There are an estimated 15 million golfers in the U.S. Some hardy souls are wedded to one putter. However, for the rest of us—who have a putter for every day of the week, who are mostly responsible for the sale of 17 million putters every year—the quest for the perfect club is unending. It's out there somewhere. We can see it in our dreams, knocking down 10-footers for par, helping us break 100, then 90, then...
We check our buddies' bags, the attic, garage sales. We'll try anything to save a stroke. Then one day, there it is. Perhaps it's on TV, or in a magazine. It's you. You have to have it. So what if it costs $65.
At the moment, the object of much affection among those involved in the great search is a putter selling for that amount called the Basakwerd. It's so named not because many of us putt that way, but because a desperate soul took a torch and a hammer and twisted the putting blade toward the player's feet. Thus the shaft is on the far side of the blade, away from the golfer.
"I'd tried everything on the practice green," says the Basakwerd's inventor, Jim Flood of San Diego, who also devised the graphite golf shaft back in 1972. "Accidentally, in May of 1982, I just turned the club around, and I started putting great."
Flood claims some scientific reasons why his putter produces. For instance, the club's center of gravity is five inches closer to the golfer because the blade is closer. Furthermore, this geometry reduces the torque on the ball by 60%, causing it to roll truer and farther. But the main reason that 27 pros have tried it on tour is that the Basakwerd's design forces a more pendulum-like stroke that helps putts hold their line and all but eliminates the dreaded "pushed" putt.
Two golf notables. Gene Littler and Johnny Miller, were the first touring pros to praise the putter. Both used it during early 1983 tournaments in Los Angeles, Pebble Beach and Phoenix. Littler says, "I stopped laughing after I tried it." Flood says the other PGA pros, for the most part struggling players no less desperate than the rest of us to find the perfect putter, intend to use it exclusively once they become "mentally comfortable" with the design. What may be even more significant is that Tom Watson, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd and Craig Stadler have been impressed enough with the club to use it during practice.
And if it's good enough for the pros, it's good enough for us duffers. Most pro shops are now back-ordered on the Basakwerd. Says Flood, "We originally estimated first-year orders would be about 25,000. We doubled that after the Phoenix Open in January. Now we have orders for 200,000. The last three months, we've been working three shifts a day to produce them."
Nothing backward about that.