Todd Sones wants you to get fit—for a putter, that is. As founder of Coutour Golf, Todd specializes in crafting artful custom-fit, one-piece milled putters that aim to change the way we look at so-called “standards” in putter fitting, including shaft length. As an agent of change, Todd wields some serious credentials. Ten years ago, he founded Impact Golf, which is now the 4th ranked golf school in the nation according to Golf Magazine. He has been a Top 100 teacher since 1995. His vast experience as an instructor is the basis for Coutour Golf (the name is a play on the French world “couture,” signifying customized high quality). Coutour Golf was launched in 2006, and just recently unveiled some new putters. PutterZone.com was honored to speak with Todd this week about the Coutour Golf experience and how it challenges conventional wisdom:
Why did you establish Coutour Golf?
I saw it as a necessity in the industry. The industry set the standard putter shaft length at 35 inches about 40 or 50 years ago because it fits over the edge of a golf bag, which is where you used to find putters at the point of sale. Back then, I don’t think it was ever questioned what the length of a putter should be. The problem is that the industry is about selling equipment, and the more they can sell the better. If you bought a new putter every year, the industry would be very happy. But when people are buying putters, it’s because they’re not putting well. If you look at Tiger Woods, he’s basically used the same putter his entire career. Ben Crenshaw, same thing. So what I believe is that it’s best for every single person to get individually fit to a putter that matches their body style, a putter that they can develop a relationship with, and that’s what Coutour Golf is all about.
Why is custom fitting so important?
If you come to my golf school, I’m all about results. I want you to get better and to get results, and if you show up with a putter that doesn’t let you set up properly, then my hands are kind of tied. People are bombarded with ads about the latest putters and who’s using them, and what they fail to understand is that when they see a tour player, that putter’s been made exactly to that player’s specifications, and then they go buy it off the shelf and it’s just not made for them. So what I wanted to do with Coutour Golf was establish a company that fits the individual person to a putter that’s designed for their body and for a proper setup. Because if the setup’s not right, then you’re not right, and you’re never going to be consistent.
You also talk about the importance of swing weight. Can you explain?
It’s a hard thing to describe, because you can’t see swing weight, it’s a feel thing, but basically swing weight is the weight of the club head as it swings back and forth. In putting, I always equate it to a pendulum. In order to be a good putter, you have to be in a setup where your body can stay still, at the center of the pendulum, and allow the putter head, which is the weight of the pendulum, to go back and forth the same distance. In the industry, the standard length is 35 inches, and they just cut putters off. Then what happens is players lose their feel. When you cut a putter down, you destroy its balance, and you lose its swing weight. So when you make a custom putter, you not only need to make it a length that fits the player’s body, but you have to make it the gram weight that maintains the proper swing weight. That’s why at Coutour Golf we have 335, 350 and 365 gram heads, which are matched to different lengths (editor’s note: here Todd explained that, generally speaking, the shorter the length, the heavier the head). This is something the industry is not doing for the consumer. They’re doing it for the tour players, but they’re not doing it for the consumer.
In addition to custom fitting, what are the advantages of Coutour putters?
I think it’s very important to have the center of gravity line up with the sightlines. I believe in toe-heel balance, so there’s weight on both sides of the golf ball for stability. That’s called moment of inertia (MOI). With some putters, the center of the sweet spot is way off the sightline, because it wasn’t engineered properly. There’s not equal weight between the center point of the putter and the toe and heel. If you have a long-neck hosel putter, there’s a lot of weight in that hosel, so you have to have an equal amount of weight on the toe to counteract it, to make sure the center is on the sightline. So every Coutour putter has been designed perfectly for function as well as looks. The most important thing about Coutour putters is the milling process. A lot of companies cut corners on the milling process. For instance, you can mill the head of the putter and just weld the hosel. The reason they do that is that milling companies charge for time. So the putter head might take 30 minutes, and when you make the hosel part of the putter, it might take another 30 minutes, and you’re literally charged twice the amount for that. So companies will mill the head, weld the hosel and call it a milled putter. I call that a milled putter with a welded hosel. We do one-piece construction, where the entire putter is milled without bending or welding. It just takes a degree to screw up a putter. If you precision mill every part of the putter with one-piece construction, they you’re always going to meet your specifications.
And what about casting versus milling?
The tolerance levels are very poor in cast putters. When they put them in a wax mold and let them cool, they can change a little bit. The industry accepts putters that are slightly open or slightly closed. If you have an educated eye and go to a store and put six cast putters next to each other that are supposed to be identical, they’ll look a little different. If you put six milled putters together, truly one-piece milled putters, you will see that they all look exactly the same, and you’ll know that the quality is much, much higher. Our putters are milled at the Daito Group in Montreal, they are one of the best milling companies in the world. The reason I use them is because they use these four-axis vertical machines, German machines, that are the highest quality milling machines. I did a lot of research trying to find the best company. Cost wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to make sure Coutour was all about premium, high-quality putters at a fair price.
Thank you Todd! Coutour Golf recently unveiled new versions of its original putter models. The new versions have black matte nickel finishes with trillium copper inserts. To view these putters along with setup tips and a milling video, as well as to get fit for your own Coutour Golf putter, visit www.CoutourGolf.com.