You’re innocently strolling around the PGA Superstore when you see her. An undeniable pull has you changing course from the rows of Pro V1s towards the artificial putting green. Like a moth to the light, you hover over to the myriad of putters, and there, shining on the wall, she sits: the newest Scotty Cameron model. You pick up the blade and the questions start rolling in how many grams is the head? Is this face-balanced? How much does this run? Then, a cheeky look at the price tag (even though you already know what the damage will be). Yep, $400. 

We’re all prone to the temptation of a new putter. Surely, it will get rid of those pesky three-putts. Surely, the ball would have no problem finding its sweet spot. And on top of it all, it looks unreal. But as is the case with most shiny objects and new toys, this costly lure can distract us from the perfectly good tools we already have in the bag.  What if there was an alternative to spark renewed excitement in your putter? As someone who entered the putter restoration industry at the onset of COVID, I’m here to tell you the ins and outs of putter restorations, what I wish I knew early on, and give you some tips so you can do it at home.

Here’s how it works.  

First, a putter will be soaked in acetone to strip off any existing paint in the lettering. Once the acetone has weakened the paint, some of the letterings may slough off whole (forming satisfying ‘o’s and ‘c’s, like alphabet soup) and the rest can be cleaned out with q-tips. 

Once the head is naked, the real work begins. A series of deburring wheels are used to meticulously grind down the stubborn dings, dents, and scratches. This is not for a heavy hand. If you press the putter too hard against the wheel, you can easily take off too much steel at once and cause uneven edges or streaky lines across the surface. 

Wear-and-tear erased, the putter is thrown into a sandblasting cabinet and sprayed with a final shower of glass beads which polishes and evens the head. If you want to make this an ongoing hobby, startup costs aren’t too steep; from Harbor Freight, I bought the bench grinder and wheels for under $100 and the sandblasting cabinet with beads for around $250.

From here, it’s time to paint.  Grab a few brushes and paint (I recommend Testors) from your local craft store and start to fill light coats in the lettering as desired. This is my favorite part of the process because it ties all of the restoration work together and allows you to get creative with non-factory color choices. You can opt for your favorite sports teams, rich metallics that catch the sunlight, or even a neon palette straight out of Miami Vice. Here’s one I did in copper and navy:

Image Courtesy of @scratchlessputters on instagram

If you’re looking for a bigger transformation, there are also different finish options for the head (note that these entail more equipment, knowledge and specialization). Powdercoating is one low maintenance and durable option (just make sure to use that headcover!). The most popular choice I see is a matte black powder that blacks out the putter head and makes bright paintfills pop. 

the art of putter restoration

Torching is another unique look available to carbon steel heads. With the help of some high heat, you can change the head’s color from silver to any range of blues, purples and golds. Though solid colors are achievable, some may appreciate the artistry in a more laissez-faire method which yields a Van Gogh-like mixture of hues. 

While striking, the con to this finish is the upkeep: you’ll need to regularly massage baby oil into the putter (especially after rainy rounds) in order to prevent rusting on the head. If rust accumulates, you can use a bit of wire wool and WD-40 to scrub it off.

Image Courtesy of @scratchlessputters on instagram

Costs, Pros and Cons

A basic restoration with paintfill will run about $130, with most companies offering advanced restoration options when there’s intense wear and tear. Special finishes range anywhere between $175 to $200+ depending on how many customizations you select. 

The biggest advantage of taking your putter to a company is their expertise. If you have some older putters lying around that you can afford to experiment on with DIY, then go for it. But if you’re looking for a guaranteed result I wouldn’t chance it as it takes a lot of experience and learning curves to become proficient. Norcal Putters, Embrace Putters and the Putter Lounge are just a few of the many reputable companies you can trust your putter with. The downside? Wait times. Expect to part with your putter for 4-6 weeks, and sometimes longer, depending on the backlog.

There’s a few key things to note before you start the restoration journey. Know that certain finishes are limited to the type of putter material you have. Torching, for example, can only be performed on carbon steel heads. Most newer Scotty Camerons are stainless steel so you won’t be able to achieve those vibrant colors pictured. 

Consult with an expert to see how much upkeep will be required of the finish you want, in order to determine which suits your schedule best. Always research what type of metal your putter head is as some emit highly toxic fumes while being worked on. The old Ping Ansers, for instance, are made of manganese bronze and require a skilled Ping professional to handle them. Some Scottys, like the Pro Platinums, have pre-existing finishes that will first need to be removed using chemical baths before they can be worked on. If you are working on a putter yourself, always use appropriate safety gear and ventilation and operate with caution. 

Most importantly, know when a putter is past the point of no return. I received a putter once that looked normal from pictures. When I got it, it had a botched spray paint job that was near impossible to get off. Then, while cleaning it up further, I discovered in horror these massive craters all over the head. It was like a murder scene. While it got cleaned up, it was nowhere near “new” again. If I could do it over, I would have just told the client to get a new Scotty at that point and stay clear of the power tools.

So, the next time you’re at the Superstore eyeing a new putter, know that you do have options. Maybe restoration will turn into a new hobby of yours, a labor of love, or maybe it will be the anticipation of receiving your putter back in the mail, just like new.

Victoria Igoe

Victoria Igoe is a lefty who somehow took up the game righty and has questioned life ever since. Having played at the Division I level, she brings her own putter to miniature golf and loves some good old-fashioned competition. When she’s not playing or writing about golf, she loves to spend time with her husband, John, paint putters, and hit the gym (to gain distance of course).