Golf Buzz

January 30, 2017 - 3:14pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
putter, refinishing, restoration
Ken Hissam
Thinking of ditching that old putter you love because it's seen better days? You might want to consider simply having that trusty flatstick refinished instead.

Ask any serious golfer -- no matter the ability -- which club of the 14 in their respective bags is the most difficult to replace and you'll likely get the same answer from the large majority: the putter.

We all have a love-hate relationship with the flatstick. Sometimes it gets put in timeout (as if it's the putter's fault we're missing those testy knee-knockers), but for many, we seem to always turn back to old reliable.

But what happens when that beloved putter is in rough shape? Maybe it's dinged up, rusty, whatever.

If you're thinking it's time to ditch it for a new, prettier model, you might want to think again.

Did you know you can actually bring back the beauty of that putter you love that's seen better days and have it looking better than ever?

If you're wondering how that's possible, you may want to take the time to learn a little about a gentleman from North Carolina named Ken Hissam.

Hissam is a self-described "putter geek." He says his first memories of playing the game are on the putting green. He comes from a family where both parents were golf nuts. His mother, 90 years old now, still plays twice a week.

Growing up, Hissam recalls his parents hiring a caddie to babysit him while they played. Hissam and the caddies spent all that time on a putting green. And that's where he fell in love with the game... and putters.

"Out of all the clubs in one's bag, there's a special bond with a putter," he said. "A putter can bring you out of trouble after three horrendous shots or make you look like a complete idiot after just one. Clubs may come and go, but everyone keeps that one putter that won their club championship, a high school match, was their father's or grandfather's or just pulled them out of a 3-way press on the 18th. Mine is a McGregor IMG 5 my dad had that he gave to me when I was only 11. He passed away a few years ago and once I pulled that putter out of my bag, all the memories came flooding back about my dad and when we played. My dad was the best putter of the ball I had ever seen. I wanted to see the putter how he saw it all those years ago. I wanted to see it like it was new when he picked it up in the pro shop... That started my quest."

Hissam owns Kickstand Putters, which specializes in putter restoration and refinishing for a fraction of what you would pay for new putter. Basically, he can do to your putter what he did to the one his dad gave him as an 11-year-old boy.

So why refinish an old putter instead of dropping $300+ on a new one, off the rack?

"There's something about a great putter that keeps you going back," Hissam said. "It knows you and you know it. There's a history with the putter and if you get a new one you have to go through the courting process again."

Hissam can take an old, beat-up putter, remove the nicks and dings and refinish it with both the finish (black oxide, nickel, black PVD, raw stainless or raw carbon steel) and paint fill of your choosing.

"It's essentially turning your old favorite brand new again," he said. "There are basically two types of putters I work on: carbon and stainless steel. Stainless is more durable, as it will tolerate the elements a lot better that carbon. Carbon will rust over time because of the low nickel and chrome content. Some of the carbon putters that readers will be familiar with are the early Scotty Cameron's like the 'Art of Putting' series or the 'Studio Design' series. The 'Pro Platinum' series is also carbon, but it's plated. The best advice is to keep the headcover on it and keep it dry. Another bit of advice is to keep it in your hands and not in the air -- meaning don't throw it!"

The key to Hissam's ability to bring that old putter back to life is all in the preparation.

"Sanding, polishing and buffing," he said. "You have to make the putter look worse during the process in order for it look better. The right equipment is essential. The polishers and buffers you get at the Home Depot or Lowes won't cut it. I use my friend's shop which has all the industrial sanders and polishers."

For some golfers, it isn't a stretch to say they treat their putter like a newborn. When it's shipped off to Hissam for restoration, he treats it the same.

"When I first talk to the owner, I set expectations up front," said Hissam, who doesn't take payment until a customer is happy with the finished product. "For example, if there are really bad dings in the face, then we may not be able to save the milling. I share that with the owner. But, I can re-mill the face as well for an additional charge. I let them know the timeframe that they should expect their putter completed. Sometimes, I'll send them photos of the work right after polishing when the putter is ready for black oxide or PVD. Next, I will send them photos of the putter when it's completely restored for their approval. I learned early on that it's all about customer service, communication and exceeding the customers expectations."

Hissam also restores wedges and iron sets.

Here's a look at some of Hissam's work, before and after:

January 30, 2017 - 12:43pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
Tiger Woods missed the cut at Torrey Pines on Friday, but it's too early to make a fair assessment on where the former world No. 1 is at with his game.

Tiger Woods is rusty.

In fairness to the 14-time major champion, that should be the only takeaway from his early departure at Torrey Pines on Friday after rounds of 76-72 led to a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. His short weekend is utterly understandable. Woods' appearance at Torrey Pines marked his first PGA Tour start in 17 months -- the longest hiatus of his career -- after rehabilitating from two back surgeries.

If there's anything we've learned from Woods over the course of his illustrious career, it's this: Tiger needs "reps." That was evident at Torrey, particularly with his driver, which was all over the place.

Luckily for us, two encouraging signs emerged from La Jolla.

First -- this might be just me -- did Tiger seem extra happy? He was smiling perhaps more than I've ever seen in competition -- almost a sense of rejuvenation.

RELATED: Timeline of Tiger's injuries and comebacks | Woods misses cut at Torrey Pines

Second, he didn't show any signs of a setback. That's great news for the game and even better news for Tiger... especially when we're talking about those all-important "reps."

In his career -- especially early in the season -- it hasn't been uncommon to see Tiger play one week and then take a few off. That's not the case this time around. Immediately following the MC in SoCal, Woods boarded his private jet for a tournament this week in Dubai -- the second of four tournaments in a five-week stretch.

That's a lot of golf for a guy who's been away for nearly a year and a half. But it's great, isn't it? We can only surmise that it means Woods is feeling comfortable with his recovery and feels it's necessary to get in a bunch of rounds to see how he's going to hold up.

There's another factor in Tiger's schedule that we'd be silly not to point out. Between now and the Masters, there are two World Golf Championships events on the schedule -- the Mexico Championship and the Dell Technologies Match Play. Nobody has dominated the World Golf Championships events like Woods, who has tallied a tremendous 18 victories since the series' inception back in 1999. But he's not eligible to play this year. 

So, considering his current world ranking number of 666, Woods needs to make up some starts. Thus his accelerated schedule.

All of this testing the body and playing plenty of tournament golf, as Woods pointed out last week, is an effort to prepare for what matters most to him and all top players -- "the first full week in April."

That would be the Masters.

It's encouraging to hear in January, after all that time away, that's where Tiger's mind still goes. And now, provided there are no setbacks before the azaleas are in full bloom in Augusta, Ga., in early April, we'll actually have a pretty decent sample-size of Woods and his game. He'll have his "reps."

In his last 10 Masters tournaments, dating to his last green jacket in 2005, Woods finished outside the top 6 just twice. That was a T40 in 2012 and a T17 in 2015.

Woods still believes he can catch Jack Nicklaus and the all-time record of 18 major victories even though he has been stuck on 14 since the 2008 U.S. Open. If he didn't, why would he still play?

One would think his best shot at winning a major is still at Augusta National, where he's been victorious on four occasions. History, however, may not be on his side.

Only five players Woods' age or older -- he is 41 -- have won the Masters.

Here they are:

1986: Jack Nicklaus, 46 years, 2 months, 24 days

1995: Ben Crenshaw, 43 years, 2 months, 30 days

1978: Gary Player, 42 years, 5 months, 9 days

1954: Sam Snead, 41 years, 10 months, 17 days

1998: Mark O’Meara, 41 years, 3 months

Can Woods join that rarified air? While the window certainly appears to be closing, who's to say -- definitively -- that he can't?