Can the next big thing in putters come from a little town in Texas populated by a grand total 250 people? The guys behind Utopia Golf Products are certainly betting on it, and they are off to a great start, having earned the “Best New Product” award at the recent PGA Fall Expo in Las Vegas. Utopia putters are distinguished by a horizontal face ridge that the company calls “The Edge.” The ridge is designed to strike the ball just above its equator to produce immediate forward roll. The Utopia TXR 1 blade ($169) and TXR II mallet ($179) are now available for sale via the company’s web site. Utopia Golf Products was started by three residents of Utopia, Texas: Bill Deichler, Mike Hillis and Scott Saunders. PutterZone.com recently spoke with Bill Deichler about the new Utopia putters, and about their journey from concept to product. Following is our exclusive interview:
What are the features and benefits of your putters?
The feature that separates our line of putters from all others on the market is immediately noticeable. The club face, or “The Edge,” is designed to put the sweet part of the club on the sweet spot of the ball. Traditional putters can cause the ball to skid or hop a few inches or more, producing inconsistent results. We tested our putter against some of the more high-end putters on the market using a high speed camera and we recorded the results. Our club had the ball rolling instantly off the clubface, well within the first half inch after impact. The other putters that were tested caused the ball to “knuckle” or scoot along as much as eight inches before starting to roll.
The sooner you can start the ball rolling, the sooner it gets on target. Our new and radical design gives you the advantage of a true and consistent roll, and a softer feel in a perfectly balanced club. Our design produces immediate topspin or instant forward roll on the ball to produce a straight and true roll, even when miss-hit off the toe or heel. It also performs remarkably well from the fringe.
Where did the idea of The Edge come from, and how did it go from concept to reality?
Mike and Scott are credited with coming up with the design. They showed up at the local course to play 18 holes and realized that they had left their putters at home. So they used their sand wedges and bellied the ball. The ball came off the club clean and rolled instantly.
We then got together and built a prototype and played with the location of The Edge. From that crudely made prototype a second prototype was machined and perfected by a local machinist who loves golf. He was able to provide insight and experience from his time spent playing the game. When that club produced the effect on the ball we were looking for, we signed up for the PGA Fall Expo and started working toward the goal of attending and winning the “Best New Product” award.
What does The Edge specifically do, in a physical sense?
The Edge is .100 in front of what is called the traditional club face. However, The Edge is our clubface. It is virtually impossible—at least without abusing or misusing the club—to strike the ball with any other part of the club. The Edge strikes just above centerline of the ball, not so high as to cause downward movement of the ball, and not so low as to cause the ball to hop.
Can you describe what it’s like to build a new putter company from the ground up? Building any company from the ground up is challenging. However if you have a product that works and improves the way people do things, you will succeed. The TXR line of putters is new and radical in design, and, best of all, they work better than any other putter on the market today. We produced a great looking club and focused on the details. We mill, assemble, paint and polish each club by hand in Utopia, Texas. It’s the small details that you spend hours working on that have the biggest effect.
Can you tell us about your week leading up to the PGA Fall Expo, and the reaction or results you got from the show?
The week leading up to the show had its moments, and was very hectic at times, but once the clubs were packed and shipped off to Las Vegas the pressure was off. We all knew we had a great product and that it would impress everyone who would see it in Las Vegas. We all had high expectations and had discussed our chances of winning the “Best New Product” award.
On Monday we set up our tent at demo day and began our task of putting our club in every attendees’ hands. From the first person to see it to the last, it was a hit. Tuesday and Wednesday were even better. The members of our team didn’t even have time to sit down or eat lunch. We spilled over into the surrounding area and took over the corner we were on. People would walk by and test our putter, then a few minutes later they would show back up with one of their friends to show it to them. Then a few minutes later that person would be back with someone else. Paul Piro of the PGA told us on Wednesday morning that we had won the “Best New Product” award and we celebrated appropriately.
I still catch myself thinking about it and smiling. It feels like it was all a dream now. In the last week the phone and emails have been non-stop and the orders are starting to come in.
Thank you, Bill! Stay tuned for the PutterZone.com Utopia putter review.