Childhood buddies Tim Shaughnessy and Zac Nicholls are the proud owners of a small, New York-based company called Bellum Winmore.
Bellum Winmore is in the business of making custom milled putters.
"Zac and I first started throwing ideas around in 2010," Shaughnessy told PGA.com. "We came up with a concept for a highly adjustable putter head in 2011 and started Bellum Winmore shortly thereafter. Looking at the prototype, it's a very cool concept. However, in launching a new brand we decided to pursue more traditional designs first. We intend to revisit the idea of producing the adjustable head, but for now our focus is making precision 100 percent milled putters with unbelievable feel and performance."
Along with a variety of beautiful traditional designs, Bellum Winmore also offers custom back weighting on its putters so that customers can find that perfect balance we all look for in our favorite flat-stick.
We recently sat down with Shaughnessy for a Q&A to learn more about Bellum Winmore.
PGA.com: How did you come up with the name?
Shaughnessy: We wanted our name to speak to quality and tradition, without bashing people over the head with something obvious. We started searching foreign language translations of words and concepts related to our vision. We went back and forth for months, pouring over thousands of word combinations before agreeing on the name "Bellum Winmore." The abstract translation is "Win More Wars." The process was arduous, but the result was exactly what we were looking for.
PGA.com: Where are the putters made?
Shaughnessy: Originally we milled everything at our custom shop in Northern California. Recently we partnered with a state-of-the-art machine shop with the most high tech, high output machines on the market. At the same time we made a significant investment in testing and measuring equipment, which has enabled us to develop a quality system that is typically only found in extremely advanced manufacturing sectors. The integration of this approach into our business model has enabled us to repurpose our shop to focus solely on custom work, prototyping, and first run production.
PGA.com: What separates a Bellum Winmore putter from others?
Shaughnessy: There's an exotic finish section on our website (www.bellumwinmore.com) where we're showcasing the most amazing one-off finishes you'll ever see on stainless steel. They really are works of art.
From a performance standpoint we offer extensive counter-balance options that enable the golfer to really tune their putter.
Then there's the feel. We've done extensive resonance testing which really shaped our design approach. "Soft" is an incredibly overused word in our industry, and one we don't particularly care for. What I will say is that Bellum Winmore Milled Putters offer the most pleasing feel of any putter on the market.
PGA.com: Can you tell us a little about the process of constructing a putter? Does it literally start off as a block?
Shaughnessy: Our putters our 100 percent milled from a single piece of 303 stainless steel. In order to cut down on waste and machine time we use custom stock rather than a rectangular billet that produces copious amounts of wasted metal. There is no welding. The entire putter is precision milled as a single piece, then bead blasted to a matte finish. We then set aside a specific amount of putters that will get custom finishes, such as our torched Whiskey finish or our black PVD. I have to say, our black finish is the absolute best you will find.
PGA.com: Can you tell me about your customization options?
Shaughnessy: There is a little bit of variance model-to-model. Every model can be ordered with your choice of playing specs (length, lie, loft). Additional customizations include paint fill, face milling, sightlines, three different finishes, black or chrome shaft, and several grip options. However, the customization that sets us apart is the ability to really tune in your putter feel with grip weights ranging from 10g to 100g. Our site makes the whole process incredibly easy. If there is a desired customization or configuration that isn't listed on the product page we encourage our customers to contact us directly.
PGA.com: What is the turnaround time from start to finish on a putter once a customer places an order?
Shaughnessy: Our goal is to ship all orders within two days after the order is placed, though certain customizations require additional lead-time. We pride ourselves on constant communication throughout the process, so our customers are updated with both the progress of the order and any potential delays in production and shipping. Open and honest communication is the key to developing a positive relationship with our customers.
PGA.com: What has been the most rewarding aspect of this venture for you to this point?
Shaughnessy: That's a tough one. It reminds me of the 10 minutes after an acceptance speech when you realize you forgot to thank your mom. The positive feedback from our customers has been extremely gratifying. Knowing that people believe in our product and our approach is very rewarding, and drives us to continue looking for ways to improve. At the end of the day the customer is what matters, and we are grateful to each and every one of them.
PGA.com: How difficult is it to break into the golf equipment business as a smaller company?
Shaughnessy: I don't want to discourage anyone from throwing their hat into the ring. It's extremely competitive, but competition brings out the best in you. We did our first PGA event at the John Deere Classic and it was extremely eye opening. It definitely cemented the reality that market entry is a marathon rather than a sprint. That said, the experience was encouraging and the feedback was entirely positive.
PGA.com: Is most of your business from word of mouth?
Shaughnessy: Our business is almost entirely word of mouth. At this point we do minimal advertising, and focus on a more "boots on the ground" strategy. This approach has helped us connect with golfers and better understand their needs. A mentor of mine used to say, "Start with the customer and work back," and that’s exactly what we do.
PGA.com: How much -- if at all -- has social media helped your business?
Shaughnessy: Staying relevant at this point in time is contingent on a social media presence. With our collective backgrounds rooted in manufacturing and operations, Zac and I are still feeling our way through things like Twitter and Facebook. It’s all quite new but we're learning.
PGA.com: Where do you envision Bellum Winmore five years from now?
Shaughnessy: We continue to pursue innovations that improve upon our design intent. Our five-year plan includes a tour presence at every level, as well as strategic partnerships with companies whose ideas and products we believe in. However we maintain the position that achieving high water cannot come at the expense of quality or customer service, which we consider immutable attributes.
PGA.com: Have you received any help or encouragement from other companies?
Shaughnessy: We've been lucky enough to partner with quality organizations that have been instrumental in our progress. Puregrips (www.puregrips.com) have continuously exceeded our expectations, treating us with a level of respect and urgency usually reserved for much larger companies. I'd like to give a special acknowledgement to Alvin who is as good a representative as a company could ever hope for.
We also appreciate all of the help and support we have received from Delila Harvey (www.girlygolfer.com). Her head covers are second to none, and anyone in the business can tell you how hard it is to get a quality head cover.
Also, Bellum Winmore is offering free shipping when you order. Simply add the discount code "PGA" at checkout.