Strokes Gained Customs continues to impress with this new release and their wildly unique finishes.
You may recall JT’s write up of Strokes Gained Customs where he covered this new player in the boutique putter game (sorry JT) from head to toe. If not get on it, JT’s in-depth coverage of Neal Rohrbach and his company has allowed me to focus mainly on the putter for this review and dig a little deeper into what makes their putters tick. Something, after reading his post, I’m eager to find out.
With a history in CAD design, marketing, and skill set on the golf course most of us would quickly pay for, Neal, has taken his passions and combined them into something he loves. He does all this while also maintaining a family life and executive positions with multiple companies. Those multiple career paths alone would have 90% of the public on a Xanax and Jack Daniel’s diet. Neal, however, took it up a notch and with his friend, started a putter company. For that, he deserves a tip of the cap.
As much as a lot of us wish it were true, work ethic alone won’t start your company off with wild success. If the product can’t match the passion, there will be some issues. That’s my goal for this review. Does the product match the passion?
Can a lover of the game take his ideas from the computer to the mill to the sales floor and create not only a great looking putter but one that is functional as well? It’s an incredibly tough challenge where every day you get told you’re not going to make. There are too many players in the game, too many “Big Boys” in the industry. So why bother? For me it says something about a person who’s willing to put it all out there and say “screw you, I’m doing this.” To take the risk, put up the cash and get a company off the ground, it’s awesome to see. Will it work? Who knows? For now, let’s take a look at what Neal and his team are doing.
The KP-2 Mallet
For this review, Strokes Gained Customs sent us one of their new mallet designs. The KP-2 with a finish that just calling it unique would do a disservice. With what I learned from JT’s post and the conversations I’ve had with Neal, I was highly anticipating this putter’s arrival.
The KP-2 is a true mallet design with a weight of 350g. Most of you will find nothing abnormal about that, but for me when I felt the weight of the head it was a steep contrast to the size of the head. I’d have little issues calling the head of this Stokes Gained Customs putters small. It is. My history with mallet involves manufacturers like TaylorMade, Odyssey, and Ping to name a few. All of which I consider to have much larger heads.
If I’m honest, it was a turn off at first.
Here was this beautifully designed putter, with a look unlike anything I had ever seen, and it felt… well, tiny. Thankfully this wasn’t my first ever putter review. Even better, this wasn’t the first review I’ve done where my first impressions weren’t incredibly high. Had I let my initial thoughts overrule the truth about the KP-2 though, it would have been a shame. The putter is pure. While first impressions are incredibly important, it’s clearly not a make it or break it element when doing a review.
Neal has done a great job with the components that make up the complete package. They use grips from PURE which is hands down my favorite grip company. He has also enlisted the very popular Golf Iconic for their head covers. A very well-known cover company with a history of incredible work. Aside from their standard covers, they will often toss out special edition designs, especially when a new putter gets released.
For this putter, we received their all white version which features the Strokes Gained Customs logo embroidered in a white contrasting stitch throughout the cover. The only downside I found on the cover was the use Velcro. I’m an advocate for magnets, and in the past, I’ve had issues with durability and longevity when it comes to Velcro. However, the stitching quality in this cover is outstanding. Better than I have ever seen on any previous covers. It’s most definitely a cover that will hold up and last for years to come.
For their putters, Strokes Gained Customs uses high-quality carbon steel. Which comes from right here in the United States, but they also offer putters in stainless as well. The milling pattern you’ll find on the face is elegant and very traditional.
I went with the Carbon version for a simple reason. My every day, go to gamer I’ve been rolling is a raw Stainless Steel putter. I’ve used it for a few years now and was curious if I could tell the difference between the two metal types. It made it an easy choice to go with the carbon steel version.
The 500lb gorilla in the room
One glance at this KP-2 and you can’t help but wonder what’s going on with the finish. It’s where Strokes Gained Customs has an edge up on the competition. Neal has taken the common way to coat or finish a putter head and thrown it out the proverbial window.
Having “Customs” as a part of your name nowadays requires a new, cutting edge, shock value to incite the masses. Whether you’re a fan of custom coatings or not, you have to take notice when looking at this putter. It’s so incredibly unique, unlike anything I have ever see on a putter head.
Neal calls this finish “Tortoise Shell, ” and with one glance you can see why.
Going against the traditionalist has its advantages and disadvantages. Many of us golfers love having items in our bags that no one else has. It’s snobbery at its highest form. For some of us, that’s the only way to go. Forgoing rules, undermining tradition and sticking it to the man. OK, that a little over the top I admit, but the point is golfers LOVE having a product that is new, one-of-a-kind and a complete head turner. Just find the guy at your local range sporting the newest driver from [insert ANY manufacturer here] and watch them gleam with joy over their latest toy.
I’m no different.
Having a new, one-of-a-kind putter in my bag that not only looks awesome, but putts equally well fires me up. It’s my subtle way of subconsciously telling all those Scotty fans out there to go back to your man cave and drool over your putter cover collection. It’s my Nah Na Nah Na Nah Na moment, and I love it. Coming back to reality is tough, though. Regardless of its uniqueness and it’s 1 of 1 status if it putts like crap what’s the point. I’m in this for the important stuff, putting, not wall art. End of rant. Back to the putter.
To add to the uniqueness of the finish, Strokes Gained Customs also adds other aspects to the putter to make it truly custom. Each putter that leaves the studio is personally hand stamped by Neal.
Hand Stamping is a time-consuming process that has little to no room for error. The unique finish, the personalizing, the craftsmanship of a high-quality boutique putter is all there. In one package. If you’re in the market for a putter, and one you most definitely will not find on the rack at your local golf shop. You need to consider what Strokes Gained Customs is doing and give them a look.
Regardless of looks or rarity for that matter, there’s only one element I care about when putting a putter in my bag. Like I mentioned in my rant, how does it putt?
Can a tortoise-shell roll the rock?
It took just a few strokes with the KP-2 for me to realize this would be an interesting write-up. The sound at impact is very appealing, much like you would find with most milled putters. The Carbon steel makes up wasn’t a distraction at all. In all honesty, it’s near impossible to detect a difference. Maybe if you’re a Metallurgy Engineer you can tell, for me though it’s a smooth as the other milled, stainless steel putters I have in my stable.
It was a bit uncomfortable stepping outside if my comfort zone for this review. I haven’t putted with a mallet since, wow, it has been a while. It is one of the many challenges that comes with doing product reviews. You must be informative and honest, but sometimes you just can’t get a feel for the gear. Even though I was apprehensive after my first few putts, thankfully those issues never came into play while I was using the KP-2. I was more than shocked at how well I adapted from my current blade style to the mallet. The more I used it, the more confident I became
Without a doubt, the KP-2 is an outstanding release from Strokes Gained Customs. From a purely putting perspective. That means tossing all the bells and whistles out the door and only factoring in playability, the KP-2 has earned this players respect. I would welcome this club into my bag, and I’m sure that would be the case for anyone’s else.
Being the stat nerd that I am, I could totally bore you to tears with data crunching numbers and stats from the rounds I’ve played with the KP-2. But, for fear of challenging the people who do that for a living I’ll just state the KP-2 putter is a performer.
A performer on the course and off it as well. Being such a head turner with its Tortoise Shell finish, it wasn’t uncommon to get the looks from other players in my group. However the non-bashful players, you know, the guys who just can’t shut up when it comes to new gear, flocked to the putter, its unique finish and could not stop chatting about it.
So whether you’re looking for a gamer or just a flat-stick to show off with, SG has you covered.
Start saving those Dead Presidents
Just like most boutique manufacturers, a custom-built Strokes Gained putter is going to have you opening up your wallet a little wider than those rack putters.
The KP-2 for this review has a retail price $579.99 That’s a tough pill to swallow for the average Joe golfer, but I can’t say it’s unreasonable. With the amount of time that goes into every one of their putters, the value is there. Handcrafted carries some meaning to those who truly know. Also, though, when you consider all of SG’s putters are Made In America, it’s difficult to discredit value like you can for mass-produced items from overseas. The time, the design, the manufacturing, the materials, the finished product it all equals value. Something just not obtainable in a mass production.
You can find custom-built putters ranging price from $299 up to$2999 and even more. The prices I’ve seen lately are insane. The gap is huge from company to company but within that gap lies what I feel is the difference between Art and craftsmanship and playability and function.
For me, I’m never going to shell out over $3,000 to put a putter in my bag. I’ll have to wait for the day JT goes off the reservation and pulls the trigger to put something like that in my hands and putt with it. I have absolutely no idea how those high dollar putters perform. It would be silly for me to compare, I just can’t. What I can say though is Strokes Gained Customs has created a fantastic putter which I feel performed highly above expectations.
I’ve put a lot of custom-built putters in my hands and have used them in real golf situations. From Giannini, Mati, Ricky Johnson, Bettinardi, SeeMore and much more. They all carry qualities that make their putters stand out from the rest. Strokes Gained Customs is no different. Their unique finishes alone are enough to turn heads, but overall I love what Neal and his team are up to. I know it’s an abuse a cliche, but in my opinion “They get it.” They’ve successfully taken a passion and put their money where their mouth is. Kudos to them for doing so. Yeah, I just used Kudos.
Strokes Gained Customs is for real
Putter companies come and go like the seasons. New ones pop up almost every spring and on the flip side just as many fades away. What Neal has done with Strokes Gained Customs has them on a path to success in a market that is incredibly challenging.
They offer a fresh look on a timeless piece of equipment that will have you gazing into it like it’s a mythical weapon which has fallen from the heavens. But more importantly, you’ll also be dropping putts from all over the green like a golfing God. OK, a bit much I know. But you get what I’m saying.
It’s been a pleasure for me to get to know Neal and see first hand his passion for the game. There are tons of characters in this sport, and he certainly is a welcomed addition. I can only hope there’s a hundred more like him out there. People who share the same passion for doing what they love for all the world to see.