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Putters an exact science to Edel


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May 4, 2011, 12:27AM



Courtesy of Edel Putters

Building a putter in his shop outside Austin is a painstaking chore for David Edel.


David Edel might not be Scotty Cameron, but his name might be garnering just as much respect with many golfers.


While Edel doesn't have the backing of a major equipment manufacturer like Cameron does, his putters are showing up in the bags of tour professionals, top amateurs and players who are serious about their flat sticks.


Edel, a PGA teaching professional and former Henry-Griffitts fitter who several years ago turned his attention to solving his own shortcomings on the greens, has developed the world's most comprehensive putter fitting process. He builds his putters one at a time at an airplane hangar just outside Austin in Liberty Hill.


He constructs the putters to specifications, generally arrived at in a fitting process that can produce millions of combinations. The idea is to match the look, weight, loft, length and shaft flex to a golfer's perceptions of aim and feel so the golfer doesn't have to adjust to the putter.


While most putter companies today have fitting carts, Edel takes it to a new level. In a process that starts with figuring out a player's aim biases, Edel Putter fitters claim they can help a player improve aim and aid the quality of the stroke through these tendencies.


"Other static systems may only have 1,000 combinations," said Edel, whose intricately machined stainless steel putters range from about $300 to $800. "But when you start looking at five loft plates, six heads, 30 line (marking) combinations, at least 45 hosels, length and weight variables, we can manufacture up to 300 million combinations."


Taking aim

In the Houston area, there are only two Edel Putter dealer/fitters — Matt Swanson of the Swanson Golf Center in the Champions area, and Alan Hodde, a teaching professional at the Golf Performance Center at The Woodlands Country Club.


A fitting session can last up to two hours, and it's usually more of a combination of fitting, putting lesson and putting education before it's done. But every fitting session starts out with the key to building and recommending putters: aim. And to foster that, Hodde uses a laser that bounces off a mirror attached to the face of a putter to determine where a player is truly aiming.


Players of all skill levels seem to show consistency in their aim bias based on certain models, looks and even colors. And even the pros can be way off on their perceived and actual aim, up to 10 feet in some cases, before they are reeled in. According to Edel, when players aim incorrectly, they will subconsciously manipulate their stroke to compensate. This often sets off a chain of events, which can even lead to the yips.


"One of the reasons David focuses more on the aim piece and doesn't really talk about the stroke is generally if you can get somebody to aim better and they can control their speed, their stroke will take care of itself," Hodde said.


While aim might be the starting point, it is only one part of what Edel calls the Putting Triad. The other two elements are path and speed control. Path often takes care of itself with the aim modifiers in the fitting process, but speed control is greatly affected by the weight of the putter and how it's distributed.


Hodde determines the combination, which can include counterweighting near the grip, by having a golfer roll putts to a string laid down horizontally about 15 feet away. Amazingly, when he finds the right formula, a player will consistently roll putts within a revolution of the string nearly every time.


Heavy duty

Edel also realizes players need different putter specifications based on greens conditions, which is why he now offers putters that have variable lofts and weights. He said one myth players hold is that heavier putters work better on slower greens. It's actually just the opposite, he said, which is why putters on average are more than 30 percent heavier today than they were 30 or 40 years ago despite greens speeds increasing.


"In general, lighter things move faster, and heavier things move slower," Edel said. "So if you put a heavier putter in somebody's hand, it moves slower."


And having a variable weight putter can simplify the process when players go to different golf courses with different greens, Hodde said.


"I think for players in tournament competition or for the traveling golfer, variable weight is a no-brainer," he said. "It enables them to quickly change the weight of the putter without having to go through a mental compensation for the varying speeds of the greens."


Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer for the TravelGolf Network, a division of the Golf Channel. He can be contacted at mbailey@worldgolf.com.

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The Edel process and product is very impressive.



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