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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2022 Sony Open prop bets: Why Kevin Na is the man to back in Hawaii
Across the bay this week to Waialae and, as always, the idea behind the prop bets column is to highlight some of the side bets available away from the win market, covered by colleague Matt Vincenzi.
Here are the three players for you to take a look at this week on some side markets in Hawaii.
Kevin Na Top 5/Top 10 +550/+275
It was extremely tempting to get with Marc Leishman, but his price has now disappeared and Kevin Na rates better value to nab a place on the front page of the leaderboard.
Both played well last week with world number 27, Na, continuing a season of excellent results that started when winning here last year and concluding with his fifth win in four years at the season-ending Tour Championship.
That win from a high-class field came via a top-15 at Augusta, and a pair of tied-second placings at the John Deere and, more significantly, at Sedgefield amongst a top-10 that included winner Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, two of those being past winners at this event.
Looking down the list of best finishes, the 38-year-old repeats form at the same places, winning twice at the Shriners and medalling at the FBR (Pheonix) Open, no surprises given the skill set required – forget driving distance, get it on the fairway, and give yourself a chance.
Figures at the Plantation course read well given the length of the track, and he comes here having improved his 2021 finish by 25 places.
With a victory and three top-10 finishes at Waialae already in the bag, he can go very close to joining Ernie Els and Jimmy Walker as two-time winners.
Aaron Rai Top 10/Top 20 +700/+330
It’s nearly five years since the 26-year-old took the Challenge Tour apart with three victories before the middle of Summer and he hasn’t stopped since, justifying his lofty reputation.
Like many of the more tactical players in the game (Simpson, Kisner, Na et al. ) Rai is far more a thinker than a bomber, his win in the horrendous conditions of the Scottish Open a testament to the patience and game-play he shows from week to week.
Whilst he, perhaps, should have won the Irish Open the week before, he succumbed only to another accurate short game wizard in John Catlin before ending the year high in the lists of everything that involves accuracy over strength.
It’s taken a short while for Rai to settle on the PGA tour via a runner-up on the Korn Ferry tour and the finals, but results at the end of 2021 suggest if he gets the right conditions, he can compete in this grade.
Three consecutive top-20 finishes read well – at Mayakoba (where four players have won there and at this week’s track), Houston and at the RSM Classic, the Sea Island track giving form links with Kisner and Simpson again as well as Charles Howell III, winner at the coastal track and with ten top-10 finishes here.
Rai is tidy off the tee, rarely ranking outside of the top-20 for accuracy, thinks hard when calculating his approach shots, and this is almost a perfect course for him. As discussed on the Across The Pond podcast, it’s doubtful that he will hole enough to get to the winning number, but he is young and ambitious enough to continue to improve, and any repeat of results over the last couple of months of last season will see him land the wager.
Aaron Rai to be Top English player +120
I make the case for Rai above, and surely anything near his better play will be enough to see off David Skinns, Callum Tarren and Luke Donald at a generous odds-against.
As with Leishman last week, it is not only the strength of one but the weakness of the opposition that makes a valid play, and I see no reason or how there is any evidence to support any of the other three combatants.
Consider that 44-year-old Donald has seen much better days, with just a couple of top-10 finishes in four years and little to speak of since a top-20 at the 3M Open. Het he looks the only real alternative given the zero encouragements from the remaining pair. That isn’t saying much.
Skinns is a PGA rookie at 39 years of age, lost strokes everywhere from tee-to-green in all four PGA starts at the end of last season, has never played here and simply can’t hold a candle to Rai’s standard level of form, whether that be top-15 at Wentworth or 26th at the WGC St Jude. Cross him out.
Tarren at least may have a semblance of improvement there but has failed to win anywhere as a professional.
Winless at a much lower level, he missed the cut at the KFT finals before starting his PGA career with three missed-cuts. In between those, the Englishman was disqualified at the Bermuda Championship for incorrectly signing his card at halfway, although he was almost certain to miss the weekend, anyway.
Odds against? Yummy. Bet of the week.
Brian Stuard – Top 10/Top 20/Top-40 +1000/+400/+150
A tad more speculative, take the 39-year-old to be ready enough to make a profit at one of his favourite courses.
Looking over his history, Stuard has appeared on the upper echelons of the leaderboard at Mayakoba, Sea Island, at Riviera and at the Pheonix Open. All courses that link to players that have placed at Waialae over the past few years.
In amongst a series of missed cuts in 2021, Stuard finished tied-6th at the 3M but more significantly, top-15 at Sedgefield and in the top-10 at the John Deere, surrounded by Kevin Na, Patton Kizzire and Russell Henley, all winners here at the Sony.
Returning at a course on which he has four top-10 finishes from nine starts, expect to prove better than his outright odds show.
Finally, I won’t put the bet up as it is odds-on but with Abraham Ancer playing some of the worst golf of recent years at last week’s event, course specialist Russell Henley is well worth a look in a pick-em betting heat.
Finishing his season with a couple of top-7 finishes in a run of eight cuts made, he also boasts three top-20 finishes alongside the win here, a figure that far outstrips his opponent’s best of 29th and two missed-cuts in four tries.
Your choice, but I’d have made the older man a touch shorter in the market.
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