In early October, Ping released their new line of putters: the Karsten line.
Obviously named for the founder of Ping, Karsten Soleheim, this new line of putters has set the new high water mark for “affordable” putters coming in at just $89. Ping has taken their entire line of putters and made “a putter for golfers preferring the performance of a steel face with an insert feel”. Each putter is available off the rack in lengths of 33″, 34″, and 35″.
With this line, Ping has taken an elastomer insert and placed it behind the face rather than on it. This allows for a bit of a cushioned feel, but it completely avoids a major problem that can arise with insert putters: inconsistency. Think of the insert on this putter as a piece of lead tape in the cavity. It will change the sound and vibration of a putt, but it is still a steel face putter. Off center hits are still detectable, but they aren’t as punishing as they once were. The entire Karsten line gives a nice and solid click when you hit the ball.
Image courtesy of Golfwrx member Danpass
Each putter in this line: the Anser, Anser 2, B60, C67, Craz-E, Piper, and Zing is available in Ping’s color coded lies. As you can see in the table, these putters are now running a little heavier than they have in the past. The weight is constant through all lengths as well. Standing at 5’7″, it means a lot to me to be able to find a 33″ putter as well as a heavier weight without custom ordering.
I have previously owned an Odyssey White Hot XG #7 and the biggest problem was that the insert was very inconsistent. I would leave one putt three feet short and then the next would be two feet past. It wasn’t as noticeable on putts under 10 feet as it was on the longer ones. My Karsten B60 doesn’t have this problem at all. It is very consistent putting from all distances.
Ping has chosen their tumbled finish for this line which is much appreciated. My last putter was a Scotty Cameron Studio Design 1.5 and the finish was so shiny that at least once a round I would be blinded by glare from the sun. This doesn’t happen at all with the B60.
I chose the B60 over the other putters in the line due to its ease of alignment. The shape of the head along with the cavity and alignment line make it extremely easy to aim directly at the hole. Getting the correct line only depends on your read of the green and takes the guesswork out of lining up correctly.
The B60 I purchased came with a Winn grip that is colored silver and black with tiny k’s all over it (think Scotty Cameron Baby T). I am not really a fan of Winn grips as I usually use an Iomic grip, but I think this one will stay. I putt with a paintbrush grip, and the Winn grip is colored just perfectly for me to position my right hand in the same place at the bottom of the grip every time.
I will be completely honest, after rolling this putter for the last two weeks, I feel like a total idiot. It isn’t because I have been missing putts. Rather, it comes from the fact that I had spent $200 on my Scotty Cameron only to find that for $89 I could have a putter I loved just as much. I was able to sell my Scotty and purchase both my new putter and a golf bag.
While in the golf shop, I played around with the other putters in the line as well. The Anser is a very nice offering and it looks a little more rounded this time around than previous versions. The Craz-E was a little more tolerable to look at with the new black color scheme versus the blue that was used in the G5 line.
I can see the Karsten B60 staying in my bag for a long time. The Karsten line is a bit of a return to the orginal designs for each of these putter styles with new innovations. With a price point under $100 dollars, anyone in the market for a new putter needs to take a serious look. Actually, anyone with five extra minutes and a close pro shop should take a look. You might be surprised and see the light.
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.
Review: Directed Force Putters
Pros: Stroke stability and consistency are likely to improve with a proper fitting. The putters also double as training aids for stroke tempo.
Cons: The looks, overall feel and forced-forward-press grip will likely take getting used to.
Who’s it for: Golfers seeking more stability in their stroke. If you don’t get fit properly, however, the technology will not reach its maximum potential.
Often times, great inventions are made out of necessity — a solution to a problem. That’s how Bill Presse, founder of Directed Force, developed his innovative putter technology. As a playing professional and teaching pro, he was frustrated by poor putting and needed a solution. Presse began building putters, and after “drilling holes in [putter] heads,” he figured out he could make a putter that stayed square to the putter path. His buddies were disbelievers, so he built “the revealer” to prove the technology — another invention born because of a problem.
Unlike most putters, which are either face-balanced or have what’s called “toe hang,” Directed Force putters ($399.95) are lie-angle balanced. That means the putter face stays straight (or perpendicular) to the putter path throughout the stroke, which is ideal in theory. And serious golfers across the globe have spent countless hours trying to improve their ability to keep their putter face perpendicular to their path during their stroke.
Can this new putter technology provide a shortcut? Watch the video below to see it in action.
Presse’s technology is effective for golfers because of the importance of the face angle at impact. According to findings from SAM PuttLab, the face angle at impact determines 83 percent of a putt’s initial starting direction, and is thus about 5 times more important than putter path.
Here’s how they’re made.
The company first forges the putter heads from 6061 aircraft aluminum, then CNC-milled to the proper shape and finishes them with a type-3 anodized coating. It’s important to note that lie-angle balance is not achieved because of the outlandish head shape, which is the immediate assumption, but rather due to the location of the shaft relative to the center of gravity (CG) in the club head. To dial in the specific lie angle of each putter — which are weighted differently depending on a putter’s lie angle, length and grip — weights are installed on each side of the putter face (toe and heel), as well as on the sole. It’s those weights, in conjunction the putter’s shaft position, that give the putters their “lie-angle balance.”
Not only does the head shape look, well… weird, but the grip is unconventional, too. But there’s science behind it, as well. Watch the video below to learn more about the PressGrip, developed by Presse, and how it works.
The putter shaft runs through the PressGrip at 3 degrees, instead of straight in (or 0), placing the putter in a forward-press position without the golfer’s hands moving forward of center. This allows the golfer to choke down or up on the grip without losing lie angle, and since the grip is made with a constant taper, changing hand positions doesn’t affect the feel of the grip.
The PressGrip comes in two sizes: Mid-Size (1.250 inches) and Large (1.375 inches), and can be purchased separately for $29.95.
Directed Force’s putter technologies are not dependent on the PressGrip, however, so the putters can be made with the aftermarket grip of your choice. Presse says the grip size and weight affect weighting in the head, so make sure to factor that in during your purchase.
Does it work?
First off, the grip feels very different at first, even for someone who forward presses their putter. It’s the first thing most golfers comment on when they try it for the first time. And while it can feel strange, all it takes is a few strokes to get used to it. After that, you’ll be disappointed going back to a normal putter grip — at least I was.
The second thing someone will comment on is the head shape… obviously. It’s a lot of putter head to look at, and the shape is far from conventional. That being said, different doesn’t mean bad in this case.
This putter has one of those, you’re-just-along-for-the-ride feels, and seems to swing itself. For yippers or those who struggle with short putts, those are great words to hear. And due to the displacement of so much weight well behind the face, it has a very high moment of inertia (MOI). That means it hardly matters whether you hit it off the toe, heel or center of the face. The putter allows you — and I have confirmed this — to hit 30+ foot putts dead off the heel or toe without much, or any, noticeable affect on distance or direction.
Because of its reliance on lie-angle balance, the technology won’t be as beneficial if the putter isn’t fit to your lie angle. So make sure — if you’re seriously interested in buying a Directed Force putter — you get fit by a Directed Force Fitter, or do a Remote Fitting with Directed Force, which cost $30 but comes with a $30 discount code if you choose to purchase the putter.
So how do Directed Putters perform? We tested them with two golfers on SAM PuttLab, each of which was fit remotely for Directed Force putters several weeks before the test.
- Tester 1 was me, a former college golfer and now a 1-handicap, weekend player. I’ve used the same off-the-rack Anser-style putter for the last two years, and only practiced with a Directed Force for about 30 minutes at the PGA Merchandise, which is where we discovered the putters.
- Tester 2 was GolfWRX’s Zak Kozuchowski, our editor and resident professional golfer. He was recently fit for his gamer, an 8802-style, in the fall by another putter company.
Tester 1: Gamer
Tester 1: Directed Force
Tester 1 Data Analysis
- Consistency improved on average with Directed Force putter (98 percent versus 90 percent with gamer).
- Face rotated less with Directed Force putter on average.
- Putter path was more neutral with Directed Force putter on average (3.5 degrees left versus 3.9 degrees with gamer).
- Putter path improved with Directed Force putter (56 percent consistency versus 52 percent consistency with the gamer).
- Rise angle was higher with gamer putter (1.6 degrees up versus 1.0 up with the Directed Force).
Tester 2: Gamer
Tester 2: Directed Force
Tester 2 Data Analysis
- Putter path consistency improved with Directed Force on average (95 percent versus 87 percent with gamer).
- Putter path was 2.3 degrees left with the Directed Force on average, but much more neutral with gamer putter (only 0.5 degrees left).
- Rise angle was less downward with the gamer (1.1 degrees down) versus 2.6 degrees down with the Directed Force putter on average.
- Face rotation consistency was better with the gamer on average (93 percent versus 89 percent with the Directed Force)
- The face rotated less throughout the stroke with the Directed Force on average, and was less closed at impact on average (0.6 degrees versus 1 degree).
The numbers show a rise in consistency for both golfers when using the Directed Force putter compared to gamers. Tester 1, who had little experience with the putter, struggled with alignment, and both players hit more “down” on their putts with the Directed Force, most likely due to the forced forward press.
Therefore, it appears that the Directed Force putters can immediately add consistency to a golfer’s stroke, although it is likely that it will take time for golfers to truly optimize their putting with them.
If you’re going to try a Directed Force putter, make sure you get fit for it. It’s designed to work with your specific lie angle, and isn’t going to be as effective as it could be if it’s more than a few degrees off.
The oversize putter head’s feel and the grip could be a shock to many golfer’s systems, but after just a few putts most golfers will find that they’re no longer even noticing the odd-shaped putter head. And while the setup and stroke that the putter encourages may take some time to master, the benefits are fruitful.
Based on our testing, there’s no question golfers can improve the consistency of their strokes with a Directed Force putter, which is a rare thing to be able to say.
Review: Toulon Design Putters
Pros: Toulon putters offer clean, classic lines. Exceptional feel and matching sound. Adjustable sole plates allow for custom head weights.
Cons: Only available in RH and polished stainless-steel (for now). Prices start at $399.
Who they’re for: All golfers, especially those true enthusiasts, collectors, and competitive players looking for something new and unique.
For this review, I tested a Toulon San Diego putter. The specs are listed below.
- Weight: 352 grams (head)
- Material: 303 stainless steel
- Finish: Tour Satin Mist
- Face Milling: Deep Diamond
- Stock Lie/Loft: 71 degrees/3 degrees
- Stock Length Options: 33-35 inches
- Stock Grip: Lamkin Deep Etch (also available in charcoal or gray add $10; and SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour or Mid-Slim 2.0 add $20)
Along with the five different models (San Diego, Madison, San Francisco, Rochester and Memphis), Toulon Design Putters are also available in two counter-balanced options: Moderate Release (MR) and Aggressive Release (AR) for $459 and $499, respectively.
From a young age, I have primarily sifted my way through putters designed around the modern blade with the L-shaped hosel. Whether it be a Ping Anser 2 or Scotty Cameron Newport 1995 First Run, some of those putters have hung around, while most have not with a destination unknown. Call me stuck in the past, but apart from occasionally fiddling with the latest and greatest mallet, I have remained loyal to this classic style.
Given that tendency, I was understandably thrilled and equally excited to review the “San Diego” from a new putter company known as Toulon Design. Incidentally, my San Diego was built with a 345-gram putter head and additional 7-gram aluminum plate. The loft was 3 degrees, the lie was 70 degrees and without a grip it measured 34 inches. The overall weight was 541 grams and the swing weight was D4.
Started in 2015, but currently launching its initial stable of putters (Madison, San Diego, Rochester, San Francisco, and Memphis) over the coming months, Toulon Design has set it sights on making the best performance putters in the world, with looks to match that lofty goal. The company is based in Vista, California, and it was started by Sean Toulon, formerly involved with TaylorMade Golf for 16 years in product creation and design, and his sons, Tony and Joe. The founding principles of the company being mentorship, collaboration, and making putters with the serious golf enthusiast in mind — but all players welcome.
Upon cracking the box open to take my first look at the San Diego built for me, it was clear that Toulon Design has taken the time to painstakingly build something that any equipment lover should try. If you are the type of person who says, “I’m a golfer” when asked at a cocktail party what do you like to do in your free time, then seriously check out Toulon Design ASAP. The technology behind this initial line of putters, including the San Diego, is simply the icing on the cake. A review can not honestly do justice to what Toulon Design is attempting to create, which is a company satisfied with being no less than extraordinary.
Beautiful and timeless in its clean lines, the San Diego pushed all the rights buttons for me from the outset. It has a dark charcoal alignment mark that somehow seemed superior both cosmetically and technically in my eyes, especially given the satin mist finish of the putter. While Toulon is opening its “Garage” in May 2016 in an effort to provide its customers with the full “Tour experience” and a variety of options (not readily available for most putters), I chose the stock Lamkin Deep Etch emblazoned with the Toulon Design logo.
Before I even hit a putt, it felt like this putter was destined to make its way into my golf bag. What’s truly difficult to communicate in words is the attention detail that was evident in closely examining the San Diego. Toulon Design utilizes what is known as vacuum brazing (through the “Big Green Egg” above) to fuse the putter head and hosel in a manner that makes it feel and look as if those parts of the putter were always one in the same. Everything just simply felt and looked right.
Matching Sound and Feel
Possibly the most important aspect of the technology behind Toulon Design putters (including, the San Diego) is the concept of matching sound and feel with launch conditions of your golf ball. It may seem strange, but this concept is effectively untapped in the industry at present. As Toulon explains, “Sound and feel are totally intertwined. And those two things create the expectation of the distance the ball will travel for the golfer.” In other words, when sound and feel are successfully synced, it is easier to correlate and control distance in putting; not surprisingly, when things are off, controlling distance becomes much more difficult. Can you say 3-putt?
I’ve been playing golf for 30 years and I honestly can’t recall a putter that felt or sounded better. Again, words can’t properly describe it, but for me, uphill putts are particularly revealing and my expectation for putts hit with the San Diego closely aligned with my actual result. When I hit any putt (though, in particular, an uphill putt of 20+ feet), the feedback was immediate and in that regard I was able to quickly adjust to the speed and conditions of the greens on which I was playing or practicing. Put differently, I didn’t feel as if I was guessing from putt to putt (which happens) and instead, I was able to trust what I was hearing and feeling.
Diamonds in the Rough
The face milling pattern is also unique to Toulon Design, and the product of not only the creativity of its design team, but its relentless pursuit of something better. The goal was to achieve a crisp, yet soft feel as the result of a putter face that would create gentle (rather than aggressive) overspin on the ball at the point of impact. Inspired by the tread pattern on car tires, Toulon Design putters use what is referred to as a “Deep Diamond Mill” pattern. Within each diamond is a separate groove (or “eyelid,” as I refer to it), which minimizes the opportunity for your golf ball to climb up the putter face upon contact. The result being, to date, a reasonable, yet appropriate amount of forward roll immediately after impact.
My experience is that everything matches up almost perfectly. And rather than a ball coming hot off the face with an almost uncontrollable amount of forward roll, Toulon Design putters (and in my case, the San Diego) produce roll that allows for consistency, especially from beyond 20 feet.
Performance on the Green
It is certainly 9-plus out of 10 for me. The technology, coupled with the classic look and attention to detail, which is evident, make the San Diego an easy putter to love. What makes it easy to use is the feedback it provides by eliminating much of the confusion (that I’ve had with other putters) when hitting putts expecting a certain result and not getting it. The by-product of which is not being able to harmonize the feel and sound in order to gain consistency. In short, I have yet to feel as if I needed to guess with this putter. No, I do not make everything, but I actually feel like I have a very good chance on almost every putt I hit because I am confident that my stroke will match with the speed and distance I need to hit any given putt. And this is especially true from inside 10 feet.
Overall, the San Diego is worth every penny and Toulon Design is committed to making putters for golfers and golf enthusiasts that will make a difference in your game. There’s no question its an investment, but one you won’t regret.
I have yet to take advantage of the adjustable weighted sole plates (I absolutely plan on it), but in the near future (May 2016) you will be able to purchase from Toulon’s Garage the 7-gram aluminum plate, 20-gram stainless steel plate and 40-gram tungsten plate, as they are interchangeable in every Toulon Design putter. In doing so, you will easily be able to vary the putter head weight from 352 grams to 365 grams to 385 grams.
Don’t overlook Toulon Design when looking for a new putter in 2016, and with five models to choose from there’s probably one for you.
To learn more about the company and its products, visit toulondesign.com.
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