Friday, January 30, 2015



The game of golf has changed by the gradual process we can call evolution.  Sometimes changes occur rapidly and it might almost be called a revolution.  Both are changes, one by gradual steps, the other by drastic changes.

I tried to introduce a tool into the game to help golfers complete a game with fewer strokes by improving their putting.  I gave my device the name, Puttmeter.  It really is just a variation of a line level available in most hardware stores.  The patent lawyer I consulted said it was basically a level and couldn't be patented as one, but a design patent could be applied for possibly some protection.

           From top to bottom- maple, walnut, red oak, and cherry Puttmeters.

A soon to come post will describe how to use the Puttmeter, or your own line level.  Sorry, but I no longer make Puttmeters.  I sold less than a dozen from a few advertisements in Golf Digest about thirty years ago.  I thought I would be wealthy from the product so I could spend more time in research, and less teaching, to get my evolution and other ideas in to print.  The small number of ones sold came from orders stretching from the East Coast to the West Coast.  But I had a larger number of requests for free samples from various golf league officials to use for prizes at their annual golf banquets or outings.

Even if you don't have or get a line level, the instructions on a coming post about using one may help you improve your putting.


Early balls in Scotland, the country viewed as the birthplace of golf, began as small quantities of a stuffing material packed into a cover that was presumably stitched tightly shut.  The biggest changes in my lifetime has been replacement of the dimpled cover subject to being cut, or sliced open, by impact with an edge of the club face.  The interior, formerly a tightly wound strand of rubber, has been replaced by a solid but resilient compound.  The surface sculpturing of the ball used to be bumps, for a long time now they have been replaced by over a hundred shallow surface concavities designed for best aerodynamic effect.

Because the ball gets some of its velocity added as it pushes off from the club face that has flattened it, softer balls are used for those not having the power to fully compress the ball with their swing.


In my father's day, his clubs had wooden shafts and the shorter ones had metal heads, longer ones had wooden heads.  Metal inserts were usually on the face and bottom of the club to reinforce the wood for greater durability.  Materials have changed, especially for the woods.  Now we have metal woods.  The heads are attached to shafts of metal or fiberglass.  It would be good to get a pro to help you get a set of clubs with the right attributes for you.

A pro can also get you started on a swing to practice with a stance and alignment that well help you make consistent desired movements of the ball.

The lower the number of a club, both for woods and for irons, the longer the shaft and the closer the club face is to vertical.  A third class of club is the putter.  It is used when the ball is on the green.

Putters are quite variable although all have the same object - to roll the ball into the hole formerly occupied by the flag staff marking the target you try to reach with the fewest number of swings from tee to green.


I had given my idea to my brother-in-law who had a factory making vials for levels and was looking for product to expand the use of his production equipment.  He didn't do much about it but told me he knew of someone who tried putting a level-vial into the head of a putter without much success.  I told him I thought it could be put in the shaft or handle of the putter to be more effective in reading the potential variability in the break of the ball on the green.

He provided me with a large supply of vials and I inserted one of the smallest one into the grip of my putter so that the bubble was in the center of the vial when the putter was laid on a level surface.

Puttmeters in various stages of construction.  A bag of 250 vials (of type used in wooden Puttmeters, lower left) and several small vials similar to the one used in the club grip.


I used the first one built into my putter in the golf league I was in.  Apparently, my putting improved because after one round a member came up to me and said "I laid my putter down like you do and it didn't do me any good!"  I stopped using it when someone told me such devices are not allowed in competitive play.  So my dream of installing them in putters evaporated and its use as a separate training device was pursued for a short time.


The demise of the Puttmeter illustrates the extinction of species that don't survive the struggle for existence.  My boxes of unfinished stages of the wooden product may never show up in the fossil record.  If they did, would anyone think it had anything to do with golf?  Or evolution?

Joe Engemann           Kalamazoo, Michigan     January 30, 2015

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