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Equipment Report
  • EQUIPMENT

    The backstory on Tom Kim's ultra-custom putter

  • Tom Kim switched to a highly customized putter for the 2022-23 season. (GolfWRX)Tom Kim switched to a highly customized putter for the 2022-23 season. (GolfWRX)

The word “consistency” is lost on most 20-year-olds. Most 20-year-olds, however, are not Tom Kim.

After winning the Wyndham Championship in August to capture his first PGA TOUR victory, Kim quickly followed it up with another win at the Shriners Children’s Open earlier this month. With two wins, the 20-year-old Kim joined Tiger Woods as the only two players in the last 80 years to win multiple PGA TOUR titles before turning 21.

Unlike a young Woods, Kim doesn’t overwhelm golf courses, or his competition, with his distance off the tee. In fact, he ranked 70th or worse in average driving distance during each of his two victories.

What he may lack in power off the tee, though, he makes up for with prowess on the greens. Case in point, Kim finished first and third in Strokes Gained: Putting during the weeks of his first two wins, respectively.

Kim’s two dominant putting performances could be dismissed as flashes in the pan, or attributed to his intentional switch to a putter setup that yields him greater consistency day-to-day and week-to-week.

At last year’s THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT, Kim used a steel-shafted putter, just as he had done throughout his career to that point.

Although multi-material putter shafts have become progressively more commonplace on the PGA TOUR – and in the golf market at large – Kim was far from alone in using a steel-shafted putter.

Steel shafts were first permitted by the USGA for use in putters only at the 1924 U.S. Open, and most golfers replaced their familiar hickory shafts with new steel shafts in all of their clubs in the 1930s. In comparison to hickory, steel shafts offered lighter weights, greater strength, increased durability and reduced variance in manufacturing. Steel continued as the material of choice in shafts for the golf industry at large until graphite composite shafts became a superior option in drivers and fairway woods around the mid-to-late 1990s – some switched earlier than others, of course.

Composite shafts were significantly lighter than their steel counterparts, allowing players to create more speed, and steel-shafted drivers and fairway woods became a thing of the past.

Although graphite was winning the speed race in metalwoods, the sturdier steel shafts remained as the top selection for irons, wedges and putters. For many golfers – even still to this day – that remains the case.

In recent years, however, shaft manufacturers have continued leveling the playing field between composite and steel, offering equivalently weighted iron, wedge and putter shafts. Now, composite shafts that use high-end materials and finely tuned stiffness/flexibility in concentrated areas can actually provide increased performance and feel versus steel.

Composite shafts aren’t reserved for drivers and fairway woods anymore; even top PGA TOUR players use composite shafts in their irons, wedges and/or putters.

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After finishing T49 at last year’s THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT using a steel-shafted putter, Kim took the advice of a friend and fellow pro by testing out an LA Golf putter shaft, which had a wider-diameter design made to be extremely stiff and minimize bending throughout the stroke compared to steel. In theory, less movement and vibration in the shaft should reduce variability when putting.

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(GolfWRX)

By the time Kim made his next TOUR start at the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson, he was using a Scotty Cameron Circle T GSS blade putter with custom tiffany-blue paintfill, equipped with an LA Golf TPZ One35 shaft (the “One35” is a reference to the 135-gram shaft weight, which is roughly 10 grams heavier than typical steel putter shafts).

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(GolfWRX)

That’s the putter setup he used to win the Wyndham Championship – his first PGA TOUR victory.

“I think, obviously, the (LA Golf) shafts are heavier and look bigger than normal steel shafts, so it gives me that weight,” Kim said Wednesday ahead of THE CJ CUP in South Carolina. “The trouble I’ve had sometimes – when my putter fell off – was that I couldn’t feel the weight of the head or the shaft really well. The weight felt different every day. But once I put that shaft in, it made it consistent. I really haven’t had a day where it felt different. It’s always been consistent.

“If I have a consistent strike, I know the ball is rolling well. And even with the mishits, I know when I hit it well and when I don’t. I think that was the biggest thing. Just the consistency of it, whether it’s a miss or not. So that’s why it went in. I got a recommendation from a friend of mine, because he was using it, and he won with it … I was like, ‘I might as well try it.’ It worked right away.”

Prior to the Presidents Cup, Kim worked with Paul Vizanko, Director of Scotty Cameron Putter Fitting and Player Development, on designing a new custom blade putter with a “simple and cool” colorway.

“I talked to Paul (after the 2021-22 season concluded); he’s the guy we talk to for putters,” Kim said. “I wanted sole weights on my putter, and I was talking to him, and he got me weights. I normally just had a Circle T putter and that was it – the tiffany one. I wanted something new. I was like, ‘Can I try this?’ Then he (got one built), and he was like, ‘What color do you want?’

“Obviously, the tiffany is a rare piece and I would have loved to do it, but I wanted something simple and cool. So I went with the black (paintfill). It looks amazing. I put it right in the bag after the season finished, and it’s been working pretty well for me.”

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(GolfWRX)

For consistency’s sake, Kim’s new putter was equipped with an LA Golf P-Series 135 shaft, which is similar in design to his previous LA Golf shaft.

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(GolfWRX)

It was also built with a Carolina blue SuperStroke grip, in honor of the 2022 Presidents Cup in Charlotte.

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(GolfWRX)

That’s the putter he eventually used to win the 2022 Shriners Children’s Open – his second PGA TOUR victory – and remains in the bag.

With a more consistent feel in his putter, thanks to the shaft switch, Kim has already established himself as a consistent winner on TOUR.

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(GolfWRX)

Given his budding superstar status, he received appropriate treatment this week. On Tuesday, an LA Golf tour rep presented Kim with four prototype shafts, in four unique colorways, made especially for him.

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(GolfWRX)

Most 20-year-olds don’t get that kind of prototype treatment. But again, most 20-year-olds are not Tom Kim.