By Erik Matuszewski
Wayne Gretzky had to wait about six months to get his hands on a Lamb Crafted putter—more than twice as long as it took him to get elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame following his NHL playing career.
“The Great One” was a lucky one. Fellow Hall-of-Famer Mike Modano is still waiting. Former NBA star Penny Hardaway’s wait for one of golf’s most coveted putter brands is about a year and a half now.
“It’s not because I want them to wait, but building a business and going from a garage to where we are in two years has been hard,” explains Lamb, the 29-year-old craftsman behind the customized milled putters that start at $1,250 and can cost up to $5,000 apiece.
Lamb’s putters occupy a unique place in the world of bespoke golf equipment. His is a brand that’s built its identity—and popularity—through the power of social media, particularly Instagram. In an era when many popular brand-name putters are driven by technology, Lamb’s offerings are inspired by classic design, then stamped and customized to suit the customer’s wishes.
Lamb, who started his business in his parents’ garage, says about 60% of what he does is art and the other 40% is a combination of aesthetics and precision.
“I think aesthetics far exceed technology in putters because of the fact that you could make a putt with a shovel, but you couldn’t hit a 300-yard drive with a shovel,” says Lamb, who spends an average of seven hours on every putter, with some taking as long as 20 hours. “If you don’t like the way it looks, it doesn’t matter how much technology it has, you can’t make a putt with it.”
Back when Lamb was in college, he had a friend whose grandparents owned a machine shop and it helped him discover his calling. At the time, Lamb would tinker with putters in the shop, but originally started out making belt buckles. When he returned home after graduation, he found a business partner, took a loan and set up shop in his parents’ garage. In addition to belt buckles, Lamb dabbled in car parts, art work and furniture—really anything that a customer wanted for decor.
Yet Lamb always had a fascination with putters. In December 2012, he posted pictures in an online golf forum of one he made for himself. Readers immediately asked how they could buy them. Although the quantity of putters he made in 2013 and 2014 was in the teens, “people took notice,” Lamb says.
In 2015, Lamb got on Instagram and started building a following, especially when he posted pictures of his classic putters. Later that year, he got a call from Jim Butler, who spent a decade selling Scotty Cameron’s high-end putters. Butler asked for some putters to take to the PGA Merchandise Show, so Lamb made seven—a process that took three months.
“He didn’t even have a booth,” Lamb recalls. “He just had a hotel room where he could invite people up to sell stuff. We sold those seven putters for $12,000 and I said, ‘This is what we’re going to do…’”
Fast forward to today and no product that Lamb makes is in stock longer than 30 minutes. The majority are accessories, some of which become collector’s items. Limited-edition ball markers that Lamb sold two years ago for $50 are popping up on eBay for $1,000. He’s made around 100 putters this year, but none were sold directly to consumers; some went to distributors, others to partners in Japan and South Korea and a few others were part of a deal his company, Lamb Crafted, had with the NBA.
“We’ve kind of adopted the scarcity model, not on purpose, it just kind of happened,” says Lamb. “We’re in this weird space that I think a lot of companies dream about, but we also have to control the amount of product because if you make too many it depreciates the value of what they just bought.”
Now out of his parents’ garage and in a dedicated shop, Lamb is trying to get processes in place to start taking on more work. He’s also trying to delegate some work so he doesn’t have to be as hands-on with every product. It would also free him up to focus on putters, the “holy grail” of his product offerings.
Lamb is still a man constantly on the move and has only few other people to help him, among them his wife, sister, and mother. The first time I called him, he was in South Korea meeting with a distributor. The second time, he was trying to fix one of his vertical mills after inadvertently running a tool through it. When we finally connected, he was running to lunch with a new employee and detailing plans to take putter orders on his website in May, with the goal of being able to deliver the customized offerings to new customers by the U.S. Open in June.
“The next year is going to be more crucial to see how many more we can pump out,” says Lamb, who jokes that a trip to Augusta National is the one thing that might expedite his artistic process. “It also goes back to what we were talking about before—if I start cranking out too many of them does the demand go down? But I think I could start making as many putters as I wanted for the next two to three years and we still couldn’t make enough.”
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