Last week, JK and I had a talk about possible ways to help me improve my ability to hit greens in regulation.  At that time, I was hitting my irons crisply and to consistent distances, but was still having problems controlling trajectory.  This resulted in a lot of greens missed but with the ball pin high a few yards off-line.  My problem was becoming more pronounced in the windy conditions I typically face in Northern California.  After shooting a career round the previous Saturday, I sat down and evaluated my round.  Of the 8 greens I missed, 5 were missed left, two long, and two short.  The three misses to the right were with wedges, or were from the left rough.  My miss, clearly, is left.  On windy days, the little draw I have become accustomed turns into something between a hook and a duck hook.

JK suggested that, because my ballstriking with my short clubs needs to improve if I hope to keep shooting in the 70’s, I should take my clubs and have the lie angles checked.  For a little background, the lie angle is the angle formed between the ground and the club shaft when the club is properly soled:

Like most things in golf, a small change in equipment specifications can result in significant changes in shot shape and distance.  For example, changing a driver’s loft from 9.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees can significantly raise trajectory, increase carry, and decrease roll-out for a given player.  The total distance change may not be significant, but it may improve the golfer’s chances of clearing that forced carry their 9.5 degree driver was not making.  The changes to shot shape caused by flaws in lie angle are even more pronounced:

As shown, if the club is too “upright,” that is, the lie angle is such that the toe of the club is raised relative to the heel, the player will tend to miss left (left side of image).  This makes sense because if the heel of the club is lower than the toe, it will make contact with the ground before the toe, causing the head to close through impact.  If the club is too “flat,” that is, the heel of the club is raised relative to the toe, the player will tend to miss right (right side of image).  This also makes sense because if the toe makes contact with the ground before the heel, it will tend to be dragged behind the heel and push the ball to the right.  When the club is properly soled, it gives the golfer the best chance for making solid contact and hitting a straight shot.  Small differences can be huge.  For some reference, the total amount of variation in lie angle for any clubs is about 4 degrees flat to 4 degrees upright.

With all of this knowledge in mind, I decided to get the lie angles checked on my irons by a competent professional.  My first stop was a big box store in San Jose.  As is custom for fittings in such a store, the bottom of my club was taped up with tape that shows where contact was made with the ground.  A plastic lie board was setup with a ball, and I hit a series of shots to determine what part of the club was making contact with the ground.  So far, so good.  Once we had determined that the lie angles on my clubs were too upright for me, the “clubmaker” at this store took one look at the results from one club and said all of my clubs needed to be bent “at least one degree.”   The big box store also wanted to charge me $5.99 per club to have them bent.  I’d need to leave my clubs with them for a week as well to have this process performed.  If the clubs were not right when I got them back, I’d have to tell them what adjustment was necessary and wait another week.  Thanks, guys, but I’ll go somewhere else.

Enter Brian Razzari.  I called the Brad Lozares Golf Shop at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course on my way home from San Jose.  I should have called here first because I was looking for someone that actually knew what he or she was doing.  Upon answering, Brian was completely accommodating of my ridiculous request to come in within the next 30 minutes to have a lie fitting performed.  He quoted me the very reasonable price of $50 to have the lie angles on each and every one of my irons and wedges (10 clubs total) adjusted based on a dynamic fitting he would perform at the driving range.  He would watch me hit a few shots, take the club, bend it, and watch me hit more shots to determine the correct lie angle for each club.   This is tour-level fitting, people.  Brian also checked the lofts on each of my irons to make sure they were consistent.  I also learned that Brian is a certified Titleist club fitter.  He knows my AP2s better than most in the Bay Area.  After about 45 minutes of hitting balls and bending clubs, Brian informed me that he bent my irons 2 degrees flat, wedges 1 degree flat, and did not adjust my 60* wedge at all because the sole already showed that it was at the correct lie angle for my swing.

I am not sure I can say enough good things about the experience with Brian, but if you are interested in making your game better, I highly recommend getting your clubs fitted to your swing so that you don’t start making compensations in your swing to make up for an incorrect lie angle.  If you are in the Bay Area, I highly recommend a trip to Palo Alto Muni to visit Brian Razzari if you want a tour-level fitting experience for a reasonable price.

Palo Alto Muni: http://www.bradlozaresgolfshop.com/ or call 650-856-0881 and ask for Brian.

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Today’s post reviews custom putter maker Sunset Beach Golf Company (ssbeachgolf.com). We have reviewed other custom putter makers in the past (e.g., thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/review-byron-morgan-california-flatsticks) and will try to keep our remarks in concert with the others.

I first learned about Sunset Beach Golf while searching for custom putter makers online. Amidst Byron Morgan, Slighter, Piretti, Palombi, C&L/350 Milled, and others, Sunset Beach came to my attention. It happened that the company was running a special price on some of the marquee putters, so I contacted them about a quote.

One of things I love most about dealing with small golf companies is the personal attention that you receive. If you want to buy a Rossa or Cameron putter, you have to go to Golfsmith or Edwin Watts and pick up what they have on the rack. When I contacted Chris Jordan (president and owner of SSB), I received several personal emails from Chris attempting to set up a phone conversation. When we were able to talk, Chris spent a good hour (maybe more) talking with me about his company, what his goal was in creating the company, and how SSB could meet my needs. Originally, I was on the fence about whether SSB would give me something I really wanted, but the phone conversation with the president of the company made me confident that my concerns would be addressed.

Sunset Beach Golf is a company started by Chris Jordan–former mini-tour player–to create custom putters at reasonable prices. Chris and I had a good conversation about a putter we both loved and enjoyed, the Newport Beach. Back in the day when balata golf balls were king, the Newport Beach was a great putter–responsive, soft, a true gem. However, as the Pro-V1 emerged as the dominant golf ball, the Newport Beach lost its remarkable feel. Chris Jordan started making his own putters to bring back the feel he once had with the Newport Beach even when using a modern golf ball.

What emerged was a company dedicated to custom work. After teaming with LaMont Mann (of MannKrafted golf, mannkrafted.com), Sunset Beach was born.

Sunset Beach offers a variety of standard head styles that can be shaped and ground to exact weight, shape, and look. The standard head shapes are offered with any variety of neck styles–in Chris’s terms, “any neck you can think of, we can do it.” The company offers a number of custom finishes and platings, including colored polymer platings, which offer the maintenance of stainless steel with the feel of carbon steel. In addition to the standard offerings, Sunset Beach can create custom milled or handmade putters as well in virtually any shape or style imaginable. Sunset Beach also offers custom stamping options.

My SSB was an attempt to create the Newport Beach in a heavier weight head. The Newport Beach is a 330-gram putter–I wanted the same putter in 350 grams. After filling out an order form, I provided Chris with a map of some stamping options. We discussed finishes, grind options, weight options, face milling patterns, and colors for stampings. What came out was one of the most beautiful putters I’ve ever seen.

Sunset Beach offers customization options just like Byron Morgan, who we reviewed earlier. However, what is great about Sunset Beach is that the cost is minimal when compared to Byron. Chris Jordan talked to me about a custom offering that he had quoted for a customer. When he made his quote, the customer stated “you’re cost is 1/3 less than everyone else I’ve talked to.” Moreover, what you get is a truly custom option. Literally ANYTHING you can think of, Chris and LaMont can create it.

Moreover, they’re super guys to deal with. They both kept me well-informed on the progress of my custom putter, and, although there were some delays due to unforeseen circumstances, I was never without information about what was going on with my putter. I simply cannot say enough good things about Sunset Beach.

So, how about the quality? Well, the inaugural round happened to be my first ever round at East Lake Golf Club (site of the Tour Championship). I rolled almost 120 feet of putts, taking just 29 putts to shoot a one-under par, 71. This putter is in my bag for good.

Price: 9/10
Value: 10/10
Time (order to putter): 7/10
Quality: 9/10
Customization: 9/10
Finish: 8/10
Customer Service: 10/10
Communication: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

For other custom made putter views, visit SSBeachgolf.com, or search on forums, e.g., www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/386679-beautiful-putters-from-sunset-beach/

Update 7/14/2012
We’ve had some questions come up recently that we thought would be helpful to answer in the body of this post rather than in the comments.

First, SSB putters are made in the USA. This was one of Chris Jordan’s major goals, as he’s stated to me several times. Initially, they made some heads in China because they couldn’t get a good enough price from a US supplier, but they have since increased volumes and found a US shop that will machine for a reasonable price. Contrary to popular belief, very few putter makes–even custom putter makers–make each and every putter by themselves in their own machine shops. Most outsource the raw machining and perform custom operations, including finishing, stamping, one-off milling (like my sound slot above), welding, making sight lines or dots, and grinding to weight. Even Byron Morgan does pretty much all of the finish work in his shop, but he doesn’t mill most of the putters he makes. Some putters made by LaMont, Byron, and Slighter are truly “hand made” in that they personally performed each and every step of the milling. This is not the case for most putters. However, it does not decrease at all how “custom” the putter you get from SSB is.

Additionally, it should be noted that LaMont is one of Byron’s biggest fans. None of this post is intended to suggest any slight toward Byron–he makes incredible pieces. In fact, Byron started LaMont on this career, to the point of even supplying LaMont with unfinished anser-style heads so that LaMont could offer that line. However, with SSB, the value for the price is every bit as good as a Byron putter. LaMont’s work is very, very high quality–if you haven’t seen his recent customs on facebook, you’re missing out. And what Sunset Beach offers in the way of customization is an excellent option for someone who wants a custom made putter without breaking his bank account.