John Letters clubs on test

Tramline Putter, Tx lob wedge, Tu Utility wood

Bob Warters's picture
Mon, 14 Oct 2002


Orthodox grip with Tramline.


I have always had a soft spot for John Letters. Launched in 1918 it’s one of the world’s oldest golf club makers, it was at its height around 1948, the year of my birth, and I still have my first putter, a battered Golden Goose which was a magic wand no self-respecting pro would leave out of his bag.

The game has much to thank the Scottish-based company for. It might not have the promotional and marketing clout of the 21st century’s corporate giants but in its day produced clubs that the top players would pay to play – not be paid to play.

You’re unlikely to see many John Letters clubs on the rich pro circuits of the world, but for the club golfer they are producing good quality equipment as I discovered with the chance to test three of its latest products.


John Letters Tramline head.


Trilogy Tramline Mid-Length putter

Price: £105

Every time you switch on the telly almost every three-ball competing on the European or US Tour will inevitably include a player using a broomhandle or belly putter.

It’s a rare sight among average amateur club players – indeed I don’t know one among our club’s 1,000 members – but once handicap golfers realise that consistent yet unorthodox putting and putters, can lower their scores, it could catch on!

Ping, Odyssey, Scotty Cameron, STX are all producing their own extended flat sticks while John Letters has adapted its popular Trilogy Tramline into a 41-inch double-gripped club that handles more like a pedlar’s pike staff than a putter.

I couldn’t get to grips with it – literally.


Left-below-right grip.


I tried tucking it into my tummy but wasn’t tall enough, I tried standing more upright but found it tough to anchor to my sternum (breast bone).

I tried reverse overlap, left-below right, ‘the claw’ but couldn’t get comfortable enough to produce the rhythmical pendulum swing with the putter head that Bernhard Langer, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie make look so natural.

While the angular, trough design of the head with the weight re-positioned behind the shaft, makes the clubhead heavier it makes it tougher to control.

I put it in the hands of better players than me and all agreed that especially on longer putts, control of the Tramline literally came off the rails.

We were convinced that a golfer who’s around 6ft tall, carry a little extra weight and with wrists of steel could make the most of this type of club – step forward Monty and Uncle Sam!


Claw grip with the Tramline.


It tended to work well at medium range 5ft – 15ft on quick greens, where the average handicap golfer was not expected to hole everything. But from longer range and especially with those little 3ft knee-tremblers the club did not instill confidence.

A saving feature was the milled head which certainly produced grip on the ball and encouraged a good roll, and the attractive blue and white headcover which zipped on like a boot around the clubhead.

Verdict

The Trilogy Tramline Mid-Length putter is an acquired taste that demands much practice to make the best of it together with certain natural physical attributes not all of us possess.

Golfmagic rating: 6.5/10


Trilogy Tx lob wedge.


Trilogy Tx Extra Spin lob wedge

Price: £59.99

I’ve discovered from playing the game for nearly 30 years that using a 60 degree lob wedge effectively, is as much based on confidence as practice.

If the rest of your game is, let’s say, ‘off’, don’t expect to play career escapes with this shallow-faced wand.

It was unfortunate that I was having a nightmare with my driving and my putting was inconsistent, to say the least when I chose to put this handsome-looking wedge in my bag for the first time.

Immediately it failed to play a tricky parachute shot over a hazard – it got the blame for everything and did well to escape in one piece.

Further testing, however, on different days showed its true colours with a succession of high pitches from dodgy lies, together with biting chips from the fringes of greens where it was easy to re-adjust the loft by pushing hands forward in the stroke.

The Trilogy Tx Extra Spin is one of the best-looking wedges I’ve seen with its distinctive black head and white alignment guide on the face. Apparently the head is initially polished then immersed twice in nitrate (saltpeter) acid for a few seconds to blacken the steel.

It results in a much more attractive finished article than the clubs that are designed to rust naturally.

Verdict

A good-looking club that performs best from tight lies on the fairway with a full shot from 50-60 yards or around the green when you need bite. Feels heavier in the head than most lob wedges I’ve tried.

Golfmagic rating: 8/10


Tu club’s small head.


Trilogy Tu Utility wood

Price: £69.99 (£79.99 graphite)

The first thing you notice about this club is its grip. You literally can’t keep your hands off it.

Developed uniquely for John Letters clubs, you wrap your fingers around it, caress its soft spongy texture and believe instantly that the head on the end of the graphite shaft will deliver your ball right to the spot intended.

It doesn’t always happen but even after a poorish result it’s hard to let go and blame it on the club. This grip has got feelings as well as feel.

I tried out the 19 degree loft version with an Aldila low torque graphite shaft (there are 17,22 and 25 degree models) and the ball flight tended to be medium to low but penetrating even out of fluffy lies in the rough where you expected the odd ‘flier’.

Try as I might I couldn’t get the trajectory for that softer landing the manufacturers claim.

During the last five years I have measured all utility clubs – including the smaller profile heads like the Tu – against the Callaway Big Bertha 3-wood I have tended to carry but none has matched it. The Tu is no exception but it’s one of the best clubs I’ve fondled!

Verdict

Feels better than it plays. The small head, low profile is not to everyone’s taste but good value.

Golfmagic rating: 7.5/10

*For your nearest stockist of John Letters clubs, call 0141 882 9923.

 

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