“I HAVEN’T GONE ANYWHERE. I’VE JUST BEEN INCREDIBLY BUSY”
“Is Kevin Burns out of business? Has he dropped off the face of the earth?”
The answer to both are - no and no.
Well...what has he been doing the last four years?
To make a long story short, he’s been coming up with a new business model. And it’s not something that’s just suited to his personal goal of making and selling fully customized, high quality putters. It just may be the kick in the pants the golf industry needs to succeed, especially in this day and age of defaulting mortgages and job losses.
“I’M ALWAYS STRIVING FOR PERFECTION AND TRYING TO MAKE THINGS BETTER”
Kevin Burns if you are not aware has a very reputable name in the golf industry that dates back to 1993, when he first introduced his line of milled carbon steel putters to the public. A big part of this can be attributed to his sharp eye for detail and inherent nature of always wanting to find a better way to do things.
When he left his partnership with Bridgestone in 2004, he wanted to go in a different direction from the mandate he saw – and still sees – being handed down by the corporate executives at the bigger, household name golf companies. That is, he didn’t want to cut corners on quality in order to sell X number of putters at Y dollars a pop. At the same time, if he was to become truly independent, how could he compete with the big boys in terms of volume of sales? It is from here that his new business model was born.
“I DON”T JUST WANT TO SELL PUTTERS. I WANT TO GIVE THE CUSTOMER THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE OF FITTING AND CUSTOMIZATION!”
Kevin understands that the average golfer wants to have at least the occasional opportunity of getting the “tour” level experience in service and product that professional golfers often enjoy on a regular basis. In fact, he feels that he’s taken fitting and machining technology to new levels which surpass anything else out there in terms of exactness and precision. And it is these qualities that we mere mortals can readily have available at our fingertips.
How It Works!
The process itself was a six to eight month ordeal of blood, sweat and programming, according to Kevin. His new fitting kiosk may be best described as two connecting systems.
One is a telescopic arm – designed to simulate an adjustable length putter shaft – attached to a small, flat LCD panel that has the image of a putter head and ball. The customer sets up to this image similar to the way he/she would on a putting green. When the customer is ready, the fitter captures the recommended head weight, length and lie angle information on the second part of this system, an ordinary laptop computer.
These measurements are taken 3 times and the average is used for the finished putter length and lie angle. The recommended head weight – which the customer can request to be heavier or lighter - is derived from a bell curve formula that Kevin devised, and it’s based on the finished putter length. He claims that the fitting kiosk’s accuracy is within 1/6 of a degree for lie angle and 0.003 inches for length, and that he can machine the putter head to within 1 gram of the target weight. In essence, through the collection of real and accurate data, guesswork has been eliminated in the fitting process that not even ultrasound waves, lasers and high-speed cameras have solved.
Through considerable research, Kevin has also found that a person’s lie angle “tendencies” don’t change much from measurement to measurement, and one’s set-up length will vary by ¼ to ½ inch at the most. “It is what it is,” so to speak, when it comes to individual biomechanics. “I recommend that the average golfer be fit as to how he/she is most comfortable when addressing the ball.”
In addition to head weight, length and lie angle, the laptop data screen contains customization menus for desired head style, alignment aids, stamping and finish options, etc. A very unique feature is the rotatable 3-D model of the chosen putter head on which one can see the custom options being built. The length and lie angle data from fitting “robot” will obviously only be available at the location of the fitting. However, the head weight field and other customization tools will be part of Kevin’s new
website for customers to tinker with.
“NO ONE ELSE IS DOING WHAT I'M DOING, AND I REALLY THINK THIS LEVEL OF CUSTOMIZATION IS THE WAY TO GO."
Q&A with Kevin Burns
Q: To whom do you give credit in getting started in the putter making business?
KB: When I first started, I originally made putters out of cast steel. In 1991, Dennis Mitchell, a good friend of mine who is a teaching pro and club builder in the San Francisco / Bay Area, really opened my eyes to the concept of milling putters. His ideas led me to buy my first milling machine in 1993 and the rest is history.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in going the independent route?
KB: Being solely responsible for EVERYTHING … from financing to learning new machining technology. Also, trying to stay true to myself while going up against the “big guys.” I’m always trying to find ways to improve things.
Q: Will your fitting system allow for loft adjustability in the future? How about giving customers more options in head and neck styles?
KB: Yes to both. For loft, we’ve found through a lot of research that 3 to 4 degrees is actually optimal for most golfers. For now, we’re having our putter loft fixed at 3.25 degrees. Add too much, the putter becomes a chipper...too little loft means you run the risk of skidding the ball.
Q: In addition to the fitting technology and Pyramid Groove Technology, what sets your putters apart from the rest? And how will you be doing weight options?
KB: Everything about these putters – the lines, the radiuses – blends in perfectly together without the need for hand work (bending, grinding, welding). Even the finishes are all machined. The heads are center balanced, meaning that the sweet spot is right in the middle of the face, while a lot of other Anser putters you see out there are balanced with bias towards the heel. This means that the toe and heel weights we machine into the sole can’t each weigh the same, the way you see in some off-the-rack putters with screw-in or drop-in weights. So yes, we can machine a variety of weights into the sole to give customers a wide range of head weight options.
Q: What year did you introduce an Anser shaped putter in black oxide with a copper insert, and who were some of the earliest winners using your putters?
KB: I was the first one to make such a putter in 1996. Nobu Serizawa got the first win with it in 1996 at the Japan Match Play event. Craig Stadler was the first to win with my 9304 in 1996 at the L.A. Open
:: For more info visit... www.KBputters.com
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