Form follows function is an architectural premise, whereby a product's intended use should drive its construction.
By that logic, every putter created should be designed with the single criteria of helping players make more putts.
However, the world of boutique and collectible putters is far more nuanced, and factors beyond embedded technology often play a more significant role in both design and purchasing decisions.
As such, any result can't be quantified by performance metrics alone because consumers place such a premium on (and are willing to pay mega bucks for) an experience few can afford.
Some of the names who play in this space are well known – Scotty Cameron, Bettinardi, and TP Mills. Others are less recognizable to the masses (Byron Morgan, LaMont Mann, Piretti, Tom Slighter) but have carved out enough of a niche to maintain their place at the table.
The newest and fastest rising member of that fraternity is Tyson Lamb.
Tyson's ascension to the forefront of the bespoke, custom putter conversation has been fast, furious and not without its foibles. Lambcrafted has garnered significant attention in part because of Tyson's Instagram account. Leveraging social media, he's established a loyal following, including several former stalwart Scotty Cameron collectors.
As Tyson refines his platform, he will offer putters at several price points, all with varying levels of customization. The no-holds-barred, fully-custom tier starts around $2000. The following illustrates my experience working with Tyson on a recent flatstick.
Some customers want Tyson to drive the creative process, while others walk in with a pretty clear idea of what a finished product should look like. However, the vast majority of the time, it's somewhere in-between. Finding this balance is imperative for both parties, but given a choice, the "Here's a check, make me something cool" approach is his favorite. Says Lamb, "It's when I do my best work."
In terms of what's possible, Tyson is more than willing to push the proverbial envelope a bit but qualifies this with "If I have to go out of my way to defend it or explain it, I won't do it. I always want to error on the side of simpler, classier."
For my design, I wanted to achieve three goals. Showcase Tyson's abilities, honor my wife and daughters and have a little fun with my favorite Randy Moss story of all time.
Based on the head shape and neck style selected, the next step is to start putting some ideas down on paper. If it's a relatively clean process, I'd expect 2-3 minor revisions before moving forward, because all cosmetic decisions (stamping, paintfill, alignment markings, etc.) can be modified after milling.
Originally, I started with an Allendale head with a welded neck but ended up selecting the Camden, largely because of how the flowneck transitions into the topline. This, coupled with a slightly higher toe reminded me a lot of some of my favorite TP Mills (Workshop III specifically) designs, and that’s never a bad thing. The remainder is a "best guess" of sorts matched with personal preference. For example, I tend toward sight dots over lines, and while the torched finish may not wear as well as stainless, I think it looks better out of the box.
While Tyson uses stainless steel for the vast majority of his putters, he carries everything from carbon steel to exotic materials like GSS (German Stainless Steel), Damascus and Timascus.
Stainless steel is more forgiving to work with than the others and doesn't require as much maintenance as carbon (which is prone to rust if not routinely cleaned/oiled). That said, all things being equal, stainless will have a firmer feel than carbon. Damascus/Timascus are both exponentially more expensive materials and are generally used for cavity inlays.
As a point of reference, Tyson can get two putter heads (milled simultaneously) out of an 11-12 pound block of stainless steel. At 350 gr., that means around 85% of the original block becomes wasted material. Some designs (two-piece in particular) are milled individually out of a steel block that starts a bit over 2 pounds.
There's a perception that running a milling machine is akin to nuking a plate of nachos – and that's not entirely incorrect, but Tyson asserts "It's not that close to the truth either."
The milling machine does, in fact, do all of the milling, leaving Tyson to do finish work by hand. Each putter takes approximately 45-60 minutes to mill depending on the number of operations and pieces involved. The more work done by the machine (e.g., one-piece Allendale), the less Tyson has to do on the back end. My putter (Camden with welded neck) requires fewer operations to mill but is hand-finishing intensive.
Before a putter or neck can be milled, it has to be designed and programmed – and this is where days can turn into weeks and even months. Manipulating the software to produce putter designs which achieve the intended goal requires a certain refined skill set – one which Tyson continues to develop.
Once a design is programmed, that set of operations sits as a series of commands or operations which can be run through the milling machine over and over. It's not as simple as working the office BizHub, but it's not open-heart surgery either.
Larger volume operations typically have one person dedicated to CAD (Computer Aided Design), one for CAM (Computer Aided Machining) and at least one more to oversee operations. Right now, Tyson wears all of these hats, which is part blessing (he controls every part of the process and can maintain quality standards), and part curse (everything takes longer and per unit costs of production are higher).
"Custom" is a nebulous term at best, but for purposes of this dialogue, it's the degree to which a consumer can dictate the final product.
The more hands-on labor required by Tyson, the higher the cost – with most fully custom putters ending up somewhere in the $2000-$2500 range.
I opted for a welded-neck, rivet dot and buffed heel as my signature aesthetic modifications. Of those, the welded neck is the most expensive option as it requires the head and neck be milled separately, pressure fit and then welded.
I wanted my daughters' and wife's initials somewhere on the putter, and after some debate, Tyson suggested the neck. It's not an easy place to stamp given the available space, and the difficulty of the task is further complicated by the fact that I have seven daughters.
The straight cash homie is a reference to Randy Moss' reply when asked how he paid a $10,000 fine for an inappropriate gesture. It's also how I pay off my $2 Nassau's to GolfSpy T.
Tyson's existing work gives some indication as to the depth and breadth of what's possible. That said, he's still young, and while he's established some patterns, he's yet to produce a signature look or design which is uniquely his. The Hartwick (TP Mills Fleetwood meets Cameron's My Day) is Tyson's creation, but it's hard to call it entirely original.
If and when Tyson does that, he'll take a much-needed step toward further differentiating his brand.
Tyson designs, mills, stamps, welds, and finishes every putter he sells. Based on conversations with several collectors of Lamb's work, this is a point of distinction when comparing Tyson to his contemporaries. One Lamb collector questioned, "Why would I pay $4500 for a putter with a guy's name on it who never touched it?" Fair enough.
This farm to table (or design to delivery) approach is unique to the industry and should Tyson continue to gain in popularity, it's reasonable to think he will need to hire some people to improve overall efficiency.
Tyson's finished putters have soft lines and smooth edges. Some of this aesthetic can be programmed and milled, but mostly it's the result of time-consuming hand finishing. Hard, sharp lines indicate work done mostly by the milling machine, which is less attractive to potential customers/collectors.
Prolonged Period of Impatience
One of the knocks on Tyson Lamb is the time it takes him to complete and deliver a custom putter. Tyson fully admits this is an area in which he can improve, but consumers don't always have reasonable expectations either. Custom work takes time, and because of high demand and limited production capacity, the wait is more likely to be months, than weeks.
But it's not simply about how long the process takes. It's about communication. People happily wait months (or years) for custom furniture, limited edition cars and a chance to purchase season tickets. In the absence of information, people create their own explanations, so the best way to build trust with customers is by under promising and over delivering. Not the converse. When a company is new and experiences far more demand that it was prepared to handle, this is easier said than done.
Until now, Tyson hasn't formalized how or when he releases putters beyond some limited distribution through TableRock/Jim Bulter, and a "first come, possibly served" ad hoc list of custom projects. Moving forward, Tyson will be well served by formalizing his product releases and communicating basic FAQ type information via his website.
No doubt the business side of Lambcrafted is a work in progress, but in the short-term, here's what to expect. Tyson is looking at 1-2 releases per month, with delivery expected within 30 days of purchase. That's the goal, but I'd say 30-45 days is more realistic. There isn't a set number for each batch, but my hunch is Tyson wants to get 20-30 putters out the door per month with only a handful being entirely custom. The remainder will be pre-selected head/necks and offer limited degrees of customization.
There are effectively three price tiers in play (prices listed are estimates based on Tyson's first release)
Tier 1: $1250-$1500 – Buyer will be able to select stampings on face and rear bumpers. Head and neck style will be pre-selected. I'd expect to see a lot of Allendale models in this range.
Tier 2: Up to $1750 - Buyer will have more choice regarding stamp locations (cavity, heel, sole) and finish options (e.g., sight alignment). Expect to be in this range if you want a Bridgeport, Hartwick or basic Camden.
Tier 3: $2000+ - This is the full buffet and a blank canvas. I know it's a mixed metaphor, but you get the picture. The downside is that I see Tyson doing a maximum of 3-5 of these per month.
Each putter comes with the choice of premium grip and stock Lambcrafted headcover (any cover selling for $75 on the website).
Collaborating with Tyson on this project provided unique insight into the oddly territorial and divisive world of boutique putters. It's the downside to loyalty, I suppose, but by providing early supporters personal access and facilitating informal gatherings, Tyson has established an organic, if not eclectic mix of early adopters. This small community isn't necessarily any different than your Saturday morning foursome - some younger, others older. A couple of golf industry fellas along with a smattering of blue-collar putter junkies and white-collar collectors. What they have in common, however, is a sincere belief in what Tyson's doing and an open checkbook to prove it.
Different than strictly performance-based analysis, bespoke flatsticks carry price tags which reflect perceived current value, possible future value and an individual decision to purchase something others won't have. It's not a utilitarian conversation. It's about status, collectability, and the fact expensive items don't preclude the existence of less expensive items. The same basic dynamics exist across a wide swath of consumer goods - watches, shoes, handbags, and cars are all solid examples.
There's nothing materially different or inherently better when comparing a Lambcrafted Allendale to a Cameron 009, Byron Morgan DH89 or any other custom putter. But that's not why someone drops a chunk of change for one. It's about the brand identity, opportunity for individualization and the chance to work directly with Tyson on a putter. There's also an element of confidence in the belief that the putter’s value isn't going to decrease (significantly) and may even increase over time.
There's sufficient pent-up demand to keep Tyson busy for the next 12-18 months. His first formal release of 17 putters sold out in under three minutes with over 800 people active on his site attempting to purchase. As more putters sell, an initial baseline value is developed, but because so few putters actually exist, it can't be determined yet if these values will persist in a resale environment. There's no obvious reason to think they won't, but again, the collectible market is finicky and potentially quite fragile.
With that, the next 2-3 years will ultimately decide whether his work is on pace to redefine the space (like Scotty Cameron) or just occupy as much of it as possible. There's plenty of evidence to suggest Tyson will become a major player in the putter market over the next several decades, but to get on the level of Cameron, Mills, and Bettinardi, he can't just take what others have done and do it better. He has to take the template and do something with it that none of us saw coming.
Iconic brands fundamentally shift the landscape. Rolex pioneered multiple watch technologies (first waterproof case, chronometer, auto date change) and from 1924-30, Bently won the prestigious LeMans five times. Tyson is an exceptionally gifted craftsman. His ability to finish a putter is as good as the industry has right now and like it or not, many are happy to spend four-digits on his work. The unknown is how far Tyson can take this without the support and access a major OEM can provide. For now, if you want one – get in line - you'll have plenty of company.
So what do you think about all of this?