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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

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Rick

    Sep 15, 2020 at 12:50 am

    Is Kenny Giannini still in business?
    The website link doesn’t go anywhere. Anyway, tried an anser style and was pretty impressed.

  2. Jim

    Jul 7, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    I have a Precision Milled Hogan Apex HT-1 that I bought new and have been using since the early 90’s. Never knew who designed it until now though.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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 !!!!! 😛

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 Wedge Guy: Setting goals…and achieving them

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Well, here we are, diving right into the new year of 2022 and seeing where this crazy world is going to take us now. I think we will all admit that the past two years have been a bit crazy, with the arrival of COVID changing everything in ways we would never have imagined at this time two years ago. Regardless of your personal thoughts, ideals and emotions about how it has been handled, it’s been crazy, right?

But that’s not what this column is all about. Today I want to offer some thoughts on how to set your own goals for your own golf this year, and then some ideas on how to make those goals a reality.

If your golf – and getting better at it – is important to you, there is no time like right now to decide what you want to do to achieve that objective. Are you willing to spend the time and energy to work on major swing improvements? Or do you just want to try to score better with a minimal amount of time and energy you have for practice and work?

Are you living where you can still get out to the range or course frequently? Or are you stuck inside for another few months until Spring begins to show? Do you have the desire to invest in instructional assistance, or do you pretty much want to do it yourself?

All these are important questions to answer as you decide your goals for 2022. For today, I’m going to address three ways I believe any golfer can improve their scoring measurably in 2022, regardless of how you might answer these questions I’ve posed. You can decide which of these would have the most impact you your golf as you kick off 2022.

IMPROVE YOUR PUTTING

Regardless of your handicap, a great percentage of your shots are taken with that one club. So, if there is any one part of your game that should get the most attention and work, it should be your putting. Begin by analyzing your own putting performance. Do you three-putt too often? If so, is that because your lag putting distance control is off, or your make percentage of short putts is not as good as it could be? Or do you just not convert enough 5-15 footers?

Putter fitting has become much more advanced these days and is usually worth the investment. You might find that the putter itself is ill-suited to your personal tendencies in the stroke and alignment.
If your mechanics are not reliable, an investment in a good putting mat and a few hours a week will offer huge returns, both in short putts made and improving your conversion of more of those 5-15 footers.

HONE YOUR SHORT GAME

Next to putting, you are likely taking more shots inside 50 yards than anywhere else. Even if you are a GIR machine (and few golfers are), those missed greens are what run up your scores. I see so many recreational golfers who just do not have a sound and repeatable technique around the greens, and that costs them with chunks and skulls that run up scores quickly.

I cannot “teach” the short game here, but there are so many good YouTube videos and books/tapes on the subject, you have no excuse to have a poor technique around the greens. Spend some time studying and learning, and practicing in your basement, den or office. It’s a short swing that anyone can execute – but it takes work. And that work will pay huge dividends.

SHARPEN YOUR MENTAL GAME

Regardless of handicap, I believe many bad shots are ‘pre-ordained’ by a poor mental approach. Many golfers do not get their mind right about what exactly they want to do with any given shot. And very few have a set pre-shot routine that gets their mind right so their body can execute the shot. On the course, it is unproductive to try to process swing thoughts; or at least more than one simple one.

When you are facing a shot, you should have a clear picture of what you want the ball to do and a clear mind to get out of your body’s way of trying to execute that vision. The great book and movie “Golf’s Sacred Journey”, but Dr. David Cook, nails it – “See it. Feel it. Trust it.”

I feel certain that one of these three areas of attention can help nearly every one of you improve your golf in 2022. And I hope to be able to offer you more insight and guidance in that endeavor as I write each week. Let me know if you have subjects you would like me to address, OK?

Let’s do this together.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Review of Fujikura’s Ventus Blue TR shaft and new Cobra LTDx drivers

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Fujikura has a new Ventus TR shaft out and it seems to fit right in between the Ventus Blue and Ventus Black. A Slightly stiffer profile and handle section seem to make a tighter and more stable shaft. Cobra has 3 new drivers out for 2022 and I think they are going to do very well. Great ball speed and stability on mishits keep the ball in play.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 American Express: Best prop bets

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Alongside Matt Vincenzi’s chief betting article, here I breakdown this week’s best side bets for the American Express.

 2022 American Express best props

Lucas Glover Top-20 +400

The 2009 U.S open winner has certainly has had his trials and tribulations both on and off the course, but he looked in good shape when finishing in fifth place at the Sony last week and can put up a similar display this week.

When winning the John Deere last year, the 42-year-old broke a 10-year losing streak, and came via a closing best-of-the-day 64 and a tournament ranking of 3rd and 4th for strokes-gained-approach and tee-to-green.

Nothing much changes for Glover in that regard, and it was good to see him return to that standard of play at Waialae when leading the approach stats and ranking second in tee to the short stuff. That he was 30th off-the-tee gives a further boost to his iron game at present and he showed last year that he can keep the game going when finding form – T21/T0/T21/T23 – through the Charles Schwab, RBC Heritage, Travelers and Rocket Mortgage, at least two of those courses with a correlation to this week’s test.

A couple of top-six finishes at The Players show a further liking for Pete Dye designs, and whilst he will never win the prize for best putter, 2016 winner Jason Dufner showed that a solid tee-to-green game can keep you in contention, whilst they both have form at Colonial and at Sawgrass.

Glover’s first four starts here yielded two top-20 and one top-30 finish, whilst I’ll ignore the two recent missed-cuts given they were his first outing of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

The vast majority of winners have played at least two recent competitive rounds before coming to the American Express (and its various guises) and Glover can take encouragement from the vast progress made when down the field at Maui.

Russell Knox Top 20/Top 40 +300 +130

The Scotsman is another that fits with the Dufner/Glover/Henley genre of player.

With an always impressive iron game, it is always encouraging to see players rank highly in approach and greens-in-regulation even if finishing lower than their overall game warranted.

Take, for example, 2021 finishes of 40th and 58th at the RSM and Fortinet. At both, he ranked top-10 for finding the short stuff and continued that form with the irons at last week’s Sony Open, where he ranked 4th for greens, 10th in approach and 8th for overall tee-to-green.

One swallow doth not make a Summer and all that, but he ranked 7th in putting average and inside the top-30 for strokes-gained-putting, a figure that will certainly help him gain his fourth consecutive top-40 here in as many starts.

Alongside finishes of 29th and 37th at this event Knox can also boast a couple of top-20 finishes, the latest 16th a figure that should have been better given a final round 73, he has a win at the Pete Dye River Highlands, and high finishes at Colonial, Harbour Town and Scottsdale.

After a 12-birdie weekend, he comes here in the form that makes me believe anything better than field average on the greens will land the bet.

Luke List Top 10/Top 20 +550/+250

It’s a trio of excellent tee-to-green players this week, and whilst here is another player that often lets himself down with the putter, the case for him to do well is strong enough to make him my play of the week.

Start with his current form, which reads 7th at the Zozo, 11th at Houston and 10th at the Sea Island course. We don’t have full stats for the first-named, but, at the other two, the 37-year-old has ranked top four off-the-tee, and 12th and 17th for approaches, figures that combine to give a ranking of top-four at both for tee-to-green. Also worth noting is that, at both, Luke was inside the top-10 going into Sunday.

That isn’t unusual for the former U.S Amateur runner-up, and once again, it has been the short stick that has let him down. However, rather like the two players above, List should only need to be field average in putting to put up a good show at a course at which he has a best finish of 6th in 2016 and a 21st last year, when a final round 72 saw him fall from an overnight 13th.

List also carries some of the most guarded Pete Dye form, his last win in 2020 being at TPC Sawgrass at Dye’s Valley Course, whilst in 2012 he won his first Korn Ferry event at the South Georgia Classic.

That event was held, until 2014, at Kinderlou Forest on a course designed by Davis Love III, a player that thrived on Dye courses, winning The Players on two occasions and at Harbour Town a total of five times.

Take a deeper dive into a few of the top two finishers at the Georgia track and Brian Stuard, Will Wilcox, Blayne Barber and runner-up Alex Prugh all have form at one or two of either The Heritage, Pheonix, Sawgrass, River Highlands and here at the Bob Hope, as it once was.

In an event that has seen many shocks, and that might be subject to the weather as they rotate around the three courses, I’m happy to be with a player with far more current positives than many at a shorter price.

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