Indeed, in the span of a month last summer, it went from maligned curiosity to blazing bestseller, and the mania shows no sign of abating as we head into another golf season.
We’ve been covering the belly putter craze for months here on PutterZone.com, and we’ve even presented a series of belly putter fitting tips. But now comes a New York Times story that provides hard numbers demonstrating the full scope of the surging belly putter market. We got a hint of it a few months ago when TaylorMade indicated that it was tripling its forecasts for fourth quarter sales of its belly putters. But the Times story presents statistics that are truly mind boggling.
For example, True Temper says that it may produce upwards of 500,000 belly putter shafts this year, up from 60,000 in 2010. Stephen Boccieri, creator of the Heavy Putter, said his company sold more belly putters last October than it typically does in an entire year.
According to the Times, sales of belly putters surged 400 percent in 2011. What’s more impressive is the fact that the belly putter didn’t catch fire until later summer, after Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship while bagging a belly putter. So the 400 percent surge is attributable to less than a half year’s worth of buzz. Imagine the growth percentage if this had started back at the Masters in April.
It’s important to view these numbers from the perspective a sputtering equipment market. One of the other startling figures in the Times story is that total putter sales were down 4.1 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year, even with the belly putter craze. Total putter sales were $141 million, down from $200 million in 2003. Think about that, factor in inflation, and you’re presented with a pretty grim picture.
In a typical sales cycle, new putters will come out in the early part of the year, and golfers may or may not be tempted to upgrade their traditional putter based on a variety of factors, such as technology, looks or growing frustration with their current stick. Marketing persuasion, of course, can play a role in each of those scenarios.
But with the belly putter, it’s different. It’s golfers searching for their holy grail on the green. It’s an abandonment, en masse, of the traditional putter. It’s True Temper producing more than eight times as many belly putter shafts this year than two years ago.
In other words, it’s the belly putter uplifting an entire sector of the golf equipment industry. This may be the first year in many to be bullish on total putter sales.