Three months ago, Bradley Converse was Black Friday shopping at The Real Mother Goose craft shop in Portland, Ore., and became inspired to create a putter. Fast forward 61 days and he's now here in his own booth at the PGA Show in Orlando, selling people on his product.
That product is (and will be known) as a Bradley Putter, a highly furnished wooden head that comes hand-designed from Oregon burl wood. The wood is from a longtime family friend who owns Oregon Burls.
Converse, who last worked as a military engineer, takes tiny blocks of burl wood, glues in metal weight inserts for legitimate putter feel and hand-constructs the face and sides -- all from his chilly garage in Grants Pass, Ore. It’s something he doesn’t think could be accomplished by a CNC milling machine, considering the delicate nature of deformed grain known to burls.
Endless species of wood in southern Oregon means unlimited types of burls and all kinds of options for Bradley Putter Co. Add in some dye and you've got even more customization via ROYGBIV (nine colors to be exact).
"If I want a red, white and blue putter, [Oregon Burls] can dye it red, white and blue," Converse said. "All that crazy stuff."
The process ends with Converse buffing the head of the putter until he feels it is ready to be used on the green. This level of intimacy in the production of a Bradley Putter costs buyers anywhere from $500 on the basic end to $25,000. "There's a spectrum," Converse says.
From order to completion, securing a Bradley putter takes less than one week -- efficient for a two-month-old company.
In that time, Bradley works via the scientific method to improve his product every day. Check out their Instagram feed for a timeline from the first iteration, to the fourth, to the seventh and more. According to Converse, each was made to improve on singular aspects where past versions failed, like weighting distribution, durability, etc.
After brainstorming the idea on that aforementioned Black Friday, Converse went to work. But it wasn't easy.
"(I) had two putters by the following Wednesday," he said. "Took 'em to the course. The first putter sucked ... Not gonna lie, it was a bad putter."
"Right now, my employee back home, he's making putters and trying to break them right now, just so we know the whole spectrum," Converse said. "I've already broken several by hitting them like 5-irons, just to know what is happening with it."
Note he used the singular form of employee. Bradley Putter Co. is a four-person enterprise. Their next big step is to conform to USGA standards.
"It’s not conforming yet, but it will be conforming," Converse said, detailing what he needs to do when he gets back to his garage on the other side of the country. In that way, Bradley Putter Co. is not out of the woods yet, but it holds plenty of promise. "As of an hour ago," he continued, "we are the official custom putter company of the Swing Thought Tour."
As mainstream a move as that may seem, Converse promises Bradley Putter Co. will forever be intimate. He wants customers to visit Grants Pass and see their eventual shop (they are about to sign a lease), and he believes word of mouth has been his biggest marketing asset. He wants owners to share a story about their putter every time they play a round of golf.
"You're never going to see these on Amazon. That's not what it's about," Converse said. "You buy these for yourself. You buy these because you love golf, you appreciate craftsmanship, you appreciate 'Made in America,' you appreciate small town economies, you appreciate stories and experiences. That's why you buy a Bradley Putter."