The Edel Putter
Old World craftsmanship lives on
by John Dunn

David Edel sat back with the satisfied look of a seasoned coach who has helped yet another pupil improve his game. After several adjustments to my loft and lie angle and after changing the shaft and adding more weight to the clubhead I am finally aligned to the target—confirmed by the laser beam that is reflecting off of my clubface directly back down the target line. Besides the laser setup, there is nothing particularly unusual about this scenario... a successful coach turned clubfitter helping an eager student to customize his equipment and play his best. I’ve been fitted before and here I am again, as excited as ever, certain that I am going to shave a few more strokes off of my game. Only this time I’ve left my irons and woods in the car.

I am finally giving the same level of attention and custom treatment to my short game, specifically, my putter. And why not? There is no club in the bag that is used more than the putter, so why is the concept of custom fitting a putter so unusual? Certainly there are a plethora of putter styles available today that utilize many of the latest advancements in design like weight balancing to help keep the clubhead square through impact, polymer inserts to give the putter a softer feel, oversized heads to increase the size of the sweet spot, and an infinite number of alignment systems involving lines and bars, even painted balls.

With so many designs to choose from, how do I know which putter is right for me? Is it simply a matter of personal taste? Is one design truly better than another? According to custom putter maker David Edel, picking the right putter is not just a cosmetic decision, though the look of the putter is an important factor. The loft, lie angle, degree of offset, shaft length, clubhead shape and line configuration all combine to affect alignment and proper alignment is the first step toward developing a solid, repeatable stroke that consistently gets the ball on line and is reliable under pressure.
I watch with considerable interest as Edel takes apart the putter he has just constructed for me during the fitting process, unscrewing the shaft from the putterhead and using an allen key to remove the face plate and the hosel. He returns the individual, machine-milled, stainless steel parts to their proper places on a rack that is impressive in its own right. Hung neatly in rows are six different putterhead styles, each in right and left handed versions, thirty two different hosel types, either L or S shaped with variety of lie angles and different degrees of offset, 25 face plates with lofts ranging from one to five degrees and a selection of shafts from 32 inches to 39 inches in length, plus six belly putter extensions.

This custom putter fitting system is the result of a decade worth of research and design. Edel painstakingly milled and tested each of the individual components, developing a cam-locking system that enables him to assemble them into over thirty million possible putter combinations. Once my personal fitting is complete and Edel is confident he has put together a putter that will help me take dead aim, he notes of all of my personal specifications so he can use them later in his shop to mill me my custom putter from a solid block of stainless steel.

The fitting session began with Edel adhering a small reflective plate to the face of my putter and asking me to line myself up naturally to the hole from about eight feet away. He set up a mirror and a small pen laser directly behind the hole. When I felt comfortable and confident that I was aimed at the target, he turned on the laser. The beam reflected off of my putter face and hit the mirror more than a foot left of the hole. I was flabbergasted. A foot offline from eight feet? He assured me that this was not at all unusual and that he had fitted people who were as much as three feet offline from the same distance. He explained that I was actually only off by a degree or two, but that this slight misalignment became exaggerated the further I moved away from the hole. In other words, I don’t even want to know how far offline I would have been from twenty feet!

Edel made it clear, however, that he was not building me a putter to compensate for my alignment problem, but rather one that would actually help me improve my aim and thereby my stroke. As a veteran instructor, he is not interested in quick fixes and it was initially his desire to improve his own putting that led him to explore the possibility of building custom putters. Through a process of trial and error he discovered that all of the elements of a putter’s design affect the way a person perceives or sees the line. Something as simple as the aiming lines that are etched or painted on top of the head can drastically alter a player’s alignment. Yet, while changing the line configurations is effective, it is usually not enough. In his experience, the most critical factor in a custom fit is the degree of offset and lie angle of the hosel, which is why there are more hosels than any other components in his fitting system. Yet, even the most subjective part of the fitting, the selection of the club head itself, is important.
Edel credits Ping founder Karsten Solheim with being the first to recognize this, pointing out that many of the popular putters on the market today are derived from classic Ping designs like the Answer, the A-blade, the Zing, the Pal and others. Solheim even recognized the value of offering different hosel types in the same club head. For example, the Answer two had an L-shaped hosel while the Answer four had a slant hosel. In fact, over the years Ping has introduced so many innovative putter shapes that it is possible to do a fitting based on Solheim designs alone, but it would not be a custom fit and therein lies the difference between owning an Edel putter and the latest, greatest model off of the shelf. No matter how pretty or shiny or fancy it is, a mass-manufactured putter is built to very general specifications, no doubt tested on some Iron Byron-style, robotic putting machine that cannot possibly take into account all of the physical and mental attributes that make each of our strokes unique.
Edel does not claim to be an innovator in putter design or even a pioneer in club making, respectfully reserving that distinction for the likes of Solheim. But he does bring to his craft a unique combination of skills that distinguishes him from his contemporaries. As an engineer he is meticulous, using only the highest quality materials and overseeing every step of a putter’s creation right down to the final polish and personal engraving. As a teacher and club fitter, he has dedicated years to developing what is by far the most comprehensive putter fitting system on the market today. With a growing number of expensive, signature putters appearing on the shelves by esteemed designers like Scotty Cameron and Bob Bettinardi, golfers are now faced with a serious decision. Gone are the days of stomping into the pro shop after a bad outing on the greens and buying a new putter on a whim. Now, the purchase of a putter, like that of a driver or a set of irons, is an investment. And Edel’s fitting system is there to ensure a golfer makes the right investment, that the putter he buys will provide him with tangible results and not just end up as another pretty addition to the spare bag in the basement.

Edel has handed me back my dinged, lead tape laden blade (and I fear that the spare bag is just where she is headed). After stepping away from the mirror and taking a few strokes to re-adjust to the look of my old friend, I do my very best to line myself up to the hole. Yet, when he turns on the laser it once again beams back a foot left of the target. With a shuffle of my feet and a tweak of my shoulders, I am able to square myself up. But the truth is I feel like I am aimed way right when I do it. To reassure me that the past hour of hard work was not spent in vain, he once again hands me the prototype of my new Edel putter and I am able to line myself up perfectly in seconds.
The remarkable thing is when I feel like I am aimed at the hole, I actually am! Edel explains that this is because he is not only building me a putter that is custom fit to my body type and stroke, but also to my eyes and the way I see the line. Thanks to David Edel, I will never look at a putter the same way again.

Edel Golf custom putter fitting systems are available at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Carmel, CA; PGA Tour Super Store, Atlanta, GA; Chuck Cook Golf Academy, Austin, TX; Mike McGetrick Golf Academy, Denver, CO; Mike Schy Golf Academy, Fresno, CA; Heritage Golf, St. Andrew’s Scotland; and his own custom fitting studio, putting green and Bed and Breakfast Inn on the Umpqua River in Reedsport, Oregon, just an hour north of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.


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