It seems manufacturers aren’t making those over-the-top mallet putter designs any more, even though I spotted some weird innovations at the PGA trade show in Orlando last week. At one time putters like the TaylorMade Rossa Spider, Odyssey’s XG Sabertooth and the semi-steering wheel Ping Docs were all the rage. But judging by many of the new models, they're not as much in evidence in 2009.
"There seems to be less of the Starship Enterprise look," said Heavy Putter founder Steve Boccieri, whose putter designs are also tending to focus on more classical shapes. "I’m sure there are some out there, but I think they’re a bit of a fad, and their time might have come and gone already. You don’t see too many of them on the Tours now, either.’
Inserts remain popular, however, and face groove technology is beginning to take hold - whether it's Yes! Golf's crescent-style C- Grooves or the horizontal-grooves GEL and Rife.
Dr. Paul Hurrion, who designs putters for Groove Equipment Limited (GEL), believes grooves on putterfaces will one day become the norm.
"It’s like metalwoods which were too weird for a lot of golfers 25 years ago, but look at them now. I don’t think it will take that long for putters with grooves to become standard. I’m convinced they will - at least, they should."
Putter fitting and customisation is also a hot topic, most notably Ping is introducing putters with moveable weights. Here's my favoured five from the PGA show in Orlando and the best of the rest.
|My Favourite Five|
PING iWi ANSER
Six models in the iWi range come with two 12g sole weights as standard. Nine possible weight combinations are possible with the optional weighting kit, sold separately.
Specs: Head Weight: 345g. Adjustability: +/- 4˚ (based on black colour code). Loft: 3˚. Heel-toe balanced. Right and Left.
Looks: Classic Ping shape with nice stainless steel finish and yellow lettering. What’s not to like?
Feel/performance: The two-piece stainless steel/elastomer insert gives a pleasing, cushy strike. A fondness for the shape did wonders for my confidence.
Single alignment line, chrome-plated 304 Stainless Steel and patented C-Groove Technology. Another model from the burgeoning Yes! Golf stable that's building a worldwide reputation with Tour players and club golfers.
Spec: Head weight: 355g. Adjustability: +/- 2˚ (from standard 72˚ lie angle). Loft: 2.5˚. Face-balanced. Right only.
Looks: Pretty simple and basic, and all the better for it. Rounded back edge.
Feel/performance: In my limited experience of this brand Yes!Golf putters don’t necessarily have the best feel. It’s all about the roll as the crescent grooves help the ball hug the ground and roll consistently.
ODYSSEY BLACK SERIES I NO.1
Tungsten weight in the rear of the head lowers centre of gravity to lift the ball out of its depression on the green. Precision-milled from 1025 carbon steel with Elastomer core insert infused with urethane in hitting surface for optimum responsiveness. Optimized head weighting for truer roll.
Spec: Head weight: Not specified. Adjustability: +/- 3˚ (standard lie angle not specified). Loft: 3˚. Heel-toe weighted. Right and Left.
Looks: Love the shape and the nickel-plated finish. Very attractive, sophisticated looking putter.
Feel/performance: Impressive feel; not too squidgy, not too firm. Great roll. Everything you’d expect from a top-of-the-line Odyssey putter.
All the MOI, face-balanced and alignment benefits of the typical modern mallet with the additional alignment benefit provided by RifleScope Technology (the famous red dot). 100% CNC milled from aircraft grade 6061 aluminium.
Spec: Head weight: 334-380g. Adjustability: +/- 2˚ (from standard 70˚ lie angle). Loft: 3˚. Face-balanced. Right and Left.
Looks: Not my favourite shape but one of the best looking mallets I’ve seen in years. Big fan of the 6061 aluminium finish too.
Feel/performance: Every time I pick up a SeeMore putter in a shop or t an exhibition and test the RST, which is really just a fancy name for the positioning of a red dot behind the shaft, I think to myself I’ve got to get a SeeMore putter.
SCOTTY CAMERON STUDIO SELECT FASTBACK 1
The Fastback 1's sleek lines will remind players of the Newport head style, including the milled sight line for alignment. But it's the signature rounded flange that has given the Fastback its name. Precision milled 303 stainless steel head, factory interchangeable weights. (Two days after I tried this club in Orlando, Rory McIlroy an identical model to win the Dubai Classic).
Spec: Head weight: 340-360g. Adjustability: +/- 2˚ (from standard 71˚ lie angle). Loft: 4˚. Face-balanced. Right.
Looks: Another smart, compact mallet with Scotty Cameron’s distinctive and attractive, silver steel head with red marking.
Feel/performance: Every time I pick up a Scotty Cameron putter, I feel I really must not let so beautiful an object down - by missing! This is a typically classy number.
|The best of the Rest|
GEL RUBY (£100)
A great looking, great feeling putter designed by Paul Hurrion which incorporates horizontal grooves cut into a patented aluminium insert.
HEAVY PUTTER MID-WEIGHT (£150 approx).
It's 150g lighter than the original 900g Heavy Putter and the Mid-Weight will be available in five models, promoting a smooth, pendulum action. www.heavyputter.co.uk
MERLIN (£99 approx)
From the makers of the Alien Wedge, this is one ugly putter and the concept of the multiple alignment lines seems very odd but compensated for my own inconsistent alignment rather than helping me develop better alignment. After identifying which alignment line I should use, I holed virtually everything. Yet to secure a European distributor.
AXIS 1 (TBC)
Another very odd looking device that yet to find a distributor in Europe. The design theory was lost on me to but was conceived by an industrial engineer who also develped Spaceball – a 3D computer mouse used to control the Rover Expedition to Mars. The heel weight is shifted in front of the putter face which moves the centre of gravity to more or less the same position as the sweet spot, and in line with the axis of the shaft. Apparently it promotes a true pendulum action and stood up to the challenge of getting the ball in the hole quite frequently!
FRANKLY GOLF FROG (£155)
Frank Thomas’s Frog putter as ugly as its name suggests ugly but is small enough to get away with its back-positioned tungsten weights. Looks aside, the feel, balance and performance are superb - as you’d expect of a club designed by the former technical director of the USGA.
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Tony Dear has been writing about golf for more than 10 years. A former assistant pro from Southern England and journalist with top-selling golf magazines, he now lives in Seattle and is a member of the Northwest Golf Media Association.