Golf practice aids, boring, right? So, when I was sent information about a new putting gadget, my eyes began to glaze over. I am of the opinion that golf training products can be, how would you say, retentive! The market is full of weird inventions that promise to improve your game, and I for one, have no intention of going out in freezing weather with some contraption strapped to my arms, legs, or any other extremity. But the PuttOUT is different, I could liken it to a ray of light in a very dark place!
The product duly arrived on my doorstep a few days later, and I opened the box with interest. From the off, it was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into it. This is not something knocked together in a shed, everything about it whispers cool elegance.
Now for the all-important putting test. I must point out that the logic behind the PuttOUT is to help you improve those short three or four foot putts that we all should make but usually go to pieces over.
The base of the product is a circular flat sculpted white piece of plastic representing the hole. Attached to this is a translucent polycarbonate ramp. The theory is that you aim at the hole and the ramp will return the ball to you to an equal distance that the ball would have gone past the hole. So, an on-target putt will be returned to you, giving you an idea of how hard you struck the ball. A bad putt however, will not, thus forcing you to make the walk of shame to recover it.
The whole device folds in half and fits perfectly into the pocket of a golf bag, making it a useful tool to use at home, on the practice green, or anywhere else. In the middle of the ramp there’s a hole that can be open or closed. If open, a perfect putt will reward you with the ball sticking in the hole.
After only a few minutes, I must say I was quite enjoying myself. My putting ability errs on the side of comical, but I soon found myself improving. It stands to reason that repetition is the pathway to perfection, and this simple device makes that possible anywhere. I discovered quite quickly, that I came to expect to putt the ball, which obviously is confidence building.
Beware though, this product may become addictive. Much to my annoyance, my son insisted on having a go, which meant that I had to wait patiently until he got bored about an hour later.
The creator of the PuttOUT is the Director of a Design Company. Well, that explains the packaging and presentation, but what about the reasoning? There is obviously a story behind this. So, one cold January morning I arrive at the offices of the Design company “Therefore” to meet the brains behind the invention, Martin Riddiford.
GGM - So where did the idea for PuttOUT come from?
Martin – “I used to play a lot when I was young, but then I went off to Art Collage, which I found was not overly full of golfers. I ended up really only playing at weekends. Life took over and I became an occasional golfer. I very rarely had a club in my hand and so got stuck at a handicap of 5, which over the years has steadily headed in the wrong direction.
Luckily I was still good enough to get into my old school team to take part in the Halford Hewitt Amateur Tournament, a competition with teams from the alumni of 64 public schools. It’s a great event where you often find yourself playing against some serious competition.
At one particular event, I and my playing partner performed extremely well. But for some reason I got left a whole bunch of three and four foot putts. I went on to miss six of them.
We lost on the last, and this just got to me, I thought how ridiculous it was to lose just because of these short putts. I really wanted to go out and practice, which unfortunately is easier said than done when you are leading a busy life. So, prior to any of these competitions I would practice putting at home, just so that I could get myself into the swing of things. I used to line up two bricks side by side and aim for the middle. Not particularly inspiring, but at least it got me practicing.
Being a designer, I just thought that I had to come up with something better than this. My first foray was a box with a hole in the top and a ramp so the ball dropped into the box. It was an improvement, but not really much like putting on a green. The problem about putting on a floor is that you want to actually have the feel for putting at a hole. There was the added disadvantage that nothing returned the ball so you were constantly having to bend down to recover it.
A few years later, prior to the Halford Hewitt event, our team decided to spend some time before with the resident golf pro at the club. Just before lunch he set a task, sink 25 three foot putts in a row. If we missed any, then we had to start from the beginning again. So, we all set to it, and I must say, I was probably the last one in for lunch. That afternoon we decided to enforce a fine for any missed short putts. The interesting thing was that after the training of the morning, very little money was in the kitty at the end of the afternoon, the drill work had made a difference.
It made me realise just how useful this routine was. It’s so easy to get drawn into practicing ten foot putts, and occasionally you hole one which is great, but it’s the short distance shots that win games.
The end result was that I became more serious about finding a way to practice. I came up with this idea of the ramp, so the ball comes back to you and you could easily do your 25 putts quite quickly. Also, a perfect putt rewards you with the ball sticking in the hole on the ramp. A lot of thought went into the design to recreate for example, the effects of a lip out should your aim be off.
After building the initial prototype and the usual discussion in the office, the general consensus was, nice product but it won’t sell. But, call it stubbornness, I could see something in this.
GMM – So is the design something that you really have worked hard on?
Martin – “Absolutely, it has to look good but there is science behind it as well. Portability was important and with its ability to fold you can also take it with you to use on practice greens. For us, we only really figured out that there was a market after sending a prototype to the Golf YouTuber Mark Crossfield. He really liked it and agreed to do a video. That put the product in front or a large market of golfers and things have progressed from there”.
GGM – So what are the plans going forward?
Martin – “Firstly, try to keep up with demand which has already been a challenge, but further improvements would involve a selection of different colours and tweaks to the design”.
GGM - Is there a possibly other golf products in the future
Martin – “We have only scratched the surface, watch this space”.
Good to know
PuttOUT is available at www.greatgolfproshop.com