Readers are forgiven if they have yet to hear of Edel Golf. David Edel is a very different breed than the average teaching pro, club fitter or putter maker. Our initial correspondence hit on a lot of subjects that won’t be brought into this article, but suffice it to say that Edel is one of the most interesting and forward thinking men that I have come across in the golf industry.
In a world of copycats, of the both subtle and overt persuasions, Edel is the kind of guy who is always on the prowl for a better way of doing things and is willing to travel some hard roads to reach his destinations.
The golf industry needs guys like him to maintain its vitality. Let’s hope his work is well rewarded…
PC: What are some common mistakes that golfers make when they buy putters off the rack?
David Edel: First off, the most common mistake buying a putter off the rack is not knowing where it aims. All putters aim differently. Some vary more than others, but none are equal. The buyer should first know how their current putter aims. Based on this knowledge they can look for something that either cures their aim bias, or matches it; matching it, as the stroke is biased to that aim. If you do not want to change your stroke, then find a putter that matches it. For example, if you aim eight inches left, then don’t buy a putter that aims dead center, because your stroke will not match your aim. It would not seem logical to play with something that aimed you crooked, but most do. Our studies have concluded that only four in a hundred can aim their putters dead on, while fifteen out of hundred can only manage to aim within the hole (two inches off center) and with loft issues. Dead on meaning for average speed greens the laser at 6 feet is center cut and six inches off the ground (2.5 deg loft)
When someone buys a putter that they want, it may not be what they need. Grabbing a putter off the rack without understanding how the putter aims is harmful. With simple lasers and a mirror, you could check and see “Does this putter aim well?” I have people in the fitting process say, I aim this putter really well or That line helps me aim and I evaluate them and they aim a foot left. So what people want to believe and what they do are often very different.
PC: As a follow-up, can these buying mistakes lead players to develop poor putting technique?
David Edel: Yes, poor putting technique is related to many factors. Some are directly related to the putter and some not. Putting can be broken down to what we call the Triad: Aim, Path, & Speed. What you do with those three things relates to ready greens and execution. If your putter aims a foot left, then you better make compensation a foot right. Sometimes this is done with path, or speed. Path pushing to the right, or speed –hitting it harder to take a higher line. The player starts to get multiple factors compensating for erroneous aim. This can set into sub routines like: If I forward press my hands, take it inside, or I go to a short back stroke and accelerate.
Compensation is the only honest thing that we do, and many try to go against what they know they need to do it. Like, if you aim right, you better take is outside on the backstroke, have a long backstroke short finish, or close the face manually. But our friends or teachers say, we better fix that outside move, yet they don’t fix the aim or even understand where they aim. Many say, “So what if you aim at address, you may not be there at impact.” My thought is…no kidding Sherlock.
But, our studies have shown that a reduction in the standard deviation of a putter stoke reduced by 38% in 19 of 22 categories. With areas improving up to 63% immediately after the fit. If you start from a better place then chances are you will return to that place. Putting is similar to the full swing, yet much less dynamic. The inclined plane is the boss. It is possible to move the putter during the stroke to the same place it started. If the putter does not aim correctly or has other factors like poor weight, length, lie, loft, then the mind will work away from those issues.
PC: What do you think most players understand better, their full swing or their putting stroke?
David Edel: I am not sure players understand the swing. I think they have an understanding of what they need to do to get the job done, but understanding the full swing or putter motion, I am not sure. I have been a PGA member since 1994 and a pro since 1990, and have worked with some of the best teachers in the world. I think I have a really good understanding of full swing motion, but I still think I don’t know anything.
We’re talking about people and that is the issue. Every person processes information differently than others. I think the missing link in most people’s games stems from lack of basics. Understanding the laws of physics of how the base golf motion works and other basics like how the mind works and processes information. People get so caught up in methods like Single Plane or Stack and Tilt etc. Not that those are wrong, but if you work for a while on a concept and jump to the next, that’s sure to cause confusion. Like if you play a putter for two months and switch again and again, each has multiple distinctions in playing characteristics, and the players develops a habit of grabbing for something when it hits the fan.
PC: What affects the player more, the putter design or how well (or poorly) he has been fit for the putter?
David Edel: I think it is important to understand the word fitting as it relates to putters. There are three forms of fitting as I see it:
Static fitting is measuring a person’s lie angle, length, loft to name a few. It deals mainly without motion, figuring out general variables that influence set up. Many companies have offered a system that deals with this form of fitting.
Dynamic fitting evaluates via monitoring systems the movement of the putter, body and makes changes in the putter to alter impact. Systems like SAM, Tomi, and Icub have complex systems designed to evaluate the motion of the putter and give great data. Video based systems are also used during dynamic fitting. My perception of this form of fitting is to change variables so they produce the correct impact position. Often instruction is involved and it can be difficult to distinguish a fitting from a lesson.
Effective fitting is a process that is more interactive with the player. Effective meaning true angles like 4 degrees loft, processed and changed to an effective angle like 2 degrees. Effective angles are terms used by fitters to describe what the player does with the club to change the true angle. Effective fitting is a process and or system that allows the fitter to accommodate the player’s personal perceptions during the fitting. If I put a mallet in their hands and they aim it more right and I combine it with another variable and it elicits a different response then that’s effective fitting.
We also incorporate dynamic variables like length, head weight, loft, counter weight, shaft flex, and grip type to their value to speed control. So if you aim in correctly, and can control speed more precisely, then your probably going to have much cleaner path and you’ll also be able to feel your path better.
That is what I call effective fitting and that is what we do at Edel Golf. So my answer to your question is, yes; design or shape of a putter can be a preference, but is more an obligation as it relates to aim. Some people want an Anser style head, but aim it totally left. What they want and need are totally opposite. Depending on the style of the fitting process, getting fitted may not apply to desired result. Education is paramount for people to make informed decisions.
PC: What led you to build your putters in a workshop where you live?
David Edel: What led me to build putters where I live is simple. There are huge stores of German stainless here. No, seriously, I grew up here. I have family businesses here. I left teaching the full swing to dedicate myself to making putters. Getting started was a slow process. I started making my first putter in late 1996. Everyone told me not to do it, that it was too difficult. I obviously did not listen. I built a small workshop next to my home here on the river. I ran my family business during the day, and when I had free time, or made time, I made putters.
It could be the worst place to have a putter business and for this reason I am trying to move to Ft. Worth, Texas. We have done a lot of good work here mostly developing and prototyping products etc. but for people to come directly and get a fitting is very complex. I am looking to develop a large facility that incorporates manufacture and has a large inside putter studio with a monster putting green. A place to do schools and educational seminars, etc. Someday…hopefully soon.
PC: How do the professional players you work with putt differently than amateurs?
David Edel: Professionals do not putt all that differently than good amateurs. Some amateurs putt better than pros. Tour players are a different animal. The difference lies mainly in speed control. Professionals have more time to practice speed control. Most professionals aim left. I think this is predisposed to the putters they choose. Most professionals and good amateurs select the same styles of putters, mainly Anser or blade style putters. A lot of high handicap amateurs aim right, which is mostly to do with poor set up fundamentals and a lack of routine. I believe the full swing and the putter swing is governed by the same laws, so if the putter and fear-set is don’t go left then the motions are often the same.
PC: Which other putter makers do you respect?
David Edel: I think I respect anyone that can make a living at making golf clubs. It is hard to do. There are so many variables to contend with, namely money. Big companies have the advantage, because they have clout. Small guys like me are using your own finances to make world-class product. My advantage is the willing to do what the big dogs do not. I think what Mr. Cameron has done is incredible. The machine he has developed deserves respect. Karsten Solheim is the man. That guy did it all. We are all posers. T.P. Mills was the father of making tour quality unique custom putters. I remember the waiting list times were six to eight months for a putter. That is great. Tom Slighter has a nice following. He is making really nice custom putters like how you want it. Kirk Currie started the custom fitting/Aim process so I have to say he is in there. Kevin Burns has come up with some nice designs. He sure had a nice run.
I have to say that I think what we are doing is a continuation of a lot of past knowledge. I don’t make the best putter in the world. That is hard to quantify. I think we configure the best putter in the world. When you can get past the Circle T hand-stamping stuff or this tour player uses this or that and get into it’s different, but I can aim it then hands down I think I offer more to people than any other maker past or present.
Besides, we hand make every putter for each player. We have over 50 million combinations to manufacture on a daily basis. That is custom. There is big difference between custom and handmade. Nothing is hand made. I hand-machine putters but they can take two days to make. Everything is CNC with lots of handwork involved. hope that does not sound cocky, that is not the intention. The fact is I do not know anyone who is doing what we do.
PC: I have to tell you how refreshing it is that you recognize Karsten Solheim. It’s getting to be that people are all to willing to believe their own press releases. Everyone is so quick to tell you about their designs but all too often their designs are Solheim’s. It is the design equivalence of plagiarism so it doesn’t sit well with me at all. Which other putter designs (either modern or classic) do you admire?
David Edel: I really like the Karsten Anser style head. I can’t use it, but I think it has a great profile. I liked Kevin Burns and T.P. Mills / Anser style heads. Those looked clean. I think less is more. There is too much shit on putters these days. Between colors, funky shapes, lines, and weight ports it is total confusion. That stuff should aim, right? People get lost in all that geometry and most of the time cannot hit a barn with their aim. The Bullseye is hands down the best aimer. Pretty simple design. John Reuter did a great job with that one. The Two Ball works for some, but is not for everyone. I wish I came up with that one from a financial standpoint.
PC: Are you working on anything new right now or working to refine your fitting technique?
David Edel: We are always working on something new. Since I have been developing new fitting systems and methods for the last 11 years, our focus has been very different than much of the industry. This focus has enabled us to think about a new box. I have had relative ease getting some patents, because the line of thinking opens different doors. We are working on redefining the fitting model and fitter education. Creating school formats for people to get all three sides of the Triad (Aim, Path, Speed = Reading Greens) going. People do not want putters. They want results. I think the group that we have working together is going to change the face of putter fitting and instruction.
We have come out with a new putter called Variable loft Vari-loft. It has removable face technology with weight ports. Combined with aim value, this is a huge asset to the refined player. These putters take a combined machine/hand effort of over 11 hours to manufacture. When a player is educated on how to use it, it is hands down most versatile putter out there. Since few know about the value of what we do, our attention is focused towards education. Making new designs to keep up with large manufactures is not the solution. Figuring out how to inform players of other options, getting past bias, and overcoming objections from the current power structure is objective #1.
PC: David, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Your candor is refreshing and I hope this interview helps a few more people to find you and take advantage of your ability to help their games. Is there anything we haven’t covered, or anything you’d like to add in closing?
David Edel: We are very proud of our product and process that we have developed. My head styles are very basic and classic. The fact is we offer so many variables not because it sounds big, but people need them. Our fitting process allows for us to individually analyze each variable as it relates to the next. When the total package is put together, then it’s yours and yours only. We seldom make the same variation twice, something is always different. 95% of your thought happens at a subconscious level, and we build a putter that aims using the 5% of your conscious and its interface with the other 95%.
Aim is the one solid tangible that you can triangulate your game from. From aim you can evaluate your path, speed, and the combination of all three is your technique. If you’re confused, get fit. If you’re happy now, stay away. One saying that I have always loved is, “If you don’t need a haircut, then don’t go to the barber.” If you’re reading this, then you’re probably looking for help. We’re here if you need it.