Putters are weird. They do one thing, which is putt the ball, and they’ve all done it reasonably well for at least six decades. Some putters are heavier or longer or have bigger heads than others, and they’re all weighted a little differently, but basically, a putter that was pretty good 35 years ago will be just as good as a new one because putters are about controlling the distance the ball goes and everyone has different things that they do in order to achieve that. But since the only thing a putter has to do is make the ball roll forward when you hit it, a putter can be anything. Please refer to this article that came up when I googled “weird putters”
if you have any questions.
The point I’m trying to make here is that many years ago, my uncle Chuck gave me a putter that he’d made in his garage. He’s not a professional or even amateur puttersmith, so I don’t necessarily know why he made it, beyond the fact that he is Uncle Chuck and these are the sorts of things that Uncle Chuck does. He used to be in the pool business, like the billiards-style pool business not the water-style pool business, and as a result, he has done a lot of interesting things and is very happy to tell you all about them. A long time ago he managed of a pool hall in Chicago and was one of the handful of people in the city that roving pool hustlers had to play in order to prove their mettle and earn enough respect from the local pool sharks that they’d introduce them to the biggest jacuzzi salesman in the city who made up for what he lacked in hand-eye coordination with a severe gambling addiction. (I swear I’m not making any of this up, or that if I am, it’s not that it’s intentional, it’s just that it’s been a few years since Uncle Chuck told me about this stuff so I might be getting some of the details wrong.)
Sometimes, when he wanted to make a little extra money, or maybe just when he felt like it, he’d drive somewhere like Gary, Indiana and find a bar just outside of town with good parking and some pool tables inside and hustle people himself. His strategy was to go inside and order a Coca-Cola, fumble around at an empty pool table until a mark came up to him asking to play for money, sandbag the first couple games so that the mark thought he was sharking him, then go sicko mode on the guy. Having a good parking spot was key, he said, because it was pretty common that he’d piss somebody off by hustling them and he’d need to jet. The bar had to be just outside of town so that he didn’t have to deal with stoplights when doing said jetting. Oh, another thing he told me was that if he had to pee he’d never go to the bathroom directly after the person he was playing a money game with since they might come back from the bathroom with a bunch of soap on their hands and spike his drink with soap while he was peeing (apparently, ingesting soap makes you need to poop, which messes with your concentration). Also, he said he always watched out for guys who went to the bathroom too much, because that meant they were probably on coke which meant they probably had someone bankrolling them which means there’s two people who wanted to beat him up after he’d hustled them instead of just one. I don’t know how frequently he pulled this trick or how long he managed a pool hall for, but I feel like the answer to both of these questions is probably “more than zero,” and I say that in part because I’ve seen Uncle Chuck play pool many times and he is extremely good at it.
Later, Uncle Chuck moved to Charlotte and gave pool lessons and made custom cues for people, which I think is how he wound up having the equipment you’d need to just casually decide to make a putter one day. The putter is made out of a big block of some type of metal that he clearly spent a lot of time hollowing out and making balanced and stuff, and when it came time to put a shaft in it, he epoxied in the bottom half half of a pool cue he had laying around for the putter shaft, slapped a grip on the top, and called it a day. The fact that it was a pool cue was important, because my uncle was convinced that the best way to putt was lowering yourself as close to the ground as humanly possible and those things are like 29 inches long. I can’t remember when he actually gave it to me or if this one was just a prototype or something and he was planning on making another one, but at some point when I was in college, it ended up in my golf bag, and stayed there even when I was in New York/LA and did not physically have my golf clubs with me. When I started playing golf again about six years ago, the putter was still there, and I didn’t have any money for new clubs, so I used it again, and kept using it for about three years until the shaft, which again was just half a pool stick, started cracking and became about as stable as a loose tooth. That’s when I got a real putter, or rather, like four real putters, each of which I hated.
The thing about the putter that Uncle Chuck made is that it is not normal. I have no idea what it’s made out of. Probably steel? Definitely metal, and definitely some sort of metal that rusts. When I use it I barely have to touch the ball to make it go like 18 feet. It’s center-shafted and face-balanced, meaning that the shaft goes in the middle of the club as opposed to the heel side, and if you lay it on a table the face will point upwards (lots of putters are designed so that the toe points somewhat down, which is because you’re supposed to putt with an arc in your stroke and somehow this type of weighting encourages this). It makes a “plink” sound when you putt the ball, while most putters are in a lower, “thwop”-y register. The Chuck putter kind of ruined non-Chuck putters for me, since most of them have inserts on the face that deaden the force with which you strike the ball, which has left me with an unfortunate habit of leaving putts short and wondering why they didn’t just go “plink.” Or maybe I should say that I spent so much time using the Chuck putter that I calibrated my putting stroke to that one specifically, and I haven’t been able to find anything that works quite as well.
After the head of the Chuck putter broke off from its shaft, it spent a couple years riding shotgun in my golf bag as I experimented with different potential replacements. Eventually, I gave up and realized that one of the club repair people at my local pro shop might be able to find a new shaft for it. It turns out that the pro shop people had an old fairway wood shaft laying around in the back that fit into my putter perfectly, and I could have gotten it fixed in approximately two hours if I had just thought to ask them earlier. Once I got it back, my golf teacher told me I needed to add some sort of alignment aid to help me aim the ball better, so I went on Amazon and I ordered a hammer and sickle sticker plus some googly eyes and stuck them on the putter. So now this is my putter.