Fifteen years ago the priciest putter on the market was SlotLine's Inertial, a cast model that cost $72. But Scotty Cameron, then a young designer working for Ray Cook Golf, decided the market was ripe for more exquisite fare—namely, beautiful putters milled from solid blocks of steel. Sure, they would be expensive, the first sold for $300, but they had the luster and precision of fine jewelry, and as Cameron says, "I like the finer things."
Cameron was far from the first to make milled putters—Tour pros had used hand-milled versions by the likes of T.P. Mills and Ray Cook for years—but he was the first to succeed in bringing elegant designs to the mass market. Now milled putters costing $200 or more, like the ones on these pages, account for roughly one in twelve putters sold in the United States, and their popularity continues to grow. Average golfers probably won't sink more putts with these than they will with a well-designed cast models, but milled putters have the same allure of high-end watches. The appeal is kink knowing the manufacturing precision with which they are made and the meticulous work that goes into engraving and burnishing them.
But make no mistake: These are excellent putting instruments. Each club's feel, sound, forgiveness and playability are equal to its aesthetics.
Bettinardi BB-43 ($545)
Bettinardi makes a full line of milled putters, all face-stamped with the company's patented HoneyComb pattern. Bettinardi claims that stamping instead of engraving keeps the face from becoming slightly concave. It also looks cool-especially in the hands of someone like Matt Kuchar, who won this year's Honda Classic using a Bettinardi. The new stainless-steel BB-43 model is evenly weighted on either side of the hosel and features fourteen brass plugs in the lower part of the face (to create a lower center of gravity), and two larger brass ingots in the heel and toe of the rear flange (to promote clubhead stability). Though the center shaft takes some getting used to, the club feels exceptionally solid in hand and sets up well. Call 708-802-7400 or visit bettinardi.com
Copper Stix CS-3 ($399)
The new CS series limits the company's namesake metal to an insert on the milled-carbon-steel head. Founder Bruce Sizemore Jr. likes copper for the low-resonance sound it makes at impact and the feedback it provides through the hands-softer than steel, harder than polymer inserts. The Rifle shaft has an internal structure that helps limit vibration. The CS-3 has a vaguely Aztec look, with its flamingo logo and the steplike stacks on the heel and toe to aid aiming and provide stability. And the face is milled in geometric swirls. The clubhead is surprisingly light and compact, yet the low-vibration sensation at impact is that of a heavier club. Call 888-879-7849 or visit copperstix.com.
Guerin Rife 450 Silencer ($229)
This handsome club has almost no loft and features deep grooves on the face that grip the ball. That combination helps impart forward spin, which the company claims eliminates the initial skidding caused by more-lofted putters and minimizes the effects of grass grain and sidespin caused by slight mis-hits. Along with the weight, the grooves definitely create a soft, secure feel with each stroke. We also found the putter's scoring-line alignment system helpful and easy to use. Call 888-740-7687 or visit guerinrife.com