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Insider Interview: Dead On’s Phil Vinton

With its powerful visuals and unique design, the Dead On putter resembles a secret weapon—so it’s no surprise that it was conceived by someone with a background in aerospace manufacturing. Indeed, as CEO of Elite Sport Products, Phil Vinton employs his biomedical and aerospace experience to guide the creation of putters that reflect a deep knowledge of specific metals and how they translate to optimal putting performance. Elite Sport Products was formed in the fall of 2004 with the stated intent of creating the “highest quality line of putters in the industry.” The ensuing two years were dedicated to research and development, resulting in the Dead On Series 1 putter, which was first released to the public in April of last year. The current Dead On putters fall under the banner of Series III, and some new putters are also in the works. Each putter is designed, manufactured and assembled in Central Texas. PutterZone.com spoke with Phil this week to get the scoop on Dead On putters—and what to expect next from Elite Sport Products. Following is our exclusive interview:

What sets Dead On putters apart in terms of features and benefits?
There are several key features incorporated into the Dead On Putter Series, but the true magic of the clubs is due to the combination of these features.

Our components are machined out of solid blocks of stainless steel and aircraft-grade aluminum using computer-generated solid modeling and CNC manufacturing equipment. The main feature of our putter head is our patent pending True Grip putting surface. One of the most difficult yet astute developments was in determining what type of surface to put on the impact face of our putters. We investigated several different polymers and found them all to have a dull and muffled feeling, so we dropped that as an option. It wasn’t what we were looking for. Then, on our 3D Solid Modeling CAD system, I significantly magnified a dimpled golf ball surface with a flat putter face next to it and experimented with as many putter face surfaces and surface geometries as I could imagine. I found out that the closer that raised contact surfaces were, the higher the percentage that the golf ball would be struck in its centerline, regardless of its orientation or what the vertical position the clubface happened to be at impact. This led to our development of our True Grip putting surface, which resembles smooth sandpaper when viewed through a microscope. Because it is applied to our heat treated stainless steel surface, it will last a lifetime.

The Dead On putter head also incorporates a set-up dot, and a large internal central cavity which provides an enhanced sweet spot as well as significantly increasing the putter’s moment of inertia (MOI). The tail piece includes our central accelerating arrows alignment system as well as outer wings, which increase MOI and provide visual assistance in making a proper stroke. The benefits to the golfer include ease of alignment, tremendous balance and feel, and tactile as well as audible feedback when making a putt.

Can you please tell us about the origins of, and inspiration behind, Dead On putters?
I first met one of my partners, Dan Gonzales, a local PGA Professional here in Austin, in the spring of 2004. He had the original idea for the Dead On putter, and we set out designing and manufacturing the initial prototypes. I wanted to incorporate several key features that the greatest teachers of our time all agreed upon: proper setup, proper alignment, and the proper stroke. We were pleasantly surprised by the initial feel and sound of our design, and proceeded to optimize these features by experimenting with different materials, surface finishes and manufacturing processes. Once the PGA Tour professionals got as excited as we were about our product, we went into production.

How does your personal background in biomedical and aerospace manufacturing influence the conceptual and/or engineering properties of your putters?
I have been involved in virtually all aspects of manufacturing my entire professional life. My first machine shop experience was during summers between college semesters. By 1982, I was supervising machinists on NC machines, which ran on tape, and my first designs on CAD systems occurred in 1984. I learned a tremendous amount about materials and material properties while designing exo-atmospheric mechanical systems which had to be strong, lightweight and operate in a vacuum. While at Intermedics Orthopedics, I learned about efficient and consistent manufacturing processes, and I developed several of these methods.

At Elite Sport Products, I have incorporated advanced computer solid-modeling techniques, which enable us to quickly develop and modify designs that will not only supply mass property data, but provide a database for their manufacture as well. I have also incorporated CNC manufacturing, quality control and several process-specific features that set our products ahead of the field.

Where can people find and buy your putters? And are you gaining traction on the professional circuits?
There are three avenues to purchase our products: distributors, PGA professionals, and our online store. We have several distributors who inventory our product in the U.S.A. from San Carlos, California to Sea Island, Georgia. There are several internet sites that carry our product as well, and our online store is available at www.elitesp.com. We are currently seeking additional storefront distributors nationally as well as internationally to carry our products. There, on the green grass, their customers have a chance to try out our products and experience the tremendous balance, feel and feedback that the Dead On putter provides. Virtually all of the feedback from the Tour circuit has been positive, and we have been played on the Champions Tour as well as the PGA Tour. One Tour professional played a Dead On Series III putter at a tournament the day after he first put his hands on one.

What can we expect next from Elite Sport Products and the Dead On Putter?
Elite Sport Products LP is constantly in the development phase. Our next new putter, another three-piece mallet design, has already been sent to the USGA for conformance confirmation, and there are two more prototypes which are 80 percent into the development stage. Our mission is to manufacture putters that incorporate the latest in technology and provide golfers with the most beneficial instrument possible. At Elite Sport Products LP, the same care and technique goes into hand-assembling a Dead On putter for the average golfer as well as the PGA Tour professional, so each and every one of our customers receives a “tour quality” putter with its own unique serial number laser etched into the putter head. We are proud to be an American manufacturer and plan to maintain our quality and company integrity well into the future.

Thank you, Phil. For more information, visit www.elitesp.com.

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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  1. I have the Dead On putter in MY bag and can attest to the great performance it offers.
    Darlene Keller – Austin, TX

  2. I just recently added the Dead On putter to my bag and have played 4 rounds since owning it. Like all new golf equipment I just knew as soon as I made it mine the good feelings would be gone.

    Not so in the Dead On case, I am getting more and more comfortable with it and from the very first time I used it I felt I had something in my hands that felt right. The Dead On putter has been dead on!

    Remarkable feel and each round I’ve played with it seems to just get better. Long putts are closer to the hole and short putts are going in…I’m hooked on the Dead On.

    Art Livermore
    Austin TX

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