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Insider Interview: Bernt Stellander

An innovative new putter is about to cross the Atlantic, and it’s likely going to make a big splash along the way. The Dark ACE by Profound Putters is a menacingly elegant instrument loaded with unique features, as conceived by designer and founder Bernt Stellander. Incredibly, Mr. Stellander was introduced to the game of golf just seven years ago, after injuries derailed a promising soccer career in his native Norway. Mr. Stellander’s own studies in optometry, combined with a passion for geometry and design, inspired him to think differently when it came to putting. He ultimately established Profound Putters, and his inaugural Dark ACE model putter embodies his design emphasis on alignment and forgiveness. It includes an alignment system in which a vivid orange hue is revealed when you are misaligned (see photo below), and hidden when your alignment is correct. Mr. Stellander’s stated dream is “follow in the footsteps of another famous Norwegian, the late and great Mr. Karsten Solheim,” founder of PING. PutterZone.com recently had the honor of conducting the following exclusive interview with Mr. Stellander:

Please explain your 3Dinsight optical alignment technology, what makes it different and how it benefits the average golfer?
First of all, it is the first system ever framing the ball in visually in 3D. To get visual feedback on eyes position at set up, the alignment system has to be 3D. What makes our system different is that there are multiple distortions when you are misaligned:

1. One of the alignment tracks will increasingly disappear behind its side wall.

2. The other alignment track framing the ball will increasingly appear elliptical and bended, depending on degree of misalignment.

3. Orange warning color will appear on both sides of the system to communicate error.

The main benefit is that it is very intuitive and simple to use—you just “hide the orange,” which is our mantra for the concept.

The second benefit is that you get the same visual feedback as when using a mirror on the ground, which many use for practice and rehearsing the perfect eyes position at set up. But here you have it on the putter itself, giving that exact same feedback, constantly communicating true aim or not. True aim is when parallel eyes are on the plane made up by ball center and target line.

The third benefit is that it is very easy to repeat your position, taking one factor out of the equation for a more consistent stroke.

With the Dark ACE, you don’t need to move the focus away from back of the ball to see if you are misaligned. With most systems on the market, you have to check this over and over again, thereby moving the focus and breaking up the important calibration process the brain goes through when evaluating distance to hole. Here, you detect the orange appearing and alignment lines changing shape very easily if you start moving the putter or the eyes out of the intended position. Some are even able to detect stroke errors as they move the putter back, so it can be corrected in the practice stroke before stepping over the putt. That is pretty unique feedback. The reduction of number of times the focus changes actually reduces visual fatigue throughout a long round, especially in bright sun conditions, which is a strong benefit.

The bottom line is that you will sink more putts.

A lot of golfers may not fully understand the nature and significance of Moment of Inertia (MOI) in regards to golf clubs, including putters. How do you explain it?
Moment of Inertia in golf clubs is an exact measured number to indicate the tendency the club has to resist from twisting when ball is struck away from the center of the clubface. The higher the MOI, the higher resistance the club has to twist, and the more forgiving it is. High MOI is achieved by moving as much weight as possible as far away from the center of gravity as possible, towards the perimeter. Perimeter weighing is how you create high MOI, to put it in other words.

Your Dark ACE putter apparently sets a world record for MOI in a putter. How did you achieve this extraordinary MOI, and what does it mean to the average golfer who uses the Dark ACE?
It is a record for single piece steel head. As mentioned in last question I moved the weight away from the center, towards the toe, heel and the back. My designs have an open center area, so it’s possible to move more weight towards the perimeter. That is how I did it. The average golfer will see that the ball still goes straight, when face is square, even if the ball is hit way off the center. You can actually hit the ball all the way out along the trailing fins, and as long as the face is square, the ball goes straight. This can only be done with extremely high MOI. The shape of the clubhead will also make it easier for the player to keep square through impact, as the visual track and the parallel trailing fins make you keep the track moving towards the target along the targetline. So the MOI is an added help when the ball is hit off center.

Your emphasis on audio feedback is another rarity. What are your thoughts on audio feedback, and how are these thoughts exemplified in the Dark ACE putter itself?
I do believe that with the softer balls being played more and more by average players, that a soft insert in the face will sometimes dampen the feedback too much. It is a fact that the major feedback we are able to detect is sound. I wanted to leave the pure steel face for true audio feedback, but still wanted to dampen the feel a little. So on the Dark ACE, I put an insert up behind the face for slight rebound and softer feel.

The Dark ACE is a visually striking putter. Is the look mainly a product of the technology itself, or did you also set out to make an artistic statement?
I really like this question, because sometimes it seems some putters are designed for design alone and not with benefits for the players in mind. Mine is actually a mix of many aspects helping the player, either with visual feedback or physical properties of the putter. Basically I wanted every element on the putter to solve a problem or have benefits. These are the targets when constructing the putter. But my basic philosophy underlying everything I do is better margin for every player. Head square for less potential for side spin put on the ball, and a system which promotes repetition and better margin stroke path. To summarize:

1. The basic T shape for easily discriminating squareness.

2. Two parallel trailing fins to understate the alignment tracks, and to keep the clubhead moving towards the target with a square head.

3. Main weight in toe, heel and the back for beneficial weight properties, making the putter extremely forgiving on mishits.

4. Visually silent features and transitions to avoid the brain getting attentive to sharp edges or things that do not solve an aiming or aligning problem.

The last point here is where I make my artistic statement. To be able to make visually silent transitions I needed to be artistic, by making smooth curves without sharp lines. The orange warning colors are, of course, visually noisy, but that is the point, high contrast! When orange appears, you should react, and detect that something is wrong, so the rest of the putter’s features must then be silent and not stand out to distract this purpose.

But as a passionate designer, I also wanted to end up with a product that is an ornamental sculpture. that is different and maybe will be treasured not only for the extreme engineering properties, but also for the nice distinct shape which will be seen in many more models to come from Profound Putters under my hand.

Where can someone purchase the Dark ACE in the United States?
We had tremendous response at the PGA Merchandise Show and got 43 companies in 23 new countries wanting to distribute the putters. So after the show we have been busy setting up agreements. Also many shops and online retailers in the United States want to carry them. We do not have inventory in the States as of yet but we anticipate having the ability to service the North American market in the late second quarter of 2007.

Thank you, Bernt. For information and updates, please visit www.ProfoundPutters.com. Want to help accelerate the arrival of the Dark ACE to the United States? Ask your favorite golf retailer to inquire about it.

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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