My 85-year old golf friend Pat plays golf with a cool putter. It is a half-round, mallet-style putter with head shaped to a perfect half circle. It fits perfectly into the cup. The bottom of the club head has a concave cutaway sized to effortlessly remove the golf ball from the hole. So after you hole your put, you simply plunge the putter into the cup and the ball comes out, stuck to the bottom of the club head. Brilliant design - but who made it?
Pat's "Golden Retriever" brass-head putter.
DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF PAT'S "GOLDEN RETRIEVER" PUTTER
1.) Vintage - probably 1960s. Pat has owned the club for a long time.
2.) Brass forms most of the body and alignment stripes on top.
3.) Black paint. Looks like someone painted over the original finish at some point, probably Pat.
4.) Half-round pocket on the bottom sized to fit a golf ball; head is 3.5"-wide.
SIMILAR BALL-RETRIEVING PUTTER DESIGNS
The Rules of Golf dictate that a golf ball must be between 1.70" and 1.75" diameter. A golf hole (cup) must be exactly 4" in diameter. The head on most ball-retrieving putters is ~3.5", thus fit easily inside a cup so as to pick up a ball that has been putted in. The retrieval pocket is slightly tapered or is lined with some sort of flexible material so that the ball will stick in the club head by friction.
The K-Line Model #901 mallet putter has a ball-retrieval pocket on its bottom side and comes complete with brass inserts. The K-Line Model #201, also from the 1960s-1970s, looks similar.
The Pic Putter, manufactured in the 2000s, has a ball pocket that does not go all the way through.
The Eagle Grasp putter has a hole bored all the way through the club head. This design borrows from an earlier design by Seijiro Serizawa of Amagasaki, Japan (U.S. Patent #4,976,436).
This King mallet putter was recently for sale on Ebay.
TaylorMade came out with the Rossa Corza Ghost around 2010. It has a ball-sized cutout for visual alignment of your stroke (or "vivid secondary alignment aid"), rather than for picking up balls.
The Merlin Light Touch, from several decades ago, capably picks up golf balls.
GAIM Golf's G360 model is currently for sale on their website.
In 2018, PING brought out their own version of a ball-retrieving putter with its sleek Sigma 2 Fetch.
U.S. PATENT OFFICE RESEARCH ON BALL-RETRIEVING PUTTERS
I turned to the U.S. Patent Office website for detailed information on ball-retrieving putters. What I found surprised me. More than 25 ball-retrieving putters have been patented since the the 1930s. It is remarkable how similar many "new" designs are to previously-patented models and how creative wording of applications has been used to justify the issuance of new patents for clubs performing essentially the same function.
In 1930, A.S. Isles of Hoylake, UK filed the earliest known patent on a ball-retrieving putter (British Serial #464,021; U.S. Patent #1,960,110 granted in 1934). The design introduced a golf club "adapted to assist in the picking up of golf balls by a player either from the green or out of a hole".
In 1938, Joseph C. Haverbach of Hartford, CT patented a ball-retrieving putter "efficient for use in retrieving balls from water hazards or other difficult positions" (U.S. Patent #2,213,190).
In 1968, inventor Charles D. Jacobs of Lakewood, FL was granted a patent on a "Golf Ball Retrieving Club" (U.S. Patent #3,374,027), shown below.
In 1973, Joseph F. Rango of San Pedro, CA introduced a putter with a hole bored through the head U.S. Patent #3,708,172). Figure 2, below, shows "a person holding a ball in the hole within the putter to test the golf ball for size or roundness." Apparently, it was common for certain golf ball manufacturers to slip in the occasional square golf ball into the box - to keep players on their toes.
In 1973, inventors F.D. Eberwein and E.J. Derderian of Fresno, CA were granted a patent for a "Golf Ball Retrieving Device" (U.S. Patent #3,300,241), shown below.
In 1974, the prolific engineer-inventor Frank D. Werner of Jackson, WY was granted a patent for golf ball retrieving club with a bottom surface "tapered to expose portions of the golf ball so that the ball can be more easily removed from the receptacle" (U.S. Patent #3,841,639).
In 1976, Harold T. Johnson of Kewanee, IL was granted a patent for club with "a ball-receiving pocket between the shaft and the toe of the club...[and]...an upwardly facing arcuate surface on the heel portion of the head...[that]...may engage and hold a flag pole that is lying on the ground" (U.S. Patent #3,944,231).
In 1981, Don L. Kepler of Lake Park, FL filed a patent for a (U.S. Patent #4,248,430). His design claimed the ability to both retrieve a golf ball and place/retrieve your ball marker (#17, #22 in diagram below). His putter helped players avoid injury by "removing balls from a golf cup or the ground or the water without requiring a player to bend over in order to pick up the golf ball by hand or to deposit or remove the ball marker by hand." This curious bit of information caught my attention: "The golf ball retrieval-retainer structure includes at least one hook-shaped arm...[that]...lies in the phantom extension of the lower surface plane passing through the lower surface of the club body."
I don't often buy putters, but when I do, I insist on a phantom extension.
In 1984, Edward F. Brill of Oconomowoc, MI (U.S. Patent #4,580,784) patented "a golf club capable of retrieving a golf ball by frictionally gripping the ball, or by scooping the ball from a surface."
In 1990, Seijiro Serizawa patented a putter "in the shape of a ring...for enabling picking up a ball within a hole in a standing posture of a golfer without stretching an arm while bending the body merely by slightly pushing the ball downward with the head...[prevents] the ball from dropping on account of the elasticity of the surface of the ball and the friction between the ball and an inner peripheral edge of the circular hollow" (U.S. Patent #4,976,436).
In 1990, Nicholas Colucci of New York, NY patented a club with "a pair of spaced apart narrow walls also extend rearward from the rear surface of the striking face and define an open space into which a golf ball may be wedged and retrieved" (U.S. Patent #4,962,927).
In 1993, Howard L. Hull and Pete Rasner of Nevada patented a club with both a pocket for ball retrieval and an ejecting device that was machined into the top of the head (U.S. Patent #5,269,525).
In 1994, inventor Felix L. Thomas of Lady Lake, FL was granted a patent for a "Golf Putter Including Ball Retrieving Device" (U.S. Patent #5,368,302).
In 1996, a patent was granted to inventor Robert Youngblood of North Hills, CA for a club with "a receptacle...adapted to partially receive a golf ball" (U.S. Patent #5,509,658). This design became the Golden Retriever, though I cannot determine who manufactured it. Current owner is James E. Frye of Arizona and "Kensington University A California Corporation", an unaccredited distance education school once associated with University of California that closed in 2003.
In 1997, Randall S. Shine of Sonora, CA invented a club with "a pair of resilient fingers...[that]...flex outwardly to permit the ball to pass into the lower opening...asserting a gripping effect, whereby the user may retrieve and lift the ball" (U.S. Patent #5,692,968).
In 1999, Eifion Jones was granted a British patent for a "Golf Ball Retrieving Club" (UK Patent #2,357,251).
In 1997, James E. Frye of Chandler, AZ invented a retrieving putter that would not damage the playing surface or cause the cup to become "tilted or otherwise dislodged" (U.S. Patent #5,628,696).
In 2000, Nicholas M. Middleton of Sheffield, UK patented a training-aid putter with a hole "of marginally greater dimensions than, and adapted to receive an object such as a conventionally sized golf ball...The club, which is typically a putter, can be used as a practicing aid by swinging [it with a ball in the recess]...so that [when] it is no longer proximate the floor, the object is released...The swing profile of a user can thus be quickly assessed" (U.S. Patent #2003/0064820).
In 2001, inventor Roger A. Klein filed a patent for "a golf putter head with a cutout for engaging and retrieving a golf ball from the green or other surface without bending over or stooping down" (U.S. Patent #6332457).
In 2003, David V. Henry of Seymour, TN patented a club with a pocket in the sole to receive a golf ball and a flare in the heel of the club to "engage a golf club shaft or flag for lifting" from the ground (U.S. Patent #6,878,072).
In 2004, Frank D'Agguano of Aventura, FL patented a club with a "retaining aperture, which will permit a golfer to accomplish virtually effortless ball retrieval from a hole, green, water hazard or other portions of a golf course without bending over. The configuration allows a wide variety of golf ball sizes to be retrieved" (U.S. Patent #2004/0147344).
Recall, the Rules of Golf dictate that a golf ball must be between 1.70" and 1.75" diameter. So by "wide variety" we're talking, like, five hundredths of an inch.
In 2005, Minnesota residents Gerald R. Schweiger and James T. Schweiger were granted a patent for a putter where "ball retrieval is achieved by slightly cup-shaped relatively planar arms that form a semi-circular opening there between, into which a golf ball will nest and be retained by gravitational forces" (U.S. Patent #6,878,071).
In 2006, Stephen R. Schmitt of Lancaster, PA, with thesaurus firmly in hand, patented a club "with a vertical opening sized to engage the diametric circumference of a golf ball to permit the golf ball to be elevated by the putter" (U.S. Patent #7,059,971).
In 2007, inventor Carlos Barbosa of La Puenta, CA was granted a patent for a "putter with integral ball retriever" (U.S. Patent #7,198,574).
In 2008, Edwin Noyes of Tequesta, FL patented "an ornamental design for a golf club head and ball retriever" (U.S. Patent #US-D573673).
In 2008, Yoshinubo Tanaka of Japan patented a "golf club head with a cutout and "deflectable plate...[that]...can function well even though sand or a cake of soil intrudes into the opening" (U.S. Patent #7,848,036). Other designs patented by Tanaka under different patent applications are shown in the 2nd and 3rd images.
In 2009, Thomas R. Hilton of Cardiff, CA patented a club with a removable aft portion and "a ball scoop for picking up a golf ball without the need to bend down" (U.S. Patent #US 2009/0170629 A1).
In 2016, Thomas J. Morris/Karsten Manufacturing of Phoenix, AZ patented a club with "a retention cavity configured to engage and retain a golf ball...when urged into the confines of the retention cavity." (U.S. Patent #2017/0340926).
Wear a collared shirt and maintain a casual posture when retrieving your ball from the cup with your putter.