By Julie Buehler
There’s a certain something compelling about a guy whose ideas percolate into reality and brew new industry standards while he leans back in his chair and says, “When you have an idea, you just have to get it going.”
Kenny Giannini is that guy and he’s your neighbor in the Coachella Valley. He moved back to the desert after extensive travel and now plays our local courses a few times a week.
You may not have heard of Giannini yet, but you’ve likely heard the golf adage, “Drive for show, putt for dough.” And if you’re familiar with the golf game, you know how much money is lost by a faulty short game. Giannini does too. That’s because after a short stint on tour that proved as eventful as a Bill Belichick press conference (this is written on a Sunday, so yes, football does get referenced), he discovered the glorious reality of supply and demand.
In the early 80’s, Giannini used a custom-forged putter made by TP Mills. While most putters were created in molds and grinded to specifications, his custom putter had precise weight distribution and was calibrated to ensure its balance and consistency. It cost him a pretty penny, but when a golf enthusiast saw it, recognized it’s unique shape, quality and design, decided he needed it for himself and paid Giannini nearly 50 times what market value was for the average putter, the ideas starting brewing in Giannini’s golf drenched brain.
He knew then that milled putters would be the key to consistency, balance, and force, the secrets to great ball striking. With the margin of variance in manufacturing to 1/3 the size of a human hair, the milling process leaves human error out of the equation and relies on machinery to replicate designs that Giannini dreams up.
Then, while living in Hawaii, Giannini was on staff for the Ben Hogan Company, and said, “I knew what I needed to do, I just needed to get the right people involved.”
Now imagine it’s the early 80’s. Your playlist consists of “Livin On A Prayer,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Walk This Way” and you’re asking yourself, “Where can I find a guy who can mill steel within a 1/3 of a human hair?” Well, just as “Don’t Stop Believing” cranks across your 8-track, you realize your best bet would be the phone book.
Giannini, met machinist Rick Cooper after calling every machinist in the phone book. Cooper, who was making parts for the military in San Diego at the time instantly recognized the same paramount importance of precision and exactitude that Giannini was looking to produce on a mass scale.
And so, 35 years ago, the man’s idea, forged into reality, revolutionized the golf industry. His putters were the perfect solution: custom precision for the common man. And Cleveland, Mizuno, Taylor Made and other manufacturers that had the big dollars but desperately needed Giannini’s attention to the smallest of details used the man’s expertise to further their putters.
His putters, now relaunching under his own name, have, in less than a year in production, been featured at the PGA Expo in Vegas and are sold at PGA Super Stores across America as well as other pro shops like Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis in Palm Desert.
He doesn’t pay any tour players to use his clubs like the other manufacturers do, understanding the short game is where they make all their money, so it doesn’t make sense for him to chase the tour players. He just simply says of the professional player, “If you want the best, you can have it like the rest of us.” PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks and local stars Byron Smith and Ki Taek Lee use Giannini putters, as well as 3-time tournament winner John Rollins and John Daly are trying them out for their use.
Giannini can be anywhere and develop his putter designs, carving out a custom design based on a conversation over coffee. He says, “I can sculpt your perfect putter while talking to you.” And when I asked if he considered himself an artist for such interpretive work, he said, “No way. I’m a laid back guy. I just love golf.”
And anyone else who loves golf can appreciate a simple man’s complex art: bridging the gap between custom precision and mass production. The careful craftsmanship of an artist’s touch made accessible to the average golfer.
Kenny Giannini putters can be found locally at Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis, the soon-to-be PGA Superstore in Palm Desert and online at www.kennygianniniputters.com.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.