“Who are Sacks and Parente?”
That was the question I asked when Sacks Parente Golf hit the radar this past January at the PGA Show. If I’m being honest, learning that it was a company started by Steve Sacks and Rich Parente didn’t help much either. I’m probably not the first person to think that it was baseball Hall of Famer Steve Sax starting a putter making company.
Although I’d later learn more about their golf pedigree, Sacks and Parente were not names that I knew at the time.
Some of you, especially those of my generation or younger, are probably also wondering who these guys are, and so it makes sense that we start today with a bit of biographical background.
OG Golf Guys
Steve Sacks and Rich Parente have a long history in the golf business. These guys were making golf gear before many of us ever hit our first tee shots. Rich Parente was an original co-founder and the first President of Callaway golf in 1982. Steve Sacks
joined the Dodgers began his career in the golf industry in the 1970s. These guys spent decades designing golf gear before retiring.
What happened next mirrors a classic talking point in golf; comparing modern gear to classic gear. We have all debated how modern golfers would play with equipment from yesteryear, or historical golfers would fare with modern sticks. A special event here or there where current pros go out a play with old clubs, give us a small glimpse, but we will never know what a historical golfer in his or her prime would shoot with modern equipment. Regardless, it makes for a fun, and frequently spirited 19th hole discussion.
One of the exciting things about Sacks and Parente is that, as clubmakers, they can approach this modern vs. classic debate from a different angle. More specifically, what could classic golf club designers construct using advanced materials and manufacturing methods that were unavailable when they were in the industry? Could the combination of Sacks’ and Parente’s shared century of design experience married with twenty-first-century manufacturing produce cutting-edge, yet still classic golf gear?
That was the question that brought these guys out of “semi-retirement” to start Sacks Parente Golf.
Five Questions With Sacks Parente
Rather than have me tell you more about these guys and their company, let’s go right to the source, Steve Sacks. Here are my questions, and his responses, regarding Sacks and Parente and their golf company.
How did Sacks Parente Golf come into being?
Rich and I were pretty much “semi-retired” for a few years. We still had a couple of viable patents and were still tinkering with designs, especially the predecessors of the 39 and the 54. I was at the PGA show in 2018 talking to a couple of companies about licensing the designs and patents and through a mutual friend met our two partners Tim Triplett and Aki Yorihiro. Nothing was planned; we just sat down and talked about golf, putters, patents, the industry, etc. This was on Wednesday, the first day of the show. They asked if I could see them Friday before we all left. We got together Friday morning, and they had an outline for a start-up and a rough draft of a plan to put it together. I went back and talked to Rich, and after about a month of back and forth, we decided to start the company. Completely serendipitous. Less than a year later we had refined the first designs, had to re-invent putter grips to meet our specs, rented a building, set up basic manufacturing, etc., and then made it to the PGA Show. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.
What separates Sacks Parente putters from off the rack putters? From other small-shop putters?
We’re not normal might be the best answer. Number one is our Ultra-Low Balance Point (ULBP) technology. It changes everything you ever thought you knew about putters. The lower (closer to the head) we get the balance point, the more and faster the putter head will release and the faster it will try to square itself. If you don’t release the putter head during the stroke, it tends to go a little sideways. Number two is our MOI. The 39 Blade has 126 grams of tungsten combined in the heel and toe. When you combine that with the stainless material in the heel and toe, that means over 75% of the head weight is in the heel and toe. While it’s kind of the “Poster Child” of our designs, all of them have extremely high MOI. We also believe in getting the center of gravity as close to the shaft alignment as possible. The 39 is perfect because it has equal amounts of weight on the front and back of the head. Also, the closer the CG is to the shaft, the less gear effect it creates. When you put all the technologies together, it creates what we think is the best performing putter ever made.
What is the process for ordering a Sacks Parente putter?
You can order directly through the website or through your golf professional. Our website allows you to configure your putter with a choice of three grip styles (flat, round or pistol), three lengths (33” – 35”), and three shaft styles (Graphite Composite, Tour or Pro Tour X). You can also make an appointment to come to our office in Camarillo to be fitted.
What can a golfer expect when he or she games a Sacks Parente putter?
You’ll make more putts! You’ll immediately feel the low balance point. After an hour with it, you’ll wonder how you ever putted with anything else. I think you’ll also make the game more fun.
Can you give us a glimpse of things to come at Sacks Parente?
Rich and I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about designs, materials, and technologies. The Series 18 Cavity Sole Flange Blade is in production, and we should have inventory by August. We have three other models in prototyping and being tested on tour. We also have some designs based on some pending patent work we’re doing.
Green Time with the Sacks Parente Series 39 Putter
It’s one thing to get to know the people behind a company, but ultimately we play golf with the gear, not the designers. To get more ball-rolling information Sacks Parente Golf took my specs, and built a Series 39 putter, allowing me to share some first-hand observations with you. Before I get to that though, let’s take a look at the technologies that separate Sacks Parente putters from their peers. The information in italics below can be found on the Sacks Parente website.
Sacks Parente Putter Technology: ULBP
ULBP is our patented putter technology that no other company can replicate! It is defined as a balancing point below 5 inches from the sole of the putter. It promotes a natural pendulum motion, with minimal effort, that automatically squares the putter head at impact and improves your speed control.
Our signature Featherweight Putter Grips are specifically designed and engineered as an essential component of ULBP technology. At an average weight of just 35 grams (or less), our grips are less than half the weight of typical putter grips found in the market today.
Lightweight Carbon Fiber – Graphite Shaft
At approximately 1 gram per inch, our shaft is the high-performance engine that powers ULBP. With the help of our partners, like Olympic CO. LTD, we’ve engineered TORAY carbon fiber and graphite composite shafts that are ultra-lightweight, have a high CPM, and a unique dexterity unlike any other on the market. Achieving this level of performance, at less than one-third of the weight of a typical steel shaft is an engineering marvel.
Multi-Material / High MOI Head
Unmatched performance comes from the unique redistribution of weight, creating a putter that produces minimal energy loss, optimal roll, and exceptional feel…All without gear effect. To achieve this, we used the highest density tungsten available, in conjunction with lightweight alloys to redistribute the weight, thereby dramatically increasing MOI, and keeping the center of gravity as close to the shaft axis as possible.
Gaming the Series 39
The idea that you are rolling something special begins as soon as you take the putter out of the box. More to the point, I knew Sacks Parente was delivering something unique as soon as I saw the box containing the putter.
The Series 39 putter shipped in a hinged plastic case, similar to a case used to transport a rifle, or maybe a custom pool cue. While I will likely never carry the putter to the course in the case, and a fancy case won’t help me hole more putts, seeing it made an impression. Cardboard and bubble wrap was not enough to secure this putter. It needed a case with locks!
Once I took the putter to the course, my initial impression of the Series 39, and one shared by others who rolled it, was that the Series 39 feels different from more traditional weighted putters. Since feel in a putter is a bit of a nebulous characteristic, let me see if I can explain the Series 39 in more relatable terms.
Once you start rolling balls, you’ll feel the difference in weighting with the Series 39. The super-light grip and shaft produce a unique weighting system. Comparing the Series 39 to all of the putters that I’ve rolled through the years, only Bridgestone’s True Balance putter parallels what Sacks Parente is doing with their putters.
Like the Bridgestone putters, you feel the lightness of shaft and grip as soon as you pick up the Series 39. Unlike the Bridgestone’s durability-worrisome polymer grip, the components of the Series 39 feel well made. It’s readily apparent that Sacks Parente is using high-quality materials.
This putter is head heavy, and that’s the whole point. The lightweight grip and shaft cower when confronted with the mass of the head. Maybe they don’t cower, but when you compare the parts, the head has all of the mass, promoting the ULBP design.
The head has a classic bullseye-elf shoe shape, making it a true blade in a landscape littered with less-sleek heel-toe-weighted blades. While the shape may be classic, Sacks Parente has infused the design with modern-looking face grooves, and mass-moving tungsten. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a classic bullseye with a MOI anywhere near the 5196 score of the Series 39. The look is classic, but Sacks Parente wants you to game their putters, and have included elements of modern technology to help you make putts.
So what were my conclusions from the course?
First of all, the feedback on this putter is fantastic. You know right away when you’ve hit the sweet spot. The tone and tactile feedback change with impact position. This means that the Series 39 comes with a built-in training aid. Practicing with the Series 39 should help you reduce your face wanderings, which should lead to more consistent putting.
On the course, the differing feedback lets you know when you hit the putt correctly, or not. With that, it was interesting to see the result of “missed” putts. Most of the time, the missed putt ended up close to the line and intended distance. I credit this to the increased MOI of the design. Though a center-shafted blade, misses with the Series 39 are not as punishing as expected with the tech there to help fix them.
So is the Series 39 my new gamer? Probably not. While I enjoyed rolling balls with the Series 39, two issues will likely deny the Series 39 status as my primary gamer. Neither issue is the putter’s fault though…
My first issue with the Series 39 is that I struggled with lag putts. At distance, the weighting scheme of the putter was less comfortable for me. Again, the design is supposed to feel different, perhaps even uncomfortable compared to the usual. I know that putting more balls with the Series 39 would help me to eliminate this at distance bias, allowing me to reprogram my swing a bit to match the ULBP design.
My second issue with the putter is simply one of visual preference. Bullseye putters don’t fit my eye at address. This is of no fault of the putter, more so just how I see the design in play. The small sightline makes it easy to align the putter to the ball, but I just don’t trust my eyes that all is aligned at the target. Perhaps too, this could improve with balls rolled, but I know that specific head shapes are more challenging than others for me. You may be completely different, with the blade hitting your sweet visual spot.
As I said, my non-bullseye preference is nothing that takes away from this being a solid bullseye blade/elf shoe design. Should you share my feelings on this shape, take solace in the fact that Sacks Parente will be releasing other head shapes. They currently offer two different mallets for sale, and a heel-toe weighted blade is in the design queue.
Do We Need Another Putter Company?
My buddies and I sometimes discuss this idea within the context of craft breweries. Do we need more local breweries? My gut answer is always “Yes!”, but I know that there will ultimately be a saturation point for breweries where the consumers just aren’t there to support new suds shops.
I feel like we have the same situation for putter shops. Do we need to have another shop making putters? Again, I’ll gut-answer that question, “Yes!”, but I think we could also reach a saturation point in the putter market. I want to say that we are not at the saturation point yet, but I bet we can all come up with names of putter companies that were here a few years ago, showing lots of promise, and that are now out of business.
So where does this leave Sacks Parente Golf? I think that their industry experience gives them a better chance of survival and success than some newcomer with a CNC milling machine and a dream. Sacks Parente is not rehashing old designs either. Making putters that represent their ULBP design is a different process than stamping bumpers on an Anser clone. Should that technology catch on, it gives them an edge in the market.
Will the ULBP technology be a thing that catches on? Who can know for sure? However, it is a technical component as opposed to an aesthetic one, though there’s nothing wrong with beautiful aesthetics. Those of you who have followed my ramblings through the years know that I am a sucker for a pretty putter. But at the end of the day, we want to make putts on the course. Sacks Parente Golf gets this, and while they want you to love the looks of your stick (as demonstrated by the torched tungsten), they also want to provide you with a putter that hits the hole.
I get the feeling that these old dogs, with their new tricks, may have just the right combination of both to make it (again) in the mercurial golf marketplace.