One of my favorite memes these days is the “Expectation vs. Reality” meme. Just Google that phrase and you will see what I’m talking about. Basically, it’s that difference between what a Big Mac looks like in advertising photos, and what one looks like when you unwrap one in person. Rarely does the actual experience or product live up to the expectation.
Last summer, Toulon Design launched its online design interface for the Toulon Garage, which allows golfers to design custom putters from the comfort of a computer screen, and then have that putter built and shipped directly from Toulon to your doorstep. Sure, the process also requires a not insignificant charge on your Visa, but consider it the cost of ordering a putter that exactly meets your needs and wants. What excited me at its launch, and still excites me today, is the incredible number of custom options that the Toulon Garage system gives the golfer access to during the design process.
Since its launch, I’ve probably designed a dozen putters using the Toulon Garage interface. If nothing else, it’s excellent digital entertainment. Sure, it’s no Fortnite, but I do enjoy exploring the possibilities.
And that brings us back to the nagging question about the Toulon Garage system, or any online ordering system. Is what you see online in digital renderings genuinely representative of what you will find when the product hits your porch?
That, dear readers, is what we will be exploring today.
Oodles of Options
When I first attempted to calculate the number of options available in the Toulon Garage system, I came to the conclusion that there are over six million different possible putter configurations. To be fair, I just made that number up (math is hard), but I know that once you factor in the number of head choices, finishes, stamps, grips, loft/lie adjustments, and so on, the number of possible putters will be bigly HUGE.
The nearly endless putter possibilities contained in the Toulon Garage should allow for most golfers to select his or her ideal putter characteristics. That’s what we are doing today. I have put together a design based on my play and aesthetic specs, and now we can compare the digital version to the putter that was constructed.
Let’s take a look at some of the key options and see if the reality lives up to expectation.
Hand and Head Designs
Hand was easy, since I’m right-handed, but I want to call attention to this choice since our southpaw golfers often times get no love from golf companies. The Toulon Garage has some love for the lefties, but it’s limited to three models, and admittedly the computer mock-up graphic is still right-handed. Still, three left-handed options is better than no left-handed options.
As we move to the other side of the ball, the list of head options jumps to ten, and this is probably where I have spent most of my putter daydreaming time, mulling over the possibilities.
For this project, I chose the Rochester head. I tend to putt better with blades that lean more toward a squared-off aesthetic. I was back and forth a bit with the Columbus notchback, but I preferred the look of the Rochester at address.
EXPECTATION VS REALITY
I think that the rendering of the head was pretty spot-on for this category. My focus was on the profile of the Rochester at address, and the delivered putter matched the expected look. What I saw on the computer translated to the real-world design.
Neck and Finish Designs
There are three neck options available for the Rochester, and since I know that my stroke prefers the flow neck, the H5 flow neck was my neck of choice. Besides, flow necks are so hot these days.
As for the finish, my design plan for the Rochester was to murder it out. With this goal in mind, the only finish choice was black. I like the copper option as well, but this one was heading in a darker direction.
EXPECTATION VS. REALITY
This time, I’d say that the finished product exceeded the digital expectation. The neck fits with the head flawlessly. It’s hard to imagine that there are two other neck options. The H5 neck just looks like it is the one that belongs there.
The black finish was also exceeded my expectations. This is a very dynamic black, and in fact, it’s not just black. You can see rainbow hues around the edges of the cavity. There is a prismatic nature to the black in person, whereas the online black looks more like you dipped the putter in black enamel.
Paint Fill and Stamp Designs
Since I was murdering out the putter, I went with black paint wherever possible. I considered using some gray to add a bit more contrast, but in the computer model, the black paint appears to be a different enough shade of black.
What to stamp is always a bit confounding to me. Should I even stamp the putter at all? Sometimes less is more. Since we were exploring what the Toulon Garage can do though, I went with thematic “Roll Noir” stamping on the bumpers.
EXPECTATION VS. REALITY
Black paint worked as expected. It was black, and just a little different in color when compared to the putter’s overall black finish. Sitting behind the ball, the sight line has plenty of alignment-assisting contrast.
The bumper stamping was pleasantly surprising as well. On the computer, the simulation looks like someone just added a text box on top of the putter photo. In person, you can see that the stamping was done by hand, maybe even Sean Toulon himself! Probably not, but a person did stamp the putter. I really like that there is a bit of human touch to the putter and that the putter was not just carved out of metal by the machine. For me, it makes this personalized putter feel a bit more personal still.
Shaft, Grip, and Static Design Options
Keeping with the theme, I chose the black shaft option, along with the white SuperStroke Pistol GT grip. There are a ton of grip options, but unfortunately, there's not an all-black option in the mix, so the black and white seemed the next best choice.
Back in January, I was fortunate enough to complete a SAM Lab putter fitting while visiting Callaway HQ. Based on those findings, I went with 1° flat and 1° strong.
EXPECTATION VS. REALITY
I experienced zero surprises when I placed the putter on the bending machine and learned that it was exactly 1° flat and 1° strong. Specs need to be right if this putter is going to do more than decorate a wall.
The Outside-the-Box Box
I think that you have figured it out by now that the Toulon Garage Rochester definitely exceeded my looks-on-the-computer expectations, but the putter was only part of the excitement.
When you open the box, the putter is displayed on foam mounts, as opposed to just stuffed in a box with shipping material. I liked that they had included a couple of stickers and that the headcover was a special Toulon Garage design.
Then I noticed that there was a little box in the box.
Included is a Toulon branded pitch tool, and a metal certificate of authenticity. For lack of a better term, these little additions are just plain cool. The metallic card is nice detail and a fantastic way to document the extraordinary putter you had made.
While I was looking at the certificate, I noticed that there was a little finger hole in the foam off to the right, and upon lifting up the certificate, I discovered a Toulon Garage coin. Such a fun surprise, and a great way for Toulon to make the purchaser feel like they are getting something truly special.
It is Expensive
Once all was said and done, the custom Toulon Garage Rochester slapped the wallet for $754. I’m willing to bet that some of you lost interest right there. I get that, $750 for a putter is an impossibility for many, much like the monthly nut to afford a new BMW is beyond the borders of many bank accounts. High-end stuff comes with high-end prices, and those prices can be exclusionary.
For some though, the price will be accessible, and will actually seem quite reasonable. Putters tend to last longer in the bag, and hold value better than other clubs. You'll take more strokes with your putter than any other club, so why not have one that is fully customized for your game? We putter lovers can come up with all sorts of reasons to justify the costs, right?
Another way to explore the justness of the cost is to compare what you get from the Toulon Garage to what you would get and pay for a 2018 Custom Shop customized Scotty Cameron Select putter. You can take the stock Cameron putter ($399), and quickly add another $150-$300 depending on what you want done cosmetically (aka adding lots of purple). That'll get you up to Toulon Garage pricing and while there are lots of options available at the Cameron Custom Shop, changing finish and neck style are not among them.
Both the Cameron Custom Shop and the Toulon Garage will allow you to create a personalized putter for about the same cost, but the Toulon Garage system allows you to alter the physical nature of your putter to a greater extent, which makes for a putter that is comparably more customized than personalized.
It’s worth noting too that the Toulon Garage lists their turnaround time in days, while the Custom Shop will probably take weeks to get your putter back to you.
The Toulon Garage: Expectation Exceeded
For once, I was not confronted with a droopy-bunned Big Mac when I opened the box. The Toulon Garage Rochester that I received blew past my design expectations by quite a bit. The finish, the stamping, and even the geometries of the putter itself look so much better in person than they did on the computer. Add to that a shipping/presentation box that made me really feel like I had just opened something special, and you get an overall package that should satisfy any custom putter aficionado.
Should you have the desire (and the means) to order one of these putters, you can do so with confidence. Sean Toulon and the rest of his putter crew have developed the user-friendly, digital custom putter system. Sure, you can get great custom putters through other small-run custom putter shops by email and phone conversations, but if you want your putter experience to move efficiently from desktop to doorstep, the Toulon Garage is the stand-out best system right now.
For more information, or to start designing your putter, visit the Toulon Garage website.