comfort zone to catch up with everyone else. Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but a D2-style head with ample forgiveness and low-spin (maybe a back-front weight), with the same great sound of the 917, and hopefully getting rid of the “battery taped to the sole” look would be a huge hit in my book.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with…and I hope I’m not disappointed.

Mizuno GT-180 or otherwise (8.87 percent of votes)

mrmikeac: After thoroughly testing the Mizuno ST-180 and seeing the distance gains I was getting from my Epic, I can’t wait for the GT to get here. Cobra would be next in line for me, but Mizzy really did something special with that JPX-900 and it seems to look like they’re going the same route with these drivers. Excellent feel, forgiveness and simple but effective tech. 

Callaway Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero or otherwise (17.73 percent of votes)

cvhookem63: It seems like we’re not getting a lot of “NEW” this time — just some same lines “improved” on a little. I’m interested to try the Rogue line and M3/M4 line to see if they improved on their previous models. The Cobra F8+ is intriguing to me, as well. I’d like to compare those three to see how they stack up. 

tj7644: Callaway Rogue. It’s gotta make me hit straighter drives right? It sure can’t be my swing…

Equipto: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero, and that’s about it. Most of my testing will be with shafts I presume. 

bangabain: Excited to give the Rogue a shot, although with the hope that there’s a little more fade bias despite the lack of sliding weight.

TaylorMade M3, M4 or otherwise (27.09 percent of votes)

DeCuchi: TaylorMade M3 of course, and the F8+. I’m more interested in the fairways this year though. TaylorMade M4 fairways and Rogue fairways are top of my list. 

elwhippy: TaylorMade M3 and M4. Not owned a TM driver for several seasons and want something with a bit more power than the Ping G Series…

cradd10: M3. Still rocking an OG M1. Super solid driver. Curious to see if the updated version can beat it. 

Cobra F8/F8+ (33.66 percent of votes)

WAxORxDCxSC: I sure want to like the F8 based on looks (I understand I’m possibly in the minority on that one at GolfWRX).

TWshoot67: For me, it’s three drivers: the Cobra F8, F8+ and TM M4. 

The General: Cobra F8 is going to dominate everything, just wait, on the F8

Ace2000: Definitely F8/F8+. Love my Bio Cell+ and can’t help but wonder if these perform as good as they look. 

Click here to join the discussion!

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True Linkswear goes back to its spikeless roots

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True Linkswear is getting back to its roots, while expanding the singular golf shoe brand’s reach at the same time.

The Tacoma, Washington, company’s Director/Partner, Justin Turner, told us that with the release of the two new models, the company is course-correcting from a move toward the mainstream, spiked golf shoes, and a loss of identity.

In addition to durability issues, Turner said the core True Linkswear customer didn’t appreciate the shift — or the deluge of models that followed.

So, in a sense, the two-model lineup both throws a bone to True devotees and casts a wider net.

Turner and company asked: “If we wanted to restart the brand….what would we value?” A commitment to the brand’s core outsider identity, style as articulated in early models, and an emphasis on quality led Turner on multiple trips to China to survey suppliers in early 2017. Eventually, the company settled on a manufacturing partner with a background in outdoor gear and hiking shoes.

“We’ve spent the last few years scouring the globe for the best material sourcing, reputable factories, advanced construction techniques, and time-tested fundamentals to build our best shoes yet. No cheap synthetics, no corners cut.”

Eventually, True settled on two designs: The Original, which, not surprisingly, has much in common with the zero-drop 2009 industry disrupting model, and the Outsider: a more athletic-style shoe positioned to attract a broader audience.

True Linkswear Original: $149

The company emphasizes the similarity in feel between the Original and early True Linkswear models, suggesting that players will feel and connect to the course “in a whole new way.”

  • Gray, White, Black colorways
  • Waterproof full grain leather
  • Thin sole with classic True zero-drop heel
  • 12.1 oz
  • Sockfit liner for comfort
  • Natural width box toe

True Linkswear Outsider: $169

With the Outsider, True Linkswear asked: “What if a golf shoe could be more? Look natural in more environments?”

  • Grey/navy, black, white colorways
  • EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning
  • Full grain waterproof leather
  • 13.1 oz (thicker midsole than the Original)

The company envisions both shoes being worn on course and off.

True Linkswear introduced the more durable and better-performing Cross Life Tread with both models. Turner says the tread is so good, you can wear the shoes hiking.

Both models are available now through the company website only. True Linkswear plans to enter retail shops slowly and selectively.

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Equipment

Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker’s Winning WITBs from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair closed the QBE Shootout with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot win over Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. O’Hair made a timely eagle on the par-5 17th hole at Tiburon Golf Club to lock up the first place prize of $820,000 ($410,000 each).

Here’s a look at their bags.

Sean O’Hair

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White Prototype 60TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Limited Edition 70TX

5 Wood: Titleist 915F (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 80TX

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4-iron), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 prototype (50, 54 and 58 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron prototype

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Related: Sean O’Hair WITB

Steve Stricker

Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 8.2X

3 Wood: Titleist 915F (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 80TX Prototype

Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (17.0 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2X

Irons: Titleist 718 CB (3-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour Prototype

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (46, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 w/ Sensicore

Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Related: Steve Stricker WITB 2017

Note: We originally reported Stricker had a Scotty Cameron putter in the bag, per Titleist’s equipment report. Stricker did, however, have a Odyssey White Hot putter in play during the final round of the QBE Shootout.

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