The original Tommy Armour (winner of the 1927 U.S. Open, 1930 PGA Championship and 1931 Open Championship among other titles) may or may not have been the stereotypical “dour Scot.” But if he was, he would be dismayed to discover how the new Tommy Armour milled putters got their names. (More on that later.)
Rest assured, however, that the “Silver Scot” would have approved of the product itself.
PEPPERS and WHATNOT
New from Tommy Armour, the 303 Milled Series Putter comes in four head shapes, each identified with the name of a different hot pepper.
The Trinidad is Tommy Armour’s classic blade with a “plumber’s neck” hosel. The strong toe-hang balance should suit players with an arc-style stroke. The Habanero is a wide-blade head with a slight toe hang for players with a slight arc. The new Datil is a mid-mallet with slight toe hang and the Serrano is an alignment putter for those with a “straight-back, straight-through” stroke.
Each putter is 100-percent CNC-milled with a silver milled top line and a brushed satin sole. The forged 303 stainless-steel heads feature a proprietary Speed Balance Technology milling pattern that Tommy Armour claims to improve distance control by 60 percent. The face pattern utilizes a 0.8-millimeter milling path intended to create more surface area towards the toe and heel to counteract off-center hits and equalize energy transfer across the face.
Suggested retail is $249.99, but through June 21st, it’s $179.98.
That’s a long way from $99.99, which is where Tommy Armour’s Impact Series putters sit. Before you pooh-pooh these reasonably priced putters, remember the line won unprecedented back-to-back Most Wanted awards from MyGolfSpy.
Going the other direction, price-wise, it’s also a long way from what you would pay for other 100-percent CNC-milled putters with similar manufacturing standards bearing more famous, ego-boosting brand names. Want a new 2020 Scotty Cameron? Don’t choke on the $400 sticker price.
THE NEW TOMMY ARMOUR
All things considered, this new line of putters deserves your consideration.
But first, clear your mind of preconceived notions about Tommy Armour clubs—unless those notions go way, way back to the iconic 845s irons, released in 1987.
Earlier this year, MyGolfSpy’s John Barba did a deep dive into the company’s rise and fall and subsequent resurgence as the house brand for DICK’S Sporting Goods.
“You could write a business-school case study on the 845s and how it made Tommy Armour a major force in golf,” he wrote. “You could also write a case study on how the 845s, quite unintentionally, led to Tommy Armour’s downfall. It’s a lesson in how tremendous success often sows the seeds of failure.”
David Michaels is Senior Product Manager for DICK’S. “Tommy Armour hit a home run with the 845s and rode that for years but then it got sold a couple of times, including to Sports Authority who put the name on every single piece of opening price-point piece of crap: zinc irons, aluminum heads, you name it.”
In his view, Sports Authority tried to ride the Tommy Armour name recognition. Ride it they did—right into the ground and, in the process, totally devalued the brand. When SA went bankrupt, DICK’S purchased its private-brand names and customer database.
“To golfers who have been around awhile, the Tommy Armour name represented a nostalgic premium brand,” says Michaels, who has been in the golf business for almost 20 years. “We wanted to try to restore the luster.”
MyGolfSpy’s Chris Nickel concurs. “Tommy Armour wants to be a serious player in the equipment market and this is another step in that direction. We’ve covered why Tommy Armour metal woods and irons are, from the design/manufacturing/materials standpoints, equal to, if not better, than higher-priced competitors.”
Tommy Armour 303 – Milled Mystique
As is often the case, two minds are better than one. Michael’s associate, Chris Karis, played an integral role in the creation of the 303 Milled Series.
“It was a fun project,” he says. But not perhaps for whatever reasons you might be thinking.
“We inherited a certain brand equity with the name Tommy Armour and we would be asked by brand loyalists when we were going to make a higher-end putter. These were guys who understood the value of a milled putter but who wanted one with the Tommy Armour name on it.”
The bonus was that they were getting that quality for substantially less than comparable products on the market.
“What if you could get the same performance from a putter but pay $250, not $400?”, Michaels asks. “All we ask is for golfers who are looking for a premium putter to give ours the ‘taste test’.”
According to Karis, the Tommy Armour 303 Milled Series putters offer quality and performance—“and a story worth telling.”
WELL, DO TELL…
MyGolfSpy is pleased (“honored” is too strong) to reveal a previously untold story which, in the immortal words of MGS colleague Chris Nickel, involved some “good ol’ barley-inspired creativity.”
“I’m not sure even our boss knows the real story behind the names of the putters,” Michaels says.
So, in what hopefully is not a career-limiting move, Michaels and Karis shared the back story with MGS.
The genesis of the “pepper” nicknames began after another long, sweaty day at Golf Galaxy’s annual golf expo in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s like a mini PGA Merchandise Show,” Michaels explains. “We invite all our key partners like Titleist, Callaway, PING, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Cobra, DICKS’S, and so on to a three-day cram session to see, try and talk about all the significant new stuff coming out.”
Like any trade show, the days are long and repetitive, with presentations, face-to-face conversations, demo outings. Naturally, one expects to “decompress” after such days, right?
“There was a Chili’s just down the road and that was our spot,” says Michaels. While familiar with the chain’s trademark baby back ribs, the group was pleasantly surprised—to put it mildly—to discover a nightly 2-for-1 drink special. A generous gesture, to be sure, and an offer the group could not refuse.
It opened the taps, literally, for that “barley-inspired creativity.”
“We knew the new putter line was going to be awesome,” says Michaels. “We know we can build premium golf products rivaling the best in the world from the design, craftsmanship, and manufacturing standards.
“But the question we were asking ourselves was, ‘How do we bring these to life?’”
On that fateful night at Chili’s, that question was asked yet again. The group tossed around the idea of coming up with labels that would be sort of an inside joke with a tie-in to the setting for this brewski-fueled brainstorming session.
After several suggestions (one idea was to call the new putter line “2-4-1”), someone came up with the idea of using the pepper logo as a theme: “Heating up on the putting green” … Smokin’ hot” … You get the idea.
While the putters themselves are good looking, the headcovers are outstanding. Although Michaels and his team tried to find a way to have the covers on the clubs in the putter corral in stores, that wasn’t possible. Too bad, because the covers are works of art on their own merits in bright yellow, orange, green or red, with the chili pepper logo.
If the time you spend giving the 303 Milled Series the “taste test” is as enjoyable as the time I spent interviewing Michaels and Karis, then it’s worth the investment.
“We’re just a couple of guys from Pittsburgh who want to offer golfers a quality product at a good price and have some fun at the same time,” says Michaels.
And maybe a pint or 12 along the way.
Tommy Armour 303 Milled Series Putters – Pricing and Availability
Tommy Armour 303 putters are available now. The standard retail price is $249.99. Through 10PM Pacific Time tonight, the price has been reduced to $169.98.
For more information click here.
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