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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
High School reunion golf: When 58 feels like 18 again
Eric and David were winning our match as we approached the halfway point of the back nine at Falls Road Golf Club in Potomac, Md. But when my partner, Chip, yes, chipped in for eagle, their 15-footer for eagle suddenly seemed doubly long. David’s exuberant fist pump after draining his putt to match us said it all – the juices were flowing, and the match wasn’t going to be lost due to lackluster play or attitude. That we were paired together in a reunion tournament 40 years after the Class of 1978 graduated from Winston Churchill High School mattered not. We were athletes then – all four of us played on a Maryland state championship football team together – and, by gosh, our competitiveness was on full throttle now.
The years melted away as we traded stories about yesteryear and we learned about each other’s lives in the four-decade interim. Family and golf are shared passions, and our match showed it. While we were happily catching up in laughs and nostalgia, both teams clearly wanted to win. For bragging rights, of course. Once competitors, always competitors.
Cut to the past: David and Chip went on to play college baseball, while I stayed briefly with football, and Eric went forward playing basketball. Eric was such a gifted athlete that he not only quarterbacked our high school team to a senior year state championship (we also won it our junior year), he led the basketball team to a state title as well. A hoops scholarship to Georgetown followed, where he captained Coach John Thompson’s team his senior year. His teammates included Patrick Ewing, now Georgetown’s coach, among others. If you want to see Eric in action, Google “Michael Jordan game-winning jump shot in national championship.” You’ll find video clips of Eric (pictured below) running at Jordan a hair too late to stop His Airness from elevating and nailing the game-winning jump shot for North Carolina.
All to say that competition and living the athletic physical life contributed to our formation as people, and while we’re well removed from our peak years, we continue to pursue the pleasure that such activities afford. I’m still playing competitive baseball, and I’m trying to get David to join my team for the coming season, and a few other guys who I ran into at the reunion party the next night – Jimmy Flaikas, Mitch Orcutt, and Brian Hacker. How great it would be for us five former high school baseball teammates to be back on the diamond together. Priceless!
Jimmy and David have concerns about the physical demands, among other things, and whether their bodies are up to it. They’re both in great shape, so I’m confident they would do well. But they’re wise to weigh this carefully; discretion is the better part of valor when aging, after all. And that’s why golf is ideally suited to our current places in the circle of life. No torn meniscus or sprained ankles to be suffered, no concussions or broken bones forthcoming. Instead, we carelessly joked and competed with joyful appreciation of reconnecting through the game during our reunion weekend.
That golf is a lifelong game is one of its most appealing aspects. Perhaps it’s even an after-life game, as two elderly gentlemen illuminated. Lifelong friends now in their 80s, one of them fell deathly ill. His friend visited one last time and they reminisced about the good times shared through the game. As they parted, the friend said to his dying companion, “Do me a favor – let me know if there’s golf in heaven when you get there.” His friend promised he would and then he passed on peacefully that night. The next night, his friend was sleeping when he heard a voice. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, there’s golf in heaven; the bad news is, you have a tee time tomorrow morning.”
Fore! Now and forever.
Hidden Gem of the Day: Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana
These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!
Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member AUTIGER07, who takes us to Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana. From the horse’s mouth, Bear Slide Golf Club offers a “Scottish links-style front nine and a traditional style back nine”, and in AUTIGER07’s description of the course, he highlights the tracks excellent variety of different holes on offer.
“Played this quite a bit when I lived in Indianapolis. Was always in really solid shape and the course provides a good mix of short-to-long holes. Pace of play used to be very enjoyable, and you never felt “rushed” during the round.”
According to Bear Slide Golf Club’s website, 18 holes around the course during the week will set you back $39, while the rate rises to $55 if you want to play on the weekend.
The 19th Hole (Ep 63): Valentino Dixon talks Golf Channel documentary; Marvin Bush remembers his father
Valentino Dixon shares his amazing story in an exclusive interview with Michael Williams. Also in this episode: a tribute to George H.W. Bush, featuring a conversation with his youngest son, Marvin.
featured image c/o Golf Channel
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