Yamada Putter Workshop in the city of Yamagata has previously been known in pro-golf circles, but through a twist of fate it has become the maker of the most sought-after putters in the world.

In otherwise economically depressed Japan, Yamada Putter Workshop has received up 300 orders in a single day from 20 countries around the world.

Needless to say, business is booming for the small outfit, but there’s just one problem – Yamada Putter Workshop, since opening in 1986, has only one employee: 57 year-old President Toru Yamada.

Yamada meticulously makes his putter one at a time to ensure the perfect shape and size. Originally wanting to be a jazz guitarist he ended up mastering the art of putter making after getting into golf. I know, that old story again.

By 1990, his production was really getting into full swing and his technique was steadily building a cult following in golf circles everywhere.

However, Mr. Yamada’s fame got a drastic boost at a golf tournament at River Oaks Golf Club in Oklahoma on 12 May, 2012. It was here that Australian pro-golfer Rhein Gibson scored a 55 on an 18-hole par-71 course – the lowest score recorded.

According to Mr. Yamada:

“From Mr. Gibson I received an order for 12 clubs. He used two for himself and gave the rest away to people like his father as gifts.”

Sure enough Gibson was carting a Yamada putter for his record meeting round. This caught the attention of amateur yet high profile golfer Barack Obama. According to an unnamed source the putter was about to help build diplomatic relations.

“[Gibson] was using the Emperor model of Yamada Putter Workshop. When the news reached Obama the Prime Minister’s camp got word that he really wants one. So, on 18 February, before Abe’s trip to the United States, his office looked into the company.”

The fatal flaw in the gift scheme was Obama being a well-documented lefty. The only Emperor putters in stock at the time were right-handed and because Yamada Putter Workshop consists only of Mr. Yamada a new club takes around six months to make.

So, another left-handed model which also happened to be the cheapest model produced by Yamada was taken instead. As a result Prime Minister Abe’s trip was deemed lukewarm.

To be fair, the actual Emperor putter is also in the low-end of Yamada Putter Workshop’s 23,100-350,000 yen (US$247-$3,740) range costing a mere 55,000 yen (US$587).

And although the gift didn’t seem to go over gangbusters there, Mr. Yamada has been struggling to keep up with the massive demand for his putters.

“There are many putters made from steel, but I use soft iron that’s been well received as ‘light and easy to use.’ In a little over 30 years I have made 250 types of putters.

After the Prime Minister’s inquiry on the eighteenth calls have been surging to the point I can’t get anything done. In the days before Abe’s trip I got 500 orders, 300 of them in one day.

How much do I earn for this? Probably around enough to build a house. However, since I have to adjust the lie angles each individually it will take about half a year for delivery.”

Although I admire the success of the Yamada Putter Workshop and its intrepid president, I have to take issue with their lack of left-handed merchandise. I thought things were going to change after a left-handed president was elected…

Source: Netallica (Japanese)
Images: Rakuten – Smart Golf Store