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Bag Chatter: An Interview with Bradley Putters

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Brad Converse of Bradley Putters.

Talk to me about Bradley Putters. What are you guys all about?

We are a custom putter company in Grants Pass, Oregon that fabricates wooden putters. We like to say we make showcase putters for golfers. It’s something that when you pull it out of your bag, it’s truly special. Your playing partners are definitely going to notice it. People assume a wood putter is a novelty item like a wall hanger, but that’s far from the case. Sure, it can be a wall hanger if you want it to be, but you can also sink some putts with it. The putter is different from all the other clubs in the bag because it does require some technology, but there’s a lot of room there for interpretation there. What works beautifully for someone can largely come down to whether or not you like it, are confident with it, and think it looks good, which is somewhat true for all clubs, but much more so with putters.

Tell us about your product lineup. What models do you offer?

We have a shape to suit almost every person’s eye. We offer blades and mallets from full toe hang to face balanced and in between. Some people prefer blades and some prefer mallets, but that should mainly come down to what suits your eye I think. MOI is thrown around a lot as a major advantage to mallets. MOI is resistance to twisting and it only matters when you miss the sweet spot. It is true that some of these crazy big mallets have a higher MOI, but one of the things we’ve found from looking at the math is that if you have a low-MOI putter like a Bull’s Eye, you’re losing 10 percent of your energy if you miss the sweet spot. Once you get to an Anser shape, that loss in energy drops to about 1.5-2 percent. Huge mallets are like 0.5 percent. So, yes, all that marketing is true with regards to MOI, but it doesn’t really matter all that much after a certain point. Head weight matters. What looks good to you matters. Get the putter that inspires you and makes you feel confident. I’m not trying to say the 1 percent of energy loss is not important between blade and mallet, but feeling confident and inspired can easily have you coming out ahead overall even if you knowingly give up that 1 percent.

What prompted you to start this company? How did that come about? 

Out of high school, I was mentored by a PhD to design equipment to survive nuclear blasts. The company that I was working for then wanted me to move to Virginia to keep my job and, frankly, I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure at that point what that meant for me, but on black Friday of 2016, I went shopping and saw a drum made out of burl wood. I just pictured a golf ball dropping on it and my mind totally ran with it. My friend owns Oregon Burls, which happens to be 10 minutes from my shop, so I knew I sourcing the material would be no problem. I thought, “You know, this could make an awesome putter.” I completely dove in headfirst and had prototypes built within a week. Then, the guys at PuttSkee told me they had space in their booth at the PGA Show, so within two months we were at the 2017 PGA show. It has been a crazy ride for sure. We’re very proud of what we do, but there are a lot of great putter makers out there that do great things. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not going to slam Scotty Cameron. He paved the way for people like me. I definitely believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. The stainless steel putters are great. But so are mine.

Custom box elder mid mallet Bradley putter with a river of blue acrylic and matching divot tool and ball marker.

Where does most of your inspiration come from when you’re generating new products? How do you decide what blocks of wood become certain putter models? What’s that creative process like?

Being in Oregon, we are surrounded by beautiful things all the time. Especially in nature. We get some stunning pieces of wood to make putters with. But there’s an art to doing it right. You have to look at a block of wood and figure out where the putter is and what model it wants to be. A lot of that is just from having made a bunch of putters and you kind of see a 3D image in your head of what’s beneath the surface. You can just see how the grain is and what it’ll look like after it’s shaped. Sometimes we’ll take days or weeks passing it back and forth to each other before we get it right.

What’s your ideal foursome?

That’s so hard. I love people. Obviously I enjoy the game, but I really play golf for the people. I think Jordan Spieth seems like a really good dude. Coach Rusty is a really good friend of mine and is a really great dude. He’s so fun to hang out with. Last would have to be Phil Mickelson. I’m a lefty, but I putt right-handed. What can I say? The vast majority of golfers are obviously right-handed, so if they’re intrigued, I want them to try my putter on the spot. Just makes sense. Anyhow, I grew up really wanting to be Phil, which is why my wedge game is pretty strong. He’s also a brilliant mind. I’ve heard him say you need to be either really smart or really dumb to be good at golf, which really kind of resonated with me. I feel like that would be a really solid foursome.

If Hollywood ever decided to make a movie about your life, what would it be called and what actor would you want to play you?

Ryan Reynolds would totally play me. My wife loves Ryan Reynolds, so that’s who she would really go for. As far as what to call it, I have no idea. We had a great income at one point when I was an engineer and my wife was a nurse. Then when I started this business, we sold our house and moved to a trailer on my parents’ property. It’s an interesting story for sure. Safe to say, the name would definitely be something punny, but not corny like a Hallmark movie. We’ll call it Branching Out: The Bradley Putter Story.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Tiger’s back. What’s your favorite Tiger memory?

Oh, definitely the chip-in on the 16th hole at Augusta where the ball just sits on the lip for like two seconds and just drops in. That was just so cool. I remember watching that one on TV with my dad and we just went crazy. He was so good, though. Good to see him back.

Walk us through how your wood is treated and processed to be suitable for the modern golfer.

It is stabilized wood. We dry our wood completely and then use a hardener to take up all the air space inside the wood (i.e. places that water would get in). The result is almost like an acrylic. It’s still wood, but it’s waterproof now, and it’s much harder. This is also why softer woods generally work out really well because the stabilizing process will harden them up a bit. We’ve submerged our wood blocks in water over an entire weekend to make sure it doesn’t swell or anything. The result is a product that has all the good characteristics of wood, but is so much more practical.

What are the pros and cons of working with wood? What does wood offer that milled stainless steel (for example) doesn’t?

Obviously, each block of wood is a little bit different. That’s what makes them unique and beautiful, but it does require us to treat each piece a little differently in the manufacturing process to ensure the end product is consistent in regards to quality and playability. How we’ve addressed it is that every putter we make gets a different amount of weight inside it. Obviously, a completely wooden putter head would be way too light to be functional, so we basically saw the top of the block off, insert lead weights, then glue the top back on. We check the volume and weight of each block. Then, we calculate how much weight we need to add with our lead weights, which will vary somewhat depending on the starting weight of each block and what model we’re planning on shaping it to. We have lead weights that have the same diameter, but slightly different heights, so that’s basically how that’s achieved.

From a performance perspective, one thing we can do that others can’t is create a mallet with complete perimeter weighting. Wood is such a low-density material, so when we add our weights to bring it up to 350 grams (for example, we do custom head weights if people want them) in strategic locations to increase our MOI. As a result, the way our putters vibrate will make the sweet spot feel so good because wood is a very friendly material and you’ll be able to tell very quickly when you miss the sweet spot. You’ll notice a very different feel when you miss the sweet spot, but you won’t get penalized for it. The obvious thing, though, is that it’s beautiful.

Bradley Rogue putter, a milled stainless steel offering with wood insert just announced at PGA Show 2018.

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you. 

One of the things I think we do that’s pretty cool is that we can take wood from anyone. If you have a tree that got removed from your golf course or your backyard or whatever, we can make a putter out of it. All you need to do is go to our website (bradleypuytters.com), look up our phone number, and give us a call. We love working on those kinds of projects. We don’t need a whole lot of wood too, by the way. Generally speaking, a 5-inch by 4-inch by 2-inch block should be large enough for any putter we do, even a mallet. Also, we just launched a new model called the Luna XL, which is now the biggest mallet we offer. We just debuted it at the PGA Show. We also just announced the Rogue and Applegate putters at the show, which are milled 303 stainless still putters with a wood insert on the back and they feel phenomenal.

The best way to keep up with us is to watch our Instagram account (@bradleyputters). We’re very active on there. Sometimes, I answer those faster than my emails. Anyhow, it’s been a really exciting ride for the last year or so. We’re looking forward to doing a whole lot more cool stuff in the future.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Andrew

    Mar 11, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    By far one of the best up and coming small businesses in the US. Brad truly takes care of his customers and will ensure you are pleasantly surprised. I actually own 3 Bradley putters (Blade, Mid-mallet, and Mallet) each of which is extremely unique and special. I am always willing to let playing partners and people on the course give them a roll because it truly is the feel that makes them special. If you are ever in the market for a great putter give them a shot. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee for a reason.

  2. murf

    Mar 11, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    I don’t own a Bradley as of yet, but I’ve talked to Brad fairly extensively. Enough to understand these aren’t just works of art, or “novelty wood” putters. The will build the loft, lie, and weighting you need into the putter. Most maufacturers you buy are bought without any of those custom considerations. They are the real deal. Plus, the “art” of it

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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Podcasts

TG2: Reviewing Tour Edge Exotics Pro woods, forged irons, and LA Golf shafts

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Reviewing the new Tour Edge Exotics Pro wood lineup, forged irons, and wedge. Maybe more than one makes it into the bag? Fujikura’s MCI iron shafts are some of the smoothest I have ever hit and LA Golf wood shafts get some time on the course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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