T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Low Tide Putters: Custom putters that tell a story -- your story
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Friday, January 03, 2014 | 10:15 a.m.
In case you didn't know, your options for high-quality/high-end putters isn't limited to what you find in your local golf shop.
There are quite a few boutique putter makers out there who not only build incredible putters that can double up as pieces of art, but they can also customize your flat-stick however you desire.
One of those boutique putter makers relatively new to the business are Josh Bumgarner and Zack Potts, owners of Charlotte, N.C.-based, "Low Tide Custom Putters."
Like most great stories in these circles, Low Tide's started on the golf course.
In the spring of 2012, Bumgarner and Potts where playing a round of golf when they came up with the idea to design their own custom putters. They strived to come up with something that couldn't be purchased off the rack -- something that was more personal and could be passed down through generations for families.
Between the two, 10 years of design experience and another 12 years of machining and CAD experience, Bumgarner (Low Tide owner, putter designer, putter maker, CNC programmer and machinist) and Potts (Low Tide owner, putter designer, graphic designer and marketing specialist) were able to make their vision become a reality.
We recently caught up with Bumgarner and Potts for a Q&A about the new company.
PGA.com: Tell me a little about yourself. What is it that got you involved in making putters?
Potts: Josh and I met on the golf course. We knew that there were many putters available to the public, but we wanted to create something that was unique and personal. Having over 10 years of design experience and a dozen years of machining and CAD experience under our belts, we knew that we had the know-how to make it happen. We each have been playing the game for nearly 30 years, so we knew what we wanted. We came up with a couple of designs that we liked and started working on them.
PGA.com: Was this a hobby that turned into a business?
Bumgarner: It was completely a hobby, until we made our first putter... The night that we made the original FIN, we looked at each other and knew that we had started something special. After we shared our story online, we immediately received positive feedback. Within the first 30 minutes of our story being posted, we already had nearly a dozen inquiries of people asking how and where they could purchase one of our putters. We didn't expect that at all.
PGA.com: Boutique putter makers -- such as yourself -- seem to be popping up all over the place lately. Why do you think that is? Do you all just envision a need or want that you can't seem to find elsewhere?
Potts: There are many great putter makers out there but we live in a day and age where people want something different, something personal. Using the foundation for the designs of our putters, we allow the customer to have say in how their putter is made. We want it to fit their eye perfectly. Many off the rack companies don't make that accessible for the majority of golfers.
PGA.com: What separates Low Tide putters from others?
Bumgarner: We allow the customer to customize in more ways than one. Many manufacturers are mass producing their clubs and because of this, they limit the number of adjustments that can be made to their product. We're different. If someone calls us and wants a putter with 8 degrees of loft, 63 degree lie angle, and a length of 38.25 inches, we'll make it happen. We also like to keep our customers updated as much as possible during the process. We usually send pictures of the putters in progress so that they can see where their putter is during different stages.
PGA.com: Tell me about your current offerings. It looks like you've got three different models with seemingly endless customization options.
Potts: We set out to make putters that are different, not similar. We keep it simple. We use minimal lines with easy alignment. When we designed the first putter, the FIN, we wanted to make a wide body blade style putter that squared up to the target easily. The Whale Tail followed shortly after. We knew that Mallets were hot in the marketplace and that they were growing in popularity .
PGA.com: What has been the highlight of Low Tide so far? Any customer feedback that truly sticks out?
Bumgarner: We think that the customers deserve all of the credit. We have a lot of passion for what we do but to receive the kind of feedback that we do on a regular basis is incredible. We love getting emails or phone calls saying how they were completely blown away by their experience and how well the putter feels.
PGA.com: Can you tell us about the process involved in making a putter?
Potts: Each one of our putters is milled from a solid billet. Nothing is cast and every piece that we do, is done by us in Charlotte, N.C. Because each piece is milled on the CNC, the tolerances are extremely tight and we are able to produce a high quality and precise product for our customers.
PGA.com: How did you come up with the name, "Low Tide?"
Bumgarner: After brainstorming about 200 different names, we each picked our favorites. Low Tide was the one that we both picked as our first choice. We live in Charlotte and love the beach. We feel that the words alone can evoke a feeling or memory in people. We wanted something casual, laid back, and fun.
PGA.com: Along with the beautiful putters, you also offer something called, "the Putting Puck." Tell our readers about it. It looks like a fantastic tool to keep in the bag for those times when you want to warm up on a practice green only to find there are no holes cut out on the green -- or great even for putting practice at home.
Potts: We wanted to create something for our first 20 customers as a commemorative token, but we wanted it be useful. The putting puck was designed to be the exact diameter of a golf hole. You never want to show up at the course on a Saturday morning and try to compete for one of the five holes on the practice green. The putting puck is a great tool (and conversation piece) to have in your golf bag or at home. Because it's mobile, you can place it anywhere on the putting surface to practice the type of putts that you need to.
PGA.com: If someone was trying to decide between a Low Tide putter and one from a big-time manufacturer in a box store, why would you encourage them to lean toward Low Tide?
Bumgarner: During our research, we've discovered that most people are not using a putter that fits their stroke. Our goal is to not only make you a stellar flat stick, but also make sure it's set up for you. For years it seems the industrial standard has been 71-degree lie angle. We have found most golfers have a flatter lie angle. The average seems to be around 68 degrees. We believe that the optimal position for the putter head is for the sole to lay flat on the ground. The putter should be parallel with the ground at impact. All putters have loft and when the toe or heel is pointed toward the sky a compound angle is created causing the face angle to open or close.
PGA.com: I read on your site where you want your putters to be something that people can pass down in the family -- almost like a family keepsake. How satisfying is it when you complete a putter for a customer that tells a story? Is there any one in particular you can share with us?
Potts: When someone places a custom order we really want the experience to be personal. There have been some amazing stories that our customers have shared with us on why they have chosen the custom engravings that they want to include. From children and loved ones, to meaningful nicknames and lucky numbers, it is a piece of their story and we are happy to apply it to something that they will be proud to use out on the course. Golf is a social sport and we want our customers to be proud to share their personal story when someone asks about their putter during a round.
Pricing for Low Tide Custom Putters start at $275 and go up depending on finish and level of personalization.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.