Machine M1A Prototype Review

by | Apr 6, 2007 | Reviews | 0 comments

Never heard of Dave Billings? That’s just fine by him…but you are more than likely already familiar with his work. Remember HOG putters? How about Yonex irons? Dave was responsible for both. He has seven golf-related US Patents in his OWN name, and “several more” on the way. But being an engineer isn’t where he started out.

Dave has a BFA in Sculpture from the LA campus of Parsons in New York. (For those of you that don’t know, Parsons is the “Harvard” of art schools.) This gives him a VERY good understanding of metals, finishes, and the artistic flare that lets him create a piece that relates to the putter that he’s designing. So when Dave puts a stamp on the putter, a finish on the neck, or applies a treatment of some sort…it is done for a reason.

Knowing what I do about Dave, when I saw the ’1st release’ putters that he released, I immediately started smiling. Here’s a guy that truly understands the art behind putter making.

Just about any 100% CNC milled putter is going to be well made. What pleased me most, is the level of detail that goes into the process. When I told Dave that I liked my putter at 2.5*, he wanted me to wait for a few weeks because he didn’t have any. “Can’t you just bend it 1*?” I asked. “No. I mill every putter in this series to the loft that the player wants. This way, the bottom is always completely flat.” This is NOT the response that I was expecting…but personifies my dealings with Dave. He takes great pride in the way that his putters are made. The next time I talked to him, he was calling to tell me that the finish didn’t come out how he wanted and was hoping that I could give him another day or so before it shipped. (Keep in mind that this is less than a week after I ordered the putter.) He just wanted it to be right.

The milling pattern that Dave developed is very interesting all by itself. Roll is VERY important when you are talking about modern putters. Some milling patterns get the ball rolling faster than others, and the one that they developed for the ‘Machine’ line is very special. Notice that there are very deep marks that go both up and down. The cross-weave that happens is actually flat on the face at all times. The VERY subtly rounded corners of the marks give a roll to the ball quicker than almost any other putter we’ve tested. (See the movie below for the testing data.)

When the face impacts the ball, you’ll notice that there is a slight top-spin that gently urges the ball on the proper line, without sacrificing any accuracy.

At address, the M1A is very clean. One of the things that Dave tries to do is keep the artistic stuff OUT of your view when you are putting. You’ll see a lot of his designs that have hammering, stampings, and other subtleties in the cavity, on the back of the neck, on the sole, and on the face. This makes for a neat ‘disappearing’ act when you look at it from the side, and then turn it to address.

When at address, you’ll see the simplicity of the design. Like many other “Anser II” Style heads, everything is where it should be. You’ll notice that the top-line is VERY flat, and just the right size. Some go a little thinner than I’d like, and the thicker ones just look clunky to me. This is a very good mix of the two.

I’ve used enough grips over the years to know that you can’t please everyone with a single grip choice…especially on a putter.

Machine Putters come standard with a Lamkin Crossline putter grip, which I though was “OK”. I WILL say that I like it a lot better than some of the grips I’ve seen…but less than others. 90% of the people that buy a putter at this level are going to put the grip of their choice on it anyway, so I’ll offer up fairly good marks for putting a decent grip on the putter…but not TOO nice so we don’t think twice about cutting it off.

This particular putter’s head is made from Dave’s own “Aluminum Bronze” with the neck being a flamed 303 Stainless Steel. I found that this particular combination offered a putter that feels VERY soft. Normally when you think of an aluminum head, you’d think of a head that is too light for a blade style putter. The bronze that is mixed in with this alloy offers the added weight that you need in such a small amount of material. The bonuses are that the putter won’t ever rust, will patina like an old Ping Anser, and is only about 6% lighter than carbon steel. By not milling out a pocket, the weight of the head stays the same as traditional heads — and offers the softest feeling head available.

This brings up one of the more interesting parts about Machine putters. The buyers have the opportunity to pick the head/neck combo that they want, so you can really pick whatever combination of materials that you think will suit your taste. Copper head, stainless neck? No problem. Copper neck with a Carbon steel head? Sure thing. All Carbon? Done. The sky is the limit. Below is a sampling of putters that I was able to choose from for this review. You’ll notice that there are Aluminum Bronze putters both with, and without the patina. If you like it shinny, keep it polished. If you want it to age on its own…let it go. Or, Dave can accelerate it to that point for you.

The list of finishes and materials you can choose from is quite extensive.

Material & Finish Options: 1018 Carbon Steel (Gunmetal, Black Ox, e-
Nickel, Copper) – 303 Stainless Steel (Hand Flamed Rainbow, Cadmium Rainbow, Gun-Kote) – Billet Copper – Marine Brass – Aluminum Bronze (Antique Patina)

Here are some examples of these finishes as well as neck, dot, and line options that he offers.

#1: 303 Head/Copper Stubby-Hosel
#2: AB Head/Copper Hosel
#3: AB Head/303 Long-Hosel
#4: AB Head/AB Hosel w/Patina
#5: AB Head/AB Bent Hosel w/Patina & Hammering

“Skip to the end” Overall:
I’ll offer up two sentences to sum up the Machine M1A.

Technical: In my opinion, this is one of the best putters I’ve ever owned.

Layman: Holy Mother of Crap, I can’t believe how good this thing is!

…apologies to Art Dudley.