(By Dave Wolfe)

Classic. . .

Putter lovers know that there are but a few designs that truly deserve the distinction of being labeled A Classic. These are the putters that set the standards and trends for putter design. Decades after a classic shape is introduced, its influence and pedigree are easily observed in the modern putter corral.

How do you know if a putter is a Classic? As I just mentioned, its influence persists in the modern putter, even if the original has not been produced for a while.

Here’s another way to know. Have you ever heard someone claim that putter X is just a copy of putter Y? If so, putter Y is likely a classic.

It’s not a long list of putters though. I can think of three or maybe four putters that have earned that distinction. Mr. Mills made a few classics, as did Mr. Solheim and Mr. Reuter.

Has there been a modern classic? Tough to say. Again, the modern designs borrow a lot from the classics, and when they don’t, golfers are sometimes too quick to label them as abominations of the green (see the panned, but excellent Futura X).

All that aside, there is one putter that is always, and I mean always, on the classic putter list. It’s a putter that has been copied by numerous companies; likely because of its rich pedigree of tour success.

Some of the biggest, if not the biggest, names in golf have used this putter.

That putter, is the Wilson 8802.

Putter lovers revere the 8802. It’s loved by the majority of golfers, including those who know that they would not putt well with it. Maybe it’s the simple design. Maybe it ties nostalgically into how they learned the game. It’s tough to pinpoint what drives the attraction to the 8802. But that attraction is there, and it’s been there for a while.

The History of the Wilson 8802

Here is a timeline of the 8802 that Wilson Staff shared with me.

The History of the 8802

  • 1940 – Wilson introduces the R46 Willie Hoare putter.  “A revolutionary putter with a different feel and a new grip.  It has an unusually broad sole, giving it excellent balance.”
  • 1948 – R46, Winsum putter Designed by Willie Hoare.
  • 1950 – Stock numbers were changed and the R46 become the D8802.
  • 1954 – Winsum putter Designed by Willie Hoare is changed to D8802 stock number.
  • 1955 – A new Winsum putter is introduced.  “This goose-neck putter features a brass head, flange back…”
  • 1959 – New Turf Rider putter, with double ribbed sole is introduced with stock number D8802.
  • 1960 – Four new brass putters are introduced, all with flared tip shafts.  One of which is called simply Arnold Palmer and is “Designed By the world famous Arnold Palmer… brass head with Flared Tip shaft; beautiful calfskin grip.”
  • 1961 – Another Turf Rider putter with double ribbed sole is introduced, maintaining the D8802 stock number.
  • 1962 – The Designed By Arnold Palmer putter is introduced.  Described as “Flanged type blade putter” and “Perfect head feel transmitted to the grip”, it is essentially the 8802 as we know it.

palmerversion2

  • 1963 – Arnold Palmer leaves Wilson.  On November 1st, the Designed By Palmer/D8852 putter is renamed The Wilson 8802 and renumbered to D8802.
  • 1971 – The Wilson Staff 8802 model gets a black chrome finish, but retains its D8802 designation.
  • 1975 – Wilson re-introduces the original 8802 and changes the stock number to R8802.
  • 2014Wilson Staff introduces the Milled 8802.

 

The Wilson Staff CentennialAnniversary 8802

WS Centennial 8802-01

Wilson Staff has spent the first half of this year celebrating their centennial anniversary with special product releases. We have seen the special Centennial Edition of their Most Wanted! Nexus Carry Bag, as well as some Centennially packaged Duo balls, but nothing really celebrates their anniversary like this Centennial 8802 putter.

The 8802 is a Wilson classic. It’s a signature piece of equipment whose mystique has carried on for decades. It was played by Palmer, Crenshaw, Norman, Mickelson, and numerous others who played versions of the 8802 design from other manufacturers. It’s a design that spanned decades of play, but lost a bit of its luster (not unlike the Wilson name itself) when the company faded into the equipment background late in the twentieth century.

Hopefully, you are well aware that the modern Wilson Staff is a whole new equipment entity. They are producing golf equipment that potents a bright future as they move into their next century of business. Wilson Staff is producing the best golf gear it has in decades. It’s a perfect time modernize the 8802.

It’s like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle. It parallels Dodge offering modern incarnations of classic MOPAR muscle cars.

With this modern 8802, Wilson Staff has retained the 8802 pedigree that made it a classic, while at the same upgrading it with modern technology. Here’s a closer look.

Specifications: Wilson Staff Milled 8802

  • Material: Milled 304 Stainless Steel
  • Length: 35″
  • Head Weight: 335g
  • Toe Hang: ~6:00
  • Shaft: True Temper Head Speed shaft, stepless with “old school” flutes
  • Grip: Lamkin 3GEN Smooth Pistol
  • Hand: Right-handed
  • MSRP: $179.99

 Looks

WS Centennial 8802-14

What can I tell you about the looks of the new 8802 that you can’t see from the photos? You can see that it looks nothing short of amazing. Wilson Staff did a great job with the looks by staying true to the original design. We have all seen versions of the 8802 that include sight lines, either on the flange or top line. There are even some that have a line on the flange that’s parallel to the face. Not this one.

There are no lines, dots, or anything that get in the way of the sweeping metal edges of the head. The one subtle cosmetic variation from the classic is the series of shallow, milled lines on the flange. They run parallel to the face, and at address provide a texture that differs from the top. Many will appreciate this new cosmetic feature when it comes to aligning a putt.

WS Centennial 8802-10

The high polished bottom and the matte top really speak to what the new 8802 is all about. It looks shiny and beautiful, but it is still a functional tool for making putts. Admire its beauty, but make sure it gets some grass on it.

Feel

WS Centennial 8802-12

Wilson Staff made sure that this modern 8802 still had the elements that retail the classic feel on an emotional level. The Lamkin grip is a bit thinner than modern grips, closer in size to that found on the classic 8802. They shafted the 8802 with a Head Speed shaft like the original 8802, right down to the flutes in the shaft. As for the purpose of the shaft flutes, my understanding is that they help the putter to feel a little firmer. Feel free to comment below if you have more on them.

Classic feel elements have been retained, but the Wilson Staff engineers designed two significant modern elements into the 8802 as well.

First, there is the choice of 304 stainless steel as opposed to the more typical 303 stainless. 304 stainless steel is significantly softer than 303, making it more of a hassle to mill, but making the resulting putter much softer feeling. You may remember that the excellent feel of the STX xForm putters was due to their 304 stainless construction. It’s not carbon steel soft, but it definitely lacks the harsh click sometimes associated with 303.

The other feel influencer is, of course, the milled face. By double milling the face, Wilson Staff has not only made sure that the face is perfectly flat, but also softened the impact. I have an old Wilson Tour Blade II that I rolled this one against. The difference in the milled softness is astounding.

There is one thing that must be mentioned though about this 8802. If you miss hit the putt, it’ll let you know. It’s not quite the arm-numbing sting of a skulled 3i blade, but you know when you have wandered from the sweet spot. When you hit the sweet spot, it is nothing but pure.

For the record, the sweet spot is a little more toward the heel. I had a crafty veteran (aka old guy) point that out to me when I was playing around with it on the practice green. He wouldn’t be the last person who tried to take the 8802 home with him.

 

Alignment

WS Centennial 8802-02

If you are a line or dot guy, the 8802 may give you a bit of pause in the alignment department. Lovers of the naked putter and those who square the face to the putt line should truly embrace the simplicity of the 8802.

Overall, the putter was far easier to hit the line with than I thought it would be. My previous take on playing an 8802 was that it was a putter for expert players only. That there’s no help for the amateur in the 8802 head. I still think that there is some truth to that, but after a couple of sessions on the practice green, I had a great time playing it on the course. I found that the flange lines did really help with squaring the head to the line. It’s not automatic aiming, but it’s not impossible either.

Distance control was good, but this is where a poor strike will punish you a bit, and where you will need to spend some time getting used to how it rolls. Though soft, the 8802 puts a fairly vigorous roll on the ball. There is some serious inertia in that cavity-less head. Dialed in though, and the distance is definitely repeatable, unless you are exploring the distant regions of the face. But if you are, the 8802 will let you know.

 

Fit For Stroke

WS Centennial 8802-04

The 8802’s deep toe hang puts it into the strong arc category. One of the shop pros compared putting with the 8802 to hitting a driver. He said that the 8802 really requires you to let the head release to be effective.

Slight-arc putters can probably come to terms with the arc of the 8802, but our straight path putters could definitely be at odds with the natural tendencies of the 8802.

That being said, if you see one of these in your local shop, you need to give it a try. I’m not saying it is a universal fit. It’s definitely not. I just want to make sure that you give it a roll, if just for nostalgia’s sake. You should really feel how it rolls the ball with your own hands.

 

A Welcome Return

WS Centennial 8802-03

Wilson Staff really nailed it with this new milled 8802. They have captured the elements that made it classic, and at the same time infused the putter with modern methods and materials. There is definitely a golf resurgence is underway at Wilson Staff. Their staff players are winning tournaments, and their golf gear is better than it has been in decades.

There is no better example of this than this 8802.

Wilson Staff did a good job keeping this putter under wraps, saving it as the high point for their Centennial celebration. I you go with the cliche, Wilson Staff definitely has saved the best for last. It may be though, that the 8802 is actually the best for first, with the 8802 representing the start of the excellence that Wilson Staff will bring us during their next centennial.

Give it a roll and you will see.