Scotty Cameron on putter trends, why looks matter and the putter he'd never play
A nondescript office building in San Marcos, Calif., serves as the home of the Scotty Cameron Studio. It is filled with the stuff you'd expect to find, like putters, high-speed cameras and accessories. But there are also surfboards, T-shirts, blowtorches, original pieces of art on the walls and old bicycles, which have been sculpted into rocking horses by Cameron himself. The place blends California surf culture, rock 'n roll, a '50s auto repair shop and high-tech golf into a mecca for tour pros who make regular pilgrimages to see the putter guru.
After Cameron gave me a tour of his facility and showed me stuff that would make "Cameron Crazies" drool, we talked about putters, how materials and looks influence your stroke, and more.
Talk about some of the new putters for 2011.
We have the new Laguna (right) that was just introduced, and we have the new Hollywood, and for the end of 2011 we have a new My Girl, which is a limited run of what I believe will be 1,500 pieces. That one will be bubble gum pink, made out of the single billet with the cotton candy pink insert. That's brand-new. We have another one called the Casanova, which will be out in the beginning of January  or the end of December  which is a classic, elegant putter added to the California line.
In 2011 we're going to try to feel where the vibe is—what's being used, what finishes are being liked, what colors are being noticed, what grips are being felt. We'll take ideas that we started with in early 2011 and create products for the end of the tour season and into 2012.
When you say things are getting "noticed" and "felt," does that mean on the PGA Tour or in local pro shops?
The tour and in the collectors' world. We combine the two because the tour guys may like something different than the collectors—the hardcore Cameron collector guys who are really into it. What catches their eyes, or catches a tour pro's eyes, could be two separate things. It could be that the tour pro may not like the leather grip; he likes the Winn grip that we're doing now with the heavy texture. So we're trying to get both angles and put them into the line for late 2011.
Do your putter designs come organically or do you simply make changes and adjustments to existing models?
Concepts and ideas—whether it is a completely new mallet or a completely new Newport—go from wild back to mild. We take prototypes to the tour and then to the collectors. We take what we learn from them and then put it into the product line for Titleist. That normally takes about a year after the prototype before the tour and the collectors are made.
How closely do you watch putter trends on tour and in the retail market, and how does that influence what you create?
I try to be the trendsetter, and hopefully others follow, but I watch trends. Whether it's high-tech stuff, mallets or classic blades, I try to get a feel for where the market is going. I try to guess about three years in advance.
Titleist and Scotty Cameron are the trendsetters of the futuristic type putters. We definitely set the trends, but there are so many bizarre and weird designs out now that we have kind of taken it back to the best of the Futura—wings, heel and toe weight, back weight—and softened the look into the Kombi mallets.
So we have our mallets, we have our blades, and we have our classics in the California series. I watch the reports of what is being used on tour each week and we are about 45%, on average, each week. I watch what pros are asking for, and what they're using, and what's selling in the marketplace and pro shops. So we combine all that and try to stay ahead of the game, not follow the game.
You've got chrome-colored putters, dark-finished putters, and gold-colored putters, but there are putters out there that are white and black too. Are tour pros more open to different colors and shapes these days, or do you think some ideas are simply fads?
Good ideas seem to come back around, like the white putter, which is nothing new. The White Fang Jack Nicklaus used was really a Bull's-Eye back in that day with the fang on the back [Nicklaus won the 1967 U.S. Open with that putter]. These ideas come around. I've done red putters with the Caliente. In my experience there are three colors that sell—not that you can't get far-fetched—but there is black, there is silver, and there is gold.
Adjustability has entered the world of drivers and woods. There are also adjustable putters. Do you see adjustability being the future of putters?
We know what we need to do in order to get performance. What is performance? The ball being the most efficient when it leaves the putter face.
If a guy likes a heavy putter, you don't want to cross the line because weight affects rhythm and timing. If you start experimenting with length and head weight, now you have to be concerned with shaft flex. In a putter? Absolutely, it can become soft and noodley.
Our goal at the end of the day is to make putters that are the most efficient instruments possible and that get the ball in the hole in the most efficient way.
How can the average guy find the best putter to suit his game?
You know, we found that it comes down to simplifying your set up. Setting up better helps your backstroke, and a better backstroke helps your forward stroke because you don't have to manipulate the putter. So how a putter sets up, helps you get proper alignment, and how it looks are all important.
Some people may say they don't care about the looks of a putter as long as the ball goes in the hole. The fact is that the look of the putter helps your setup, and your setup helps your backstroke, which in turn helps to get the ball in the hole. So looks are huge.
Sound is huge too. If a putter has a ping to it or a ding to it, to me that sounds hollow ... but some guys like that.
If the putter is too long, you stand too far back from the ball and the toe goes up. Too short and you get too close to the ball and your eyes get past the point and outside the target line.
So really what you're saying is that the best putters position your body to make a better stroke.
Right. We know there is a proper loft at impact, and that is 4° when the shaft is at 90° [straight up and down]. So if you set up with a forward press, we know we are going to have to add a little more loft. It is very tough for the human eye to see the difference between what happens at 3° and 4° and 5° of loft. That's why we use high-speed cameras here in the studio. With our adjustable weights and inserts, or putters with no insert, we can go work though weight, length, feel, and sound and have players walk out of here knowing what's right.
What's your feeling about inserts? Most of your putters don't have one.
I like inserts. Performance wise, we've found that the ball is not really affected by inserts, but sound and feel are a different story. If we are looking to design a softer putter, we can add an insert. Or we can design the putter in the way so the face becomes thicker; the thicker the face, the thinner and less hollow cavity behind it, and the more solid it feels.
It also comes down to the golf ball you play. The golf ball you play and the putter you use make a difference, but there is not a right or wrong here—it's what you expect to hear.
Has there ever been a putter that you wouldn't use yourself, but that was successful in the marketplace?
Yes, Futura. (right) That was a weighting experiment—completely built for performance. Forget about the looks; performance-wise it may be the best we've ever made. Look-wise, absolutely not my cup of tea.
The Kombi has taken a lot of the key things from the Futura, which was a little hollow sounding. Some people loved it, but the sound was not my cup of tea either. So we took the best of that world and put it into the Kombi—the horseshoe weight, the heel and toe weight—and thickened up the top line to improve the sound. So that was kind of learning from the past and putting into the new.