There are two schools of thought when it comes to golfing equipment. There’s the school that says you don’t need to spend outrageous dollars to get clubs that do what you need. And then there’s the school that says sure, but the good stuff’s great to have, even if it does cost a little more.
It sounds absurd, but these can roughly be thought of as the socialist and capitalist models of golf consumerism.
Golf and the Economics of Pleasure
The thing about the capitalist model is that it includes an element of faith. There’s an unspoken assumption that the more a company is charging for a club, the more impressive or useful it must be. Surely, if it weren’t extra-specially good, they wouldn’t be able to charge as much as they do for it?
As PT Barnum so very nearly said, there’s a capitalist born every minute.
Meanwhile, the socialist model of golf consumerism can easily turn into the miserly model, keeping hold of clubs long beyond their useful lifespan, because they ‘do the job’ – or they used to, at least.
Bottom line, the socialist, ‘good enough to get the job done’ golfer is never going to buy a Scotty Cameron putter. They may or may not ever buy a particularly specialized putter at all, in the mistaken belief that really, when you get right down to it, all putters are the same, and all the game-making has already been done by the time you get to the green.
But even more usually capitalist golfers have winced at the price of a Scotty Cameron putter. Does it, they wonder, pick up the ball and fly it to the hole on a magic carpet, just to drop it squarely in every time you use the putter? Does the Scotty Cameron name confer the club with some magical pixie dust that means your shots can never fail?
Or… is it just an earthly putter? In which case, how does it justify its hefty price tag? Is it possible, maybe, that a club exists that is somehow not worth what the manufacturers are charging for it?
Let’s take a look.
Good, But Not Special
The first thing to say is that Scotty Cameron putters come from a reputable source. Scotty Cameron is a brand owned by Acushnet, the owner of Titleist, makers of some of the leading golf balls in the American game. So, in the first place, it has some weight in the industry, and it knows the mechanics of golf from tee to cup.
Secondly, there are some primo materials in the Scotty Cameron putters – and such premium materials cost premium money. That’s a cost Acushnet is happy to pass on to you, because it’s not in the company’s interests to spend money on high-grade materials without a plan to recoup the cost.
That said, it’s tricky to discover what the high-grade materials actually add to your game.
Certainly, there’s a feeling of quality when you hold and use a Scotty Cameron. You definitely know where your money has gone – there’s a solidity, a sense of purpose and certainty to a Scotty Cameron putter, which could be said to be ‘why’ it’s as expensive as it is.
The bottom line is that if you play two identical shots on the same green, one with a standard or above-average putter, and one with a Scotty Cameron… the results are usually the same.
The Scotty Cameron will feel slightly different, with a slightly bigger John Wayne swagger, but that’s all down to the tasty materials and – just a little – down to the name. If it doesn’t improve your gameplay though, you should feel free to swagger all you like. A swagger and a good feeling won’t get you under par.
So again, why are we spending extra money on a Scotty Cameron putter?
A Very Personal Putter
Well, on the one hand, the good feeling it delivers is a reason in its own right – if you have the money, why not get a putter that makes you feel like it’s come to play (even if technically, it doesn’t deliver any better than a cheaper putter)?
There are large pleasures in life (like cutting a stroke off your handicap), and there are small pleasures, like handling a really confident-feeling putter when you deliver that last shot of the hole.
Worth paying extravagantly extra for, though?
Hang on, we’re onto something. Because the other thing that really distinguishes the Scotty Cameron putter is that it’s the most customizable putter in a crowded market of fairly drab sticks to tap balls with.
You can customize it. You can even personalize it. When you pull your Scotty Cameron putter from your golf bag, it will draw the eye of anyone against whom you’re playing. And there are bonuses there. In the first place, there’s that sense of a personalized property.
People pay over market value for personalized license plates, personalized cellphones or cases, personalized laptops, personalized anything because the personalization makes any item more than it otherwise would be. It makes it yours, your very particular version of a thing that other people share, generically, with everyone else.
That may very well be the point that allows Acushnet to charge what it charges for a Scotty Cameron putter.
That’s one of two ways to justify a higher price for anything. The first way, the more traditional way, is to make the thing do its job better than any other manufacturer’s version of the same thing. We know the Scotty Cameron putter doesn’t do that.
But the second way is to make a thing that’s as good as anything else on the market – and then give it options. Color choices, personalization options, anything that separates it from the run of everybody else’s mill.
That’s more or less exactly what the Scotty Cameron putter does. It wouldn’t get away with it if it were actually a bad putter. So it’s as good a putter as you’ll find on the market, and it will press your material quality buttons every time you pick it up.
But the thing that justifies the extra cost on top is the personalization, so it’s not just a Scotty Cameron putter – it’s your Scotty Cameron putter, decked out the way you want it.
It may put other golfers on the back foot when you draw it, and it might give you an additional burst of repeatable confidence when you pull your putter. But you don’t buy it for anything as scientific as that – you buy it to make it yours, whatever the cost.