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 [email protected] 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.
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