"You're not that good."
Or else, "You aren't that bad."
Either way, such a weighty price puts serious expectations and pressure on a putter. About as much as, say, a breaking four-footer to win your club championship against your arch rival. But, if that putter is a Kramski, and if you follow that company's methodology, there is a very good chance that you will make it.
"Nice putt." After a while, you will hear that reaction quite a lot, too.
Wiestaw Kramski never set out to make putters when growing his precision tool and instrument company in Germany. But, the man is a golfer and a perfectionist who never purchased a putter he liked, so in 1999, Kramski began designing and manufacturing his own. Kramski's line of boutique custom builds have been gaining slow but steady momentum ever since.
Fifteen players, including Ian Woodnam, Nick Faldo, Berhard Langer, and Laura Davies, have used and won with Kramski putters on the European tours, and now the company has begun marketing in the United States and Asia . "We're not looking to sell the most putters," said Michael Torres, who manages sales and distribution. "Our aim is to sell maybe 50,000 putters. We want to sell a product that actually improves players."
In short, whomever buys a Kramski putter should not be looking for a psychological band-aid. Let's hope not, anyway. At $1,400 per copy, therapy would cost you less.
I went into this experiment as a cynical non-believer. Generally speaking, a golfer should mess around on a good and trusty putter about as often as he cheats on his wife, which means never. And, I really like the putter I had been using.
But, my friend and club maker, David Butler of Half Moon Bay, signed a deal to become one of Kramski's few American dealers. Butler has never steered me wrong. So, when Kramski's Michael Torres came out for a visit, he fitted and then built a Kramski putter for me to try.
It's a game changer.
"So why do they cost so much?" I asked Torres.
"Because each putter is one of a kind. Nothing comes from mass production."
It is true. Kramski has designed a system that guarantees a player will begin his stroke from a proper position every time. "He was concerned that players do not pay enough attention to alignment, set-up, posture, putter position, and technique," said Torres. Each of those elements figures into every putting stroke. A mistake in any of those areas magnifies through the putting sequence, causing misses.
Kramski putters are generally shorter, as are those of PGA tour players. Torres said the company's average putter measures 33 inches long, which promotes a rotational, side-to-side, shoulder stroke through a wide arc. That's another part of the Kramski philosophy: remove hands and wrists from the putting motion.
My fitting, in fact, felt more like a lesson. Whether Torres fits you, or David Butler, it begins with an analysis of your present stroke, followed by the inevitable re-teaching of the shoulder rotation stroke. To make that happen, Kramski has built proprietary equipment to get your eyes over the ball. Next, they find a position where your hands and arms drop naturally and comfortably. Finally, they adjust for length, followed by lie, weight, and balance. For me, the numbers were radically different than any previous putter. I have always played putters at 35 inches and a lie angle of 70 degrees. The Kramski came in at 33 inches and 67 degrees, and feels more comfortable.
The company offers twelve different designs. All are face balanced. I chose a model 325---a black, anodized, triangular aluminum mallet. That aluminum is a full block, machined into a shell, and then filled with a patented mixture of molted metal and plastic. It generally takes two days to manufacture. Every notch, groove, and marking on top of a Kramski putter serves to reinforce proper lie angles, putter positions, and aiming points. Align them, and you will be in a proper and repeatable position. On the sole, each putter has a fine grind, almost like a tire pattern. It grips the putting surface, allowing a player to set the putter down on a proper line, without fear of it twisting or moving. This is an important part of the company's putting methodology. Kramski encourages:
1.) Aiming with a line on your ball
2.) Re-checking it that line by using your dominant eye to sight it along the shaft
3.) Aligning your putter to the line on the ball
4.) Making the stroke, following through from an inside-square-inside rotational arc
I must say that, on the course, those changes of length and stoke failed to produce good results, at least not for the first nine holes. I began by putting along the ball's aim line, as instructed. But, as a long-term spot putter, that method proved distracting. Several times, I missed so badly that had my old putter been in the bag, I would have used it.
Fortunately, it wasn't. On the back side, I returned to my tried-and-true spot aiming method, continued using the rotational shoulder stroke, and needed only twelve putts for those nine holes. With proper aiming from a confirmed repeatable set-up position, the Kramski felt buttery and more automatic than any putter, anywhere, ever. The face balanced head was extremely solid and forgiving. Putts rolled true, without sidespin.
Now, I don't know how much money you wager when you play, or how much discretionary money you have for a $1,400 putter. But, in my experience, that Kramski has been good for at least one, or possibly two fewer putts per round. On the PGA Tour, or in your club championship, that could make the difference between making the cut, or taking home a title.
Put your own price tag value on that. Or else, buy a Kramski and then pay for it by upping the ante with your buddies.