Machining the Fair Way

Francesco Molinari, the Italian professional golfer who has entered the top tier of pros who are factors in every major tournament, led by two strokes going into the final round of the Masters Sunday.

I have followed Molinari with more than a casual interest of late because he has used a putter made by a 90-person job shop just down the road from Graff-Pinkert in Tinley Park, Illinois. I met the owner, Bob Bettinardi, at IMTS. We were both resting our bones for a few minutes next to the Universal Robots exhibit, and we talked a bit about CNC mills and his putters business, which has evolved from the job shop that was its origin.

Bettinardi had a golf shirt on with Bettindari Golf’s logo. He has built a product with worldwide reach out of a small Haas mill shop.  This is the dream of so many independent entrepreneurs in our machining world who long for the margins and stature that come from a world-renowned product.

Bettinardi’s branded putters sell for $300-$400 for a club similar to the stick Molinari used to win the British Open at Carnoustie last year.  He also makes an $800 putter with a copper insert.

For a shop running VF-3 Haases with less than 100 employees, Bettinardi is playing in the big leagues with Callaway Golf and Mizuno dominant in the golf club world. It appears Callaway lured Francesco Molinari away from Bettinardi this year though Matt Kuchar, still a prominent pro, and many other up-and-comers are still using the Tinley Park shop’s putter.

Francesco Molinari's former Bettinardi Putter

Francesco Molinari’s former Bettinardi Putter

A Bettinardi faces a daunting challenge going up against the Callaways of the golf world. They have enormous marketing budgets, and a putter’s design can be easily copied. I do not believe Bettinardi has a patented putter. He has to make a product that pro golfers adore, convince them to stay with it for years, and hope his devotees win big tournaments to popularize his sticks. A company doing maybe $20 million a year in sales can do the golf shows and hit the big retailers, but it is always an uphill battle against the Callaways who have constant exposure in the equipment market and have their name on half the golf bags on the pro tour.

This is why small, closely held family businesses like Bettinardi Golf sell out to the behemoths. I do not know if Bob will sell out or if Callaway, with a market cap of $1.6 billion, will eventually crush him by stealing away all the Molinaris of the golf world when they get hot.

As an independent observer and former mediocre golfer, I hope he keeps milling fantastic, elegant putters in Tinley Park, Illinois, and selling them direct on Amazon for $399 a pop.  I’d like to see him buy a dozen more Haas mills and put “Made in USA” on every lovely club he makes.

Maybe today Francesco Molinari will wonder if he could have beaten Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters if he had had the Bettinardi in his bag.

Questions: 

Is there an even playing field in the machining business?
Has Haas helped even the playing field?
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6 thoughts on “Machining the Fair Way

  1. AvatarNancy

    This is not a comment on your questions, but rather on your column itself-
    Interesting article and enjoyed that it is about a local manufacturing company!

     
  2. Avatarr in nyc

    I have a HAAS machining center (among others).

    We started with a Leadwell built in Taiwan, and added to that.
    They are built SOLID with real sturdy box ways and have been reliable since 1985 and still going.

    I LOVE the fact that the HAAS is MADE IN THE USA!!!

    HAAS was able to crack the American machining center market with QUALITY AFFORDABLE machines.

    IMHO, to your question – YES.

    HAAS brought affordability to the United States machine-tool market.

     
  3. AvatarGKL

    I do believe the field is becoming even; with the “technology” that is available today more than ever. Years ago if you told me we would have 5 axis CAM software in a small shop, I would have told you you’re crazy, but today, we do. We don’t have any Haas machines in our shop, as when we started up, we went with what we were familiar with and could produce $$$ right away. As we turn over higher hour machines, I can’t say we won’t have a Haas.

     
  4. AvatarBob Ducanis

    Molinari actually putted very well with his Callaway putter. It was his 2 shots plunked into the water that doomed his final 9 holes. If anything, maybe Molinari should switch to a Scotty Cameron ‘Newport 2’, which is the putter that Tiger used at the Masters. In fact, I think it is the same putter used in almost every one of Tiger’s major wins. The putter is considered to be one of the most valuable artifacts related to sports history, not just golf. Scotty Cameron putters have been used in 39 major wins in the modern era. Bettinardi claims 2 major wins, one by Jim Furyk in a US Open and the British Open last year by Molinari. Scotty Cameron has been around a few more years than Bettinardi. I think Ping leads all of the golf companies with winning majors.

    Don’t discount EVNROLL putters out of Carlsbad, CA.. They are giving Bettinardi a run for their money. Not sure if all of the EVNROLL putters are made in the USA. Some may be sourced overseas, or some of the raw stock might be. I’m not sure.

    All of the touring pros have custom fit, custom made clubs. Many are under contract from the manufacturers to play their clubs. Their clubs might be different from the ones available to the general public. I think Tiger’s putter, Scotty Cameron by Titleist (Acushnet) actually has a grip made by Ping, but the Ping logo is removed.

    Just my opinion, but it’s the talent and practice by the golfer that makes his game, not the clubs. Sure, the technological improvements help especially at the higher levels. I live on a golf course but I don’t play anymore. I love it when I find a Titleist Pro-V1 golf ball in my back yard…$4 a pop. Dang player can’t hit his expensive golf ball more than 50 yards off of the tee before it lands in my backyard. Money would be better spent on a few lessons!

     
  5. AvatarIan Baxter

    I know that I might be a bit pedantic but there is no such tournament as the “British Open” It is “The Open Championship”

     

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