News & Opinion

Argolf Putters takes flight in U.S.

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

By Steve Elling

JUPITER, Fla. – Born in a European region steeped in history, Argolf Putters might possess the most interesting DNA in golf, and not merely because the clubs could provide a serious advantage on the greens.

Provenance is a term often used with regard to French artwork or items of historical interest and value. When it comes to the Argolf line, milled in the storied Brittany region on France’s northwest coast, the back story should command any golfer’s attention, especially if he is struggling with the short stick.

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Argolf Putters traces its history to French aeronautics.

COURTESY OF ARGOLF PUTTERS
Argolf Putters traces its history to French aeronautics.

After all, to reach stratospheric heights on the greens, why not use a putter designed, manufactured and assembled by the principle owners of a decades-old aeronautics company, Armor Meca, which has contracts all over the world? Better yet, for those who want to go really low, there’s this company tidbit as well: “They make submarine parts, too,” said Argolf vice president Larry Bobka, who runs the company’s putting laboratory and equipment showroom in south Florida.

The science involved in the Argolf putter formula is certainly worthy of a deep dive. After all, Armor Meca has built parts for NASA, Boeing and Airbus over the years. In other words, how many golf manufacturers can make this claim when rolling out their products: This is, in fact, rocket science.

Earlier this year, Argolf, which relocated to the U.S. in 2016, made a splash by earning a silver medal on Golf Digest magazine’s Hot List, though it’s hard to imagine how it missed landing pure gold. The manufacturing process alone sounds like the stuff of science fiction or an Avengers sequel.

Simply explained, Armor Meca mills putterheads out of single blocks of titanium, stainless steel and aluminum, all in the most popular styles, including blades, mallets and everything in between. There are no soldered parts, welded hosels or glued-in inserts, all of which can affect the feel of the club. It’s a seamless clubhead that delivers the ultimate in energy transfer and response. The balance alone is extraordinary.

“Our consistency from putter to putter is just unbelievable,” said Bobka, 57, who has worked for decades in the equipment business at renowned shops such as Titleist and Wilson.

Argolf owner Olivier Colas is a member of the family that founded the Armor Meca factory, which employs 200. Years ago, Colas and his brother took up golf and eventually began designing and milling putters, partly because they could. Friends took notice, and the Argolf spinoff was born. Colas, 44, moved his family of four to the U.S. to run the boutique company, whose future hardly was assured in an uncertain economy.

“Every business makes you nervous,” Colas said with a laugh.

Still newbies on the volatile equipment scene, the company already has logged two victories on the U.S. senior circuit. Kenny Perry used an Argolf model when he won the U.S. Senior Open last summer. Earlier this year, Rocco Mediate signed an Argolf endorsement deal.

For those willing to take a road trip, a visit to the Argolf putting studio is worth its weight in titanium. Bobka, an expert clubfitter and world-class storyteller, puts prospective clients on a device that measures their putting stroke – good, bad or downright ugly – and tracks the results via computer. He then tweaks the putters accordingly and makes recommendations with regard to which Argolf model might be best for improving the client’s play.

Customers can borrow a recommended loaner club for a veritable test drive before making any decision to buy. Bobka estimates that he has a 98-percent conversion rate in matching the right club with clients and completing the purchase process.

“Why go and buy something off the rack that will cost the same money, or more, without knowing if it will work?” Bobka said.

The company website (www.argolfusa.com) offers 13 putters in 11 color combinations, which means there are hundreds of buyer options. The price points vary – from $249 to $949 – depending on the cost of the materials involved. The hourlong fitting session is $150, but $50 can be applied toward the purchase of a putter.

Interestingly, in a nod to the history of the region where the company was spawned, the putters are named for characters associated with King Arthur lore, with tags such as Lancelot, Merlin and Pendragon.

Other than that, there’s nothing about the Argolf line that feels remotely mythic, musty or old. This is laser-precise, Excaliber-quality, cutting-edge stuff, built to space-age specs by folks whose products have logged millions of airline miles and sent astronauts into the blue beyond.

For mere earthbound souls hoping to better navigate the greens, the science alone should lessen the chances of a crash-and-burn scenario, or drowning in an ocean of three-putts.

Steve Elling has covered golf for the Orlando Sentinel, CBSSports.com and numerous other global print and online outlets. Email: ellingink@gmail.com; Twitter: @EllingYelling