|Odyssey Marxman X-Act putting wedge|
As one of the first to break the news of Odyssey dipping both its heel and toe into the world of 'chippers for chokers' - I feel a responsibility to have given the Marxman X-ACT putting wedge a serious testing.
Perhaps not the best time of year to review a piece of equipment, in cold and wet conditions, but when one of the world's leading manufacturers of Tour-level putters says it has spotted a gap in the market - albeit tiny - and decides it needs to fill it with a quality product, you have to take notice.
My first reaction was a McEnroe-esk: 'You cannot be serious?'
Why would Odyssey, pioneers of the modern two-ball putter, back-weighting technology and soft polymer insert faces for better feel on faster greens, consider it needed to a add a 'girlie' chipper to its range?
After all it's a club, surely, that many golfers believe provides a way of simplifying the game so much that it verges on cheating? Surely blokes wouldn't entertain adding such a club to their bag when they can use a wedge or a 6- or 7-iron around the green to deliver the same result?
However, I greatly respect the equipment that Odyssey has placed in the hands of some of the world's greatest players and major winners including Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson and if their engineers believe there is a market for a putting wedge, they deserve a fair hearing.
The makers say that it's designed to function 'like an approach putter, providing an easy to hit option for those tricky shots around the green.'
However, at address I immediately became confused. I could see all of its white elastomer insert face angled like a 6-iron(37 degrees) but couldn't decide how to grip the red, soft-feel handle.
Should I take a traditional putter grip (I already use reverse overlap, left-hand low and claw depending on how the mood takes me) or should I hold it like a regular club and cock the wrists in the back swing? The longer grip on this club allows for a variety of options.
Best results from my initial efforts from the fringe from around 15-20 feet to the flagstick were left below right, just as I'd grip for a long putt. The ball popped off the face on a low trajectory but tended to run on with little or no spin and leave me a series of seven or eight-footers coming back. Alternatively I held back expecting the ball to roll-out and it came up short by a similar distance.
At longer distances, upto 30 yards back on the fairway, there didn't seem enough weight in the head - the sand or pitching wedges are normally the heaviest club the the bag - to develop a smooth pendulum swing. The result tended to be a thinned or topped approach.
However, the club proved most appropriate with 15-20 yard approach putts from the extreme perimeters of the green. The wide sole caused no damage to the putting surface and the loft of the club tended to take out some early undulations.
I also put it in the hands of some serious scratch and single-figure golfers during a visit last week to play the Monte Rei and Millennium courses at Tavira and Vilamoura on the Algarve.
Though having sympathy for the plight of the higher handicapper who finds chipping an art hard to master, none were convinced it could replace the traditional, versatile lofted irons and fairway metals we tend to use around the green in the modern game.
I detected, too, that part of the problem was the less than macho sight of a 'real golfer' using a club mostly favoured by, with respect, the less talented female golfer.
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