Pros: Square alignment aids make it incredibly easy to aim, and the face insert feels soft and rolls the ball well. There won’t be any glare issues, even on the brightest of days, thanks to the matte black finish.
Cons: Golfers who like a line indicating the center of the putter face are out of luck with the Smart Square, as are those who want something other than a face-balanced putter.
Bottom Line: Sometimes, it’s the small things that make a difference. Such is the case with the Smart Square, which like Odyssey’s Versa putters from 2013 use a small cosmetic change to add considerable alignment benefits.
In recent years, Cleveland putters have flown under the radar, overshadowed by the likes of Odyssey, Scotty Cameron and Ping, who stayed in the spotlight by finding ways to excite golfers with new putter lines every year or two.
The Smart Square might be the putter that steals some spotlight back for Cleveland. It’s a high-MOI design (with the not-so-high price of $139) and slick new alignment system is sure to catch the attention of the industry.
The selling point of the Smart Square is that alignment system — the two white squares that sit on top of the matte black putter head. The combination of parallel and perpendicular lines creates what Cleveland calls “Dual Axis Alignment,” which frames the golf ball and helps a golfer visualize the proper path to the hole.
According to a Cleveland press release, golfers aimed the Smart Square 23 percent more accurately than “one of the most popular putters of all time.” That’s a clear shot at Odyssey’s famed 2-Ball putter, which no doubt inspired the Smart Square. The question is, will the squares make Odyssey’s 2-Ball alignment system seem, well… square? More on that below.
The Smart Square, available for pre-order on Oct. 15, will be sold in lengths of 33, 34 and 35 inches in both heel- and center-shafted models (heel-shafted only for lefties.. It will also be available in Cleveland’s “Almost Belly” length of 39 inches, with a stock 360-gram head and a counterbalancing 158-gram grip. The Almost Belly (right-hand only) will retail for, $179, forty bucks more than the standard model.
The putters come stock with 3 degrees of loft and a 70-degree lie angle. The stock Winn putter grip weighs 60 grams.
Aiming the Smart Square putter is so simple, provided you’re not a golfer who likes a line in the middle of your putter. It’s black finish contrasts wonderfully with the two white squares on top of the putter head, giving golfers both parallel and perpendicular reference points.
Much like Odyssey’s idea to finish its Versa putters with contrasting black and white lines for better alignment, the concept of swapping the 2-Ball’s circles for more alignment-friendly squares seems obvious after the fact. And the squares seem to be just the right shape and size. They hug the edges of the golf ball when the putter is properly set up, which will help golfers find the center of the putter face at address.
For me, the squares did a great job at helping me see the proper track to the hole, particularly on short putts, where a fraction of a degree of misalignment can be the difference between a made putt and a missed one.
From a forgiveness standpoint, the high-MOI design shined, working hand-in-hand with the putter’s copolymer insert to provide somewhat consistent speeds across the middle of the insert.
Looks and Feel
I’m a milled putter snob, but I have to admit the feel of the Smart Square made me seriously reconsider my snobbery. On long and short putts, the copolymer insert kept a consistent soft feel. And the insert isn’t overly soft either, which can kill off the important vibrations from mishits golfers need to monitor the success of their strikes.
Unlike Odyssey’s Versa putters, the company chose to make the insert black, matching the body color of the putter. Traditionalists will appreciate this detail, as it keeps a somewhat traditional look at address and keeps the emphasis where it should be; lining up the path of the squares to the aim point.
I also enjoyed the stock Winn Pro Pistol grip, which is firmer than Winn grips I’ve used in the past. That’s a definite plus for good players, who often prefer a firm, tacky surface to help them relax their grip pressure.
If you have a straight-back, straight-through stroke or enjoy the look of an alignment-boosting mallet, you should definitely give the Smart Square a roll. It’s stealthy black finish makes the putter look a little more compact than it actually is, and you might find that you like the help of two squares to help you get square to your target line.
With a price point of $139, the Smart Square isn’t going to hurt your golfing budget much, either. And like me, I think you’ll find that it feels surprisingly premium for a putter that price.
WRX Spotlight: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Product: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Pitch: From Odyssey/Toulon: “The Odyssey Toulon San Diego Stroke Lab Putter is our take on on another classic putter. It’s an expertly crafted, premium milled blade, with our multi-material Stroke Lab Shaft, deep diamond milled cross hatch grooves, and a new Charcoal Smoke finish.”
Our take on the Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter
Toulon is the line of all milled putters from Odyssey, originally started by club designer Sean Toulon and his sons. Toulon putters have always featured their Deep Diamond Mill face, adjustable sole weight, and brazed (instead of welded) necks. That combination has created a great putter line that has become popular on tour as well as us amateur players. For 2019, there are some new head shapes, Charcoal Smoke Finish, Deep Diamond Milling across the whole face, and the Stroke Lab putter shaft.
I got my hands on the Toulon San Diego, a more squared-off blade shape, for this review. The shape, milling, and finish on the San Diego are great and really show off what a high quality piece it is. The biggest change visually is the full Deep Diamond Mill face, making the view from address more uniform. The face used to have the milling only in the center of the face and to some that was a distracting look while others liked the way it framed the ball. The new finish also looks great. I always have liked darker finishes and this looks high end while still reducing glare in the brightest conditions.
The Stroke Lab shaft goes well with the finish on the San Diego and the head cover is a plush synthetic leather that feels like it will hold up for years of use.
On the green the San Diego SL has a crisp sound and feel. If you like a little more click to your putter, then the San Diego SL will be right what you are looking for. And don’t take that as a negative thing, that crisp feel gives great feedback on face contact. You know exactly where the putter face and ball met by the sound and feel. The Deep Diamond Mill gets the ball rolling quickly on line with very minimal hop and skid, providing very consistent and repeatable distance control.
This is blade, so shots off the toe to tend to stray from your intended line a bit, the face does seem like it wants to rotate open a bit. Heel strikes defiantly stay online better, but tend to lose more steam and net get the roll out you might expect. The simple alignment line on the flange of the putter is easy to align, even for a guy who has been using mallets for years.
Like I have said before, I think there is something to the Stroke Lab tech, the lighter shaft and weight in the butt of the shaft do affect tempo for me; I noticed a slight calming of my backstroke and stroke through the ball.
Overall, the San Diego is a great putter for those who like a little firmer feel and more audible click on their putter. It is very responsive and putts a great roll on the ball. This isn’t a cheap putter ($450) and the fit and finish let you know that you are getting what you paid for.
- More photos of the Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter (and other Toulon Stroke Lab putters) in the forums.
WRX Spotlight Review: Miura MGP-NM1 Putter
Product: Miura MGP-NM1 putter
Pitch: Limited to 300 pieces, the Miura MGP-NM1 is Miura’s first 303 stainless steel putter. Its appearance is in keeping with the bolder designs of the Miura Giken family.
Our take on the Miura MGP-NM1 putter
Miura Giken has become the brand where Miura can push some limits and try out designs and technology not really fit for the standard Miura line. And if doing something new and different is what Miura Giken is about, then the MGP-NM1 fits like a glove. When most people think of Miura, they think forged carbon steel and traditional, old school shapes. The MGP-NM1 is a long ways from that, being milled from 303 stainless steel, having adjustable weights and milled stepped pockets in the sole.
If you love mill marks, then the MBG-NM1 will fulfill all our needs because the head is covered with them. I really liked the top line where the mill marks go front to back but then get much finer around the alignment line. If you look close the milling is still there, but just much finer. It works great along with the alignment lines on the “fangs.” The MGP-NM1 is a great size: large enough to give you confidence that a mishit will stay online, but not too big to be distracting. Like most putters with this (Odyssey No. 7) shape, it frames the ball really well and looks great to my eye. The way the shaft goes into the head is for sure unique, it is straight from address but does drop down into the head.
I will get my one con on this putter out of the way early: the way the shaft goes into the head from address. I love the shape of the head, but the way the shaft enters the head makes it harder for me to line up. At address you can see the the top line of the putter on both sides of the shaft and for some that might be helpful, but it took me a long time to get comfortable with my alignment. Also, the head cover isn’t up to standard for a putter in this price range.
But the good of this putter really outweighs that bad. The putter feels and sounds great, much like the Miura KM-009 reviewed previously. Feel is very solid with, to me, the perfect amount of click on impact. There might be just a slight bit of vibration on contact, but very minimal and will probably vary with the ball you play. Contact on the toe and heel really stay on target well; you can tell this mallet has a fairly high MOI. Like any responsive putter should do, this really provides good feedback on mishits. Toe and heel shots are not punished as much as you would think, the ball still rolls out well with minimal distance loss. That solid, soft Miura feel really does come through with this putter.
Overall, I think the Miura Giken MGP-NM1 is a really great way for a mallet user to put a Miura putter into the bag.
Review: Optic Z Putters
Pros: Point-and-shoot putting. Optic Z putters use a Z-neck design that can lead to a more consistent setup with your hands and eyes on every putt.
Cons: It could take a little while to get used to the design.
Who It’s For: Players looking to develop a consistent setup and stroke.
- Model: Optic Z8
- Head Weight: 365 grams
- Material: Proprietary “Power 51” Alloy
- Finish: Black “High-Tech Molecular” application
- Face Milling: Deep Double Mill
- Stock Lie: 70.5 degrees (rolled sole allows angles from 67 to 75)
- Loft: 2.25 degrees
- Stock Length Options: 35 inches (All lengths available custom order)
- Stock Grip: Lamkin E.B.L “Optic” grip (Custom grips available)
- Stock Shaft: True Temper Steel (Aerotech, Loomis, and UST available)
- Price: $325 Base (Up to $500 with custom options)
Over the past decade, it seems like there have been as many new putter companies as there have been drivers released in the past year (I think another one just released since I typed that sentence). While many of them have come up with ways to re-create or re-design the classic favorites of the past 40-plus years, there are a few companies that are pushing the boundaries of what a putter can be and how it can help make putting easier. And a company called Optic Z Putters has done just that.
I reviewed the company’s Optic Z8 putter, which has a distinct batwing shape. It’s one of three putters the company offers — its Z3 is more blade-like in shape, while its Z7 is more mallet-like — and each putter sells for $325.
According to the company, Z Optic putters take the two main parts of putting and making them easy to reproduce. And with every putt, Optic Z putters are said to help golfers set their hands and eyes in the same exact position for every putt. “This has been done!” you say? Well, let’s find out if my experience with the Z8 was different.
When I first saw the Z8 putter with its Z-shaped hosel, I began to wonder, “What exactly is going on here?” It has a unique Z-neck that creates a “3D” effect when looking down over the ball at address. But when looking at the putter in any other view, it does look odd. It will take a little bit of time to get used to it, but like many putters that come out these days, after a while you simply get used to it and forget about it.
The putter is 100 percent milled, U.S.A. made, and has a deep “double” milled face pattern that is familiar to most people. It offers an incredibly soft feel that is part from the milling, but also from the Proprietary Power 51 alloy metal that is used. The sole of the Z8 has 8 degrees of roll to it. This means that it can effectively play with a lie angle anywhere from 67 to 75 degrees. The new Z-neck hosel also makes the putter face balanced as if it was a center-shafted putter. And finally, there are several thick alignment lines, both horizontal and vertical, to help aim.
The Z Revolution?
Once you set the putter down and see how everything lines up in a “3D” type of alignment, you get the point of the Z-neck. Instead of just giving one point of reference similar to other putters, the Z8 gives you three points of alignment.
You align the Z-neck bend with the toe of the putter, the heel and shaft together, and then make sure both are lined up together. Once you have this set, your hands and eyes will be in the correct position.
In addition to adding more reference points, the key difference with the Z8 is that it actually requires you to have forward press with your hands. The stated loft of 2.25 degrees is the loft with your hands in that forward-press position. The Z-neck is also supposed to eliminate the visual moment of impact of when the ball comes off the face of the putter. The theory is that it helps you relax more through the stroke by not seeing the point of impact, a similar theory to looking at the hole instead of the ball when putting.
Does it work?
I was skeptical of the putter when I first started using it, and it took me a little bit to get used to the 3D effect. After spending a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does what it is supposed to do. It really becomes a “point-and-shoot” kind of putting, and it makes the set up of putting incredibly easy. The ball rolls really well off the face, too, and the feel is incredibly soft. The alignment aids do a good job helping at address, and I’m someone who has moved away from alignment aids because I tend to aim them incorrectly.
The Optic Z8 putter performed the best for me on putts inside 10 feet. I struggled on longer putts, but it was more due to the weight of the putter. At 365 grams, it is much heavier compared to what I’ve been using, but I’ve always struggled with long-distance putting with heavier putters. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. And the more I used it, the more comfortable I became and the more putts I made.
If you struggle with consistency, especially at set up, this is one to try. It may take some time to get used to Optic Z putters, but most golfers should be able to adjust. These putters are well made, feel great and can truly help golfers in two areas that we know are important to putting.
To learn more about Optic Golf’s putters, visit the company’s website.
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