For $350, a Cameron-trained fitter in the sleek, wood-trimmed Encinitas, Calif., gallery will give you a two-hour, tour-caliber fitting with a battery of cameras and lasers.
At the end, you can spend $550 and up on a made-to-order version of one of Cameron’s three lines of putters—or, if they aren’t sold out, $2,500 and up on one of the tour prototypes lining the walls.
In Nashville, Uselton (given name: Kenneth) heads out into 100-degree heat to sweat for nine hours at the work bench in his 200-square-foot shed, stepping over his dog to hand-shape his one-of-a-kind Xenon Golf putters for a devoted band of Internet followers and word-of-mouth referrals. They spend $260 and up and wait six weeks for one of the 150 or so pieces Uselton will make this year—often sight unseen until Uselton snaps pictures of them leaning against the oak tree in his yard.
Uselton’s Xenon and a handful of similar one-man operations can flourish in the Cameron-dominated bespoke putter world thanks to enthusiast websites like PutterTalk.com and GolfWRX.com, which have menus of individual message boards devoted to puttermakers large and small.
Instead of walking the floor of the PGA Merchandise Show in January with prototypes in hand and fighting to get distribution in a golf shop or big-box store, a new generation of craftsmen is selling uniqueness, design input and personal attention direct until it pays to quit the day job.
“Ten years ago, I started studying Ping putters, and I just got obsessed,” says Uselton, 45, a former factory supervisor who started out refinishing Ping beryllium irons in his garage and eventually became one of the foremost authorities on vintage Ping putters and the moderator on PutterTalk’s Ping message board. “But a lot of the stuff made in the last 20 years doesn’t look any different than what Karsten [Solheim] was doing. I got tired of it and decided I wanted to make something different.”
Uselton bought a second-hand milling machine for $600 in 2008, ran electricity to his shed and started experimenting. “It took me two or three years to teach myself the right tooling to make the cleanest cuts and save the most time,” says Uselton, who started making putters full-time in 2012, when the plastics plant where he worked closed. “My dad is a retired pipe fitter, so I’d go over there and get a crash course in welding. Now, I can tell if a part isn’t exactly right just by looking at it.”
Thanks for reading – The strange world of one-of-a-kind world of custom putter fitting.