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Opinion & Analysis

Putter Veteran Kenny Giannini introduces Custom Line of Putters

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Kenny Giannini putting the finishing touches on one of his putters. Photo credit: Kristy-Lynn Polowich

You’d be forgiven if the name Kenny Giannini didn’t leap off the page, but in all honesty, he might be one of the more famous putter makers a lot of people have never heard of. Kenny has been making putters for the better part of 35 years for companies like Hogan, Cleveland, Mizuno, and now under his own name. I had some time to catch up with Kenny about his products, what makes them stand out in the marketplace, and also about the launch of his custom line of putters.

Let’s go way back to when this whole thing started. What was that like at the beginning of milled putters? Whose idea was that, and how did that come about?

Well, I was playing golf in Hawaii back in the early eighties and I had been paired with a guy who was the CEO of a company in New York. I was using a TP Mills putter at the time, and this guy I was playing with wanted my putter really bad. So, he kept trying to buy it from me and I said, “No way. It’s not for sale.” He said, “Everything’s for sale.” Finally, I caved and said, “Okay, fine. $5,000.” He wrote me a check right there on the spot. After that, I was sitting on the beach thinking about what had just happened, and I just came to the obvious conclusion that of course there was a market for this. So, I flew back to the mainland and two weeks later I had a prototype together.

Shortly after that, I had a contract with Hogan to do the Apex putters, which was the first milled putter. After that deal kind of went south, Roger Cleveland called me up and asked me to make putters for him. He and I had a lot of success back then, and a lot of guys on Tour were using my putters. Mark O’Meara had one, and he won a Crosby [referring to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament] with it and wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Nowadays, milled putters are everywhere, but back then being one of the first guys doing it, what was that like? Did it take a lot of trial and error to get it right?

Well, I’m a golfer first and foremost, so I knew what I wanted. I’ve learned a little bit about machining and welding over the years, but I would not classify myself as a machinist. Being a golfer first, though, means I know how putters are supposed to work. When I put a putter on the ground, it better sit dead square. I’m absolutely nuts about that. That’s the most important thing to me. Recently, I met a kid that had just qualified for the [Mackenzie] Tour, and he had had a putter fit for him by a reputable company. He handed it to me, I looked at it, and I said, “Something doesn’t look right.” I got him into one of my putters and the guy goes out, makes 17 putts in a row with my putter and shoots a 61.

Kenny Giannini custom putters ready to meet their owners.  Photo credit: Kristy-Lynn Polowich

So flash forward to today. You now have your own line of putters sold under your own name. The game is totally different nowadays, though, if you will. There are a lot of people doing milled putters now. What do you think sets your products apart from all the other putter guys out there?

Well, the biggest thing is experience. You know, there’s a lot of great putters on the market, but I will say I’ve never paid anyone a nickel to play with one of my putters. Ever. In spite of that, a lot of professionals have wound up playing my putters over the years. I remember there was a huge poster of Arnold Palmer in a golf repair shop I walked into, and when I looked closely at it I realized he was using one of my putters. Obviously, I knew I’d made him some putters back then, but I was surprised to see my putter in the photo. I think a lot of that speaks for itself. I consider myself a pretty low-profile guy. I’m not an egomaniac. My actual cell phone number is right there on my website. You don’t have to go through six secretaries to get to me.

You’ve been playing this game a long time. There’s a lot of buzz nowadays about inserts and milled groove patterns on the face of the putter. They’re said to achieve consistency and improved forward roll. Do these things help or not in your opinion? Why or why not?

To be honest, I don’t really care what everyone else does. I’m my own guy. I do what I think is right, not what everyone else is doing. I personally don’t believe in inserts for a couple of different reasons. The biggest thing for me is that putting is all about feel. That’s why I prefer to use carbon steel and a black oxide finish. The PVD finishes have two coats of nickel under the black, so it completely changes the feel, which is why I went back to black oxide. Black oxide does require some maintenance, but the feel is so much better and you’re getting the exact roll with it. Apart from testing all of the putters we make, I’ve been using the same putter for 33 years. That putter has never had a head cover and it’s never been refinished. It does have a little rust on it, but it feels better and it ultimately rolls putts better. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. When we did putters for Cleveland, we had less than five returned because of rusting due to the black oxide finish. Also, guys nowadays are wanting putters 350 grams and up. The putters we did at Cleveland were 325 grams (+3/-0). Personally, I like it right around 340 grams.

I don’t want my putter to be a billboard. I don’t want the golfer to look at all the alignment lines on the putter going back. He’d better be looking at the ball. You know, less is more sometimes. I can make my putter look any way I want. I don’t want anything to distract the player. That’s also why I like finishes that will not reflect the sunlight back into your eyes.

Golfers today think nothing of buying a $600 driver and then going and putting a $350 aftermarket shaft in it, but they’ll only hit that club 14 times each round. It won’t take that many strokes off their game. A great amateur golfer uses the putter 36 times. That’s how you take strokes off your game. The putter is the club you want to invest in.

Kenny Giannini Legacy 3 blade putter in action on the course.  Photo credit: Kristy-Lynn Polowich

“Soft Scooped Face” is something I see a lot on your webpage. Tell me about the tech going on there with your putters.

I originally did that a long time ago and then pulled it away. There’s a cutout on the bottom of the putter. The whole logic is to keep the face of the putter square at impact regardless of where you hit it on the face (towards the toe or the heel). It basically moves mass out to the toe and the heel.

Where do most of your inspiration come from when you’re generating new products? Current customer feedback? What your competitors are doing? What’s out on Tour?

Most of the time, I do it on my own. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a putter that hasn’t sold, and I’m very grateful for that. You know, I’m a golfer first, so I develop my products based on what golfers need. That being said, I’ve had some happy accidents where I was making something else and the machine accidentally cut too much off and I wound up thinking, “Wow, does this look good!” Like I said earlier, though, my putters have won a lot of money, so that speaks for itself I think. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I will also say that I listen to my customers regardless if they’re a 20-handicap or a plus-six. That customer feedback is incredibly important to developing a great product.

Kenny Giannini Legacy 2 mallet-style putter with “Soft Scooped Face.”  Photo credit: Kristy-Lynn Polowich

So if I’m not mistaken, the big news is that Giannini is now launching a line of custom putters. Tell me about the possibilities lying under the surface and how to partake should one desire.

Yes, we are launching a line of custom putters now to go along with what I call my Legacy line of products. I have eight heads available in the custom shop. You can call up and say, “I want head No. 3 and I want a plumber’s neck hosel welded onto the head 1.9 inches from the center of the putter,” for example. It just helps tremendously that if you have something very specific in mind, you go to the website (http://www.gianninigolf.com), call me directly at 817-304-3717, and you will know exactly what you’re going to get.

Even if it’s something not listed on the website, I want to be able to talk to you and get you exactly what you want. I don’t want unhappy customers. Even if you want a PVD finish or a specific, heavy head weight, I’ll do it regardless of what I prefer. And by the way, I can honestly say I put my hands on every putter that comes through our shop.

I would also encourage people to stay tuned to our website, as we will continue to add more products to the Legacy lineup and more options to the custom shop as well.  We intend to be very active on the website in the near future.

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  • Kenny Giannini custom putter

  • Kenny Giannini custom putter

  • Kenny Giannini custom putter

  • Kenny Giannini putting the finishing touches on one of his putters. Photo credit: Kristy-Lynn Polowich

  • Kenny Giannini custom putters

  • Kenny Giannini blade putter in action on the course.

  • Kenny Giannini mallet style putter with soft scooped face technology.

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

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rick

    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    I have 2 Giannini putters and they are amazing. Better than any Cameron I’ve ever used, and a fair price.

    • the dude

      Jul 9, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      What is so amazing about them?..and why better than any Cameron?

  2. Man

    Jul 9, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Soft scooped? You mean a slot on the sole? Like so many of the same idea out there? lmao

    • ogo

      Jul 9, 2018 at 9:44 am

      Soft Scooped Face is a silly feature because the weight shifted to the heel and toe is insignificant. It’s just marketing to the neurotic.

  3. Harambe

    Jul 8, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    These are spectacular putters. Have had one for 5 years now. Amazing feel, look, balance, milling pattern. Qualtiy craftmanship that blows other putters in that marketplace out of the water.

    • gif

      Jul 9, 2018 at 9:46 am

      I believe you… and I’m gonna buy one… mehbe two !!!!! 😛

  4. Joe

    Jul 8, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    I wish him success and look forward to seeing in person some of his putters. However, a quote in the article is very misplaced, Quote: ” A great amateur golfer uses the putter 36 times. ”

    I am far from a great amateur golfer but if I averaged 36 putts a round would take up bowling. I would think that a Great amateur golfer would be under 30 putts around.

    • ogo

      Jul 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      …and the putter design is not the governing factor since most pro and good ams do not buy these vanity putters. They stick with their trusty ol’ putter from 1995… or play the putter brand that sponsors the pro. The market for these putters is goffers who have more money than brain or talent… and want to flaunt their latest toy.

  5. ogo

    Jul 8, 2018 at 11:33 am

    These are the crème de la crème of custom designed putters and for only a pittance… $365 – $550 (grips and covers extra). Only a veteran putter maker can inject that magic into the custom designs and machining to high tolerances for the discriminating golf aficionado.

  6. Walter Mallett

    Jul 8, 2018 at 11:31 am

    The drawing for the free putter was January 31, 2018. WTF?

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Akshay Bhatia

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with rookie phenom and Walker Cup Player Akshay Bhatia.

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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