Great Moments in Putter History
From the beginning, the long clubs have gotten all the attention. It’s just not fair—the real glory is earned on the green. Even so, putters have a long, illustrious history. The earliest, specialized putting clubs, called cleeks, first appeared more than 300 years ago, and the evolution continues to this day.
Here are a few of the highlights of this 300-year evolution. Enjoy.
18th Century – Simon Cossar’s Putter
Simon Cossar of Leith creates the first documented golf club specifically designed for putting. Though preceded by the “putting cleek,” which had a hardwood head and a shaft of ash or hazlewood, Cossar’s putter used an iron head. An original Cossar putter recently sold at auction for more than $150,000!
1848 – The Gutta-Percha Golf Ball
The rise in popularity of the iron-headed putter in the latter part of the 1800s is largely attributed to the invention of the Gutta-Percha golf ball. Unlike earlier golf balls, these new balls were inexpensive and durable—made from the rubbery sap of the tropical Gutta-Percha tree. Since the balls were (finally) built to last, it opened the door for some serious hardware.
1904 – Schenectady Putter
Walter Travis became the first foreigner to win the British Amateur with the Schenectady Putter, created by A.F. Knight of Schenectady, New York. The Royal and Ancients promptly banned the Schenectady Putter, triggering a decades-long argument with the USGA over center-shafted putters. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1951, thus securing the Schenectady Putter’s place in golf history.
1930 – The Calamity Jane Putter
By the time Bobby Jones was given the original Calamity Jane Putter, it was already 20 years old, and pretty beat up. Nonetheless, he used it to win his first three majors, then went on to win ten more with Calamity Jane II, an exact replica he had made of the first one. So, what’s the most famous putter in history worth today? “Low seven figures,” says USGA museum director Rand Jerris.
1966 – The Ping Anser Putter
Seven years after designing the original Ping Putter, its creator, Karsten Solheim, designed the Ping Anser Putter. Solheim moved the shaft off the heel, created a goose-neck style hosel, and introduced the putting world to toe/heel weighting. The Anser Putter gained recognition with Julius Boros’ Phoenix Open Tour victory in 1967. 50 years later, nearly every putter utilizes toe/heel weighting.
1980 – The Billy Baroo
Not necessarily a great leap forward in putter technology, the Billy Baroo was the beneficiary of circumstance. The putter was immortalized in what is arguably the greatest golf movie of all time—1980’s Caddyshack. The Billy Baroo was chosen when producer Doug Kenney asked a staff member of the Rolling Hills Country Club, where the scene was being shot, to bring a special putter to be used by Judge Smails (Ted Knight) in one of the final scenes. The rest is cinematic history.
1996 – Odyssey Dual Force Rossie 2
Although released a couple years prior, the Odyssey Dual Force Rossie 2 was thrust into the spotlight with Nick Faldo’s 1996 Masters win. This mallet-headed putter with an S-bend shaft was one of the first to use a face insert of lighter, softer metal for increased accuracy. There’s no question the Dual Force Rossie 2 revolutionized putter design—some enthusiasts claim it’s the world’s most famous putter.
The putter doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. There have been moments, however, when the putter has spent a few well-deserved moments as the center of attention. We think it deserves much, much more attention, but the humble putter will probably quietly soldier into the future, making history but rarely enjoying the spotlight.
Matt at TruGolf.com
Matt is an avid golf enthusiast and part of the TruGolf.com team. When he’s not working on his fairway shot, you will find Matt writing about his passion for the process of the game.