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Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Heavy Concept In Putting

Stephen Boccieri’s aha! moment was 42 years in the making. He started playing golf at the age of eight and spent that long looking for the perfect putter, which he says he found in 2003 and named the Heavy Putter. Not long after his discovery, the now-55-year-old South Salem engineer brought the product to market, selling over 100,000 of them in the last few years.

The Heavy Putter is, well, a heavy putter. It weighs 900 grams (almost two pounds), which makes it about twice as heavy as a conventional putter. The concept, according to Boccierei, is that the extra weight creates consistency, producing a smoother stroke that’s easier to keep on line. I first tried the club at the PGA Show in Orlando last year, and was surprised by how natural it felt.

Boccieri has always been a golf fanatic, but he spent the first 25 years of his professional life as an engineer at Stone & Webster specializing in engineering mechanics. His final position was as a consultant at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which he says, “was a little nerve-wracking when New York Power Authority owned it.”

In 1994, he started using his engineering skills to analyze golf clubs. Working in his basement (isn’t that where all the great inventors hang out?), he developed a device to measure shaft dynamics, one of the most esoteric facets of golf club design. He figured out that putting weight into the grip of an extra-long shaft like those used by long-drive contestants would make the club more manageable, an idea that would come in handy later.

Of course, Boccieri constantly tinkered with his own clubs. One day in 2003, he added extra weight to his putter head to see what would happen. The result almost snapped his wrist. “It was like swinging a bowling ball on the end of a rope,” he says. Serendipitously, he slipped one of the driver weights he’d been using on long-drive clubs into grip end of the shaft of his putter. “It was delightful. It was like the putter and my arm were one piece.”

The company soon moved out of Boccieri’s basement and set up corporate offices, warehousing, and a custom club shop in Ridgefield, CT. Today, they manufacture most of their product in the Far East, but build about 200 custom clubs in Ridgefield every week. Boccierei did an infomercial in 2006 that was a big success and ran a $750,000 print campaign in the major golf magazines last year.

Acceptance by PGA Tour players is slow to come, Boccieri admits, mainly because their lucrative endorsement contracts prohibit them from using another company’s clubs. That may change, though, as the Heavy Putter scores more wins. Troy Matteson won the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open in 2006 and ran off an impressive string of five Top-10 tournament finishes to rank 36th on the official money list after switching to the Heavy Putter.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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