How Many Putters are there on Earth?
Answer: 1,500,000,000. Your mileage may vary.
How did I come up with that answer? WAG method, or wild ass guess. It’s basically a back of the envelope type of calculation.
Say there are sixty million golfers in the world (half of them in the US.) Assume there are five putters for every active golfer, and for every one of them there are five inactive golfers going back to the beginning of time, and each of them had five putters that have somehow survived. Voila! That is how one quickly arrives at a perfectly reasonable answer to a purely unknowable question.
What is your guess?
Of course it begs this question: What is a putter? But that is for another essay.
My son gave me a book called Superforecasters. I think a better name for them is compulsive guessers. One thing you learn from this book is that the quality of the question is more important than the accuracy of the answer. The titular question here is a decidedly poor question. Here is a much better question:
How many putters can I sell?
That, in fact, is the question I originally posed to myself over a decade ago when I first entertained the idea that I would try to sell putters. Here is the answer at which I finally arrived: Enough. I can sell enough putters.
Of course this relatively simple question masks much more difficult and important questions, like how many putters can I sell and at what price and at what cost and ultimately at what profit. Time is money, and this will take a lot of time and more than a little bit of money. Will it be worth it? Yes, I can’t imagine having more fun than this.
Superforecasters simply do what businessmen do all day every day. We make guesses about the future and bet on them. Most people associate that kind of behavior with gambling, and that is exactly what it is. That is why gamblers gravitate toward business. It’s more fun than regular betting because it is more creative. You’ve got real skin in the game.
The act of asking and answering questions is what we usually think of as science. Good science too relies less on getting good answers than on asking great questions.
An Inventor’s most useful tool is his ability to ask simple questions and find the simplest possible answer.
So let’s get back to our original bad question and break it down into better ones. How many putters are in the universe? Who knows? It is trivial. Here’s a better one for each and every golfer:
How many putters should I own in my lifetime?
There are two possible right answers: You should own only one putter, or you should own an infinite number of putters.
How long should a man’s legs be? Long enough to reach the ground.
Like the ability to play music, some people are born with the ability to putt. They can putt with anything, at any time, and under any circumstance. These people do exist, and they should own exactly one putter. Bless their hearts.
Normal people are not like that. Our ability to putt well depends on an infinite number of seemingly trivial factors. Our perception of exactly what we are doing – or trying to do – as we putt can change dramatically from day to day. For people like us it is often beneficial to change putters. One can never have too many putters.
Why do people make a big deal of changing putters? I do it all the time. It’s fun. I do it even when I’m putting well… especially when I’m putting well. When I’m putting well I feel especially in tune to my putter and how it feels. Sometimes I feel like an extra half inch of length, or another 25 grams of butt weight would dial it in perfectly. It is a dance between mind, body, and equipment. It is art, science, and metaphysics.
Why should there not be a putter that can change with our perceptions of what we are doing?
No good reason whatsoever.
It should be possible to change any and every part of a putter. Ideally, it should be made out of a mimetic polyalloy like Terminator 2.
Anybody got one of those? Me neither. Next best solution would be to make the parts modular and interchangeable. That is what I did… or am doing… or trying to do.
People always ask me: How many putters do you own?
I own every possible putter. How cool is that.
What I really mean is that I can, one way or another, make any putter or any kind of putter. And I can do it fairly quickly. When you look at even the simplest possible putter you need to realize that there are an infinite number of variations of that one putter. Sometimes a small variation can make a big difference in how you perceive your putting, and ultimately in how well you are putting. An alpha male should somehow be able to make those variations a reality.
Plus, it’s just a lot of fun.
So let’s get back to the key question: How many putters can I sell?
I don’t know. It depends on how many people want my help in realizing the dream of infinite putters.