Equipment Report

    Nick Hardy and the search for the 8-year-old putter shaft

  • Nick Hardy's new custom SWAG Golf putter. (GolfWRX)Nick Hardy's new custom SWAG Golf putter. (GolfWRX)

If you think putter shafts don’t matter, don’t bother telling that to Nick Hardy.

At the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba earlier this month, PGA TOUR player Nick Hardy reeled off eight birdies in a row during the final round en route to a T21 finish. The birdie run came just a week after Hardy started using a new custom Swag putter at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

For Hardy, the story of his new putter starts when he was in college at the University of Illinois.

About eight years ago, Hardy said he started using a custom Bettinardi BB1 style putter, equipped with a stepless steel shaft and an orange grip.

A couple years ago, however, he had to replace the original steel putter shaft, which sent him down a long road of searching.

Although seemingly nothing had changed with his putter – he was still using the same exact putter head and grip – something was off with the shaft. It just wasn’t performing or feeling the same anymore.

“I never believed shafts made much of a difference in putting, but I lost that feel,” Hardy told GolfWRX.com on Tuesday at The RSM Classic.

Eventually, after a long period of exploration, Hardy tasked Nate Brown, the Director of Tour Operations for Swag Golf, to help him figure out what was wrong. Prior to working for Swag Golf, Brown was a longtime Tour rep for Bettinardi, and he worked closely with Hardy for nearly a decade on all of his putter needs.

Brown was able to identify that Hardy’s original Bettinardi putter was equipped with a steel shaft that is no longer in production. Hardy couldn’t find the shaft he needed because it doesn’t exist on the current market.

Brown wasn’t letting up easily, though. Motivated to find a stock of those specific shafts, Brown got in touch with one of his contacts to see if they had any of Hardy’s old stepless shafts.

As it turns out, Brown’s guy had a box of them in his garage.

“I would call it the box of destiny,” Brown told GolfWRX. “An old dealer had a box of the shafts in his garage room. He had no use for it, so he gave it to us.”

The box of destiny is now locked away in a safe spot at Swag Golf headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois. Hardy has his old shaft back.

“For a couple years, I was on a shaft witch hunt,” Hardy said. “It was like Cinderalla finding her shoe.”

The reason the shaft feels and performs so differently is because it has a significantly higher frequency (frequency is calculated by the amount of times per minute that a shaft oscillates on a flex meter). Hardy’s new shaft measures nearly double the stiffness of standard steel putter shafts.

In addition to the shaft, Brown also worked with Hardy to design him a new putter head that was built to his exact look, feel and performance needs.

Brown initially sent Hardy a stock Swag Golf “The Handsome One” putters to try out, and afterwards they got to work on the prototyping process.

Hardy says that he prefers a “squared off” style head, but he doesn’t like the putter to have “too much toe swing.”

To fit Hardy’s eye, Brown worked with the Swag R&D team to dial in the look. With each new 3D-printed prototype that Swag designed, Brown would send photos to Hardy via text for his feedback. After several rounds of 3D prototypes and text messages, Brown and Hardy found the perfect look.

“We changed the length of the hosel to give it less face rotation and moved the middle section of the bumpers in further. It has more of a Newport 2 look in bumpers, rather than a Newport look with rounded bumpers. And it’s different than the 009 bumpers, where they drop right down. …It’s bead-blasted, torched, and oil-quenched, and it’s made of 303 stainless steel. It’s also 360 grams, which is a heavier head than he used before.”

Since switching to the putter for the first time in Bermuda, Hardy is a collective 25 under par for eight rounds, finishing in the top 25 in both Bermuda and Mayakoba.

“The putter is money,” Hardy said. “The way it swings and the feel of it. It feels like home, like I’m using something that has a comfortable feel. I birdied eight straight at Mayakoba, so it’s nice that the results show.”

But wait, what exactly is the shaft model that Brown found? Inquiring minds must know.

“I prefer to keep it top secret,” Brown answered, with a wry smile. “They’re in a box that says ‘Nick Hardy. Don’t touch it.’”

Fair enough.