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Picking the perfect putter

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Picking the perfect putter
By Zak Kozuchowski
GolfWRX Staff

Most golfers own many more putters than they do club championship trophies. But there’s good news for those that would rather sooth their putting woes at their pro shop than on their home course’s putting green. Putter technology is better than ever been before, and it can help you make more putts without changing your stroke.

I spoke with top putter designers from Nike Golf, Cleveland Golf and TaylorMade about the technology in their latest putter lines. While their putters differ in shape, style, color and materials, all the designers have one common goal — they want you to putt better. Before your next putter purchase, read what they had to say. It will save you time, money and most importantly strokes.

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Nike Golf

David Franklin is a master model maker at Nike Golf, but you might know him best from Nike’s Method putter commercials. Remember the guy Stewart Cink topped off with coffee from the Claret Jug? That was him.

More importantly, Franklin was the mind behind the Nike Method putter, a putter that has already claimed two major championship victories in the last two years. Franklin came up with the idea for the putter after he and Tom Stites, Nike director of product creation, watched video of putts rolling on a high-speed camera. Before seeing the video of a putter interacting with the golf ball at impact, Franklin assumed that impact was at the bottom of the putting stroke. What he saw on video was that impact was actually occurring as a player hit slightly up on the golf ball.

With that in mind, Franklin came up with the idea for the Method, which features grooves in the putter face to help facilitate more forward roll on putts. During construction of a Method putter, polymer is injected into a slot in the bottom of the putter, filling the space in the putter face grooves. After the face is machined to create a flat surface, the bottom half of the grooves are removed and filled with metal, creating what Nike calls “Polymetal” grooves.

The multi-material grooves cause the putter to lift up on the back of the ball during impact, which according to Franklin eliminates much of the skipping and skidding in the early parts of a putt.

“With Method, we’re able to take a bit of loft off, but still retain the proper launch angle,” Franklin said. “Top spin is good. Think of a tire on a bicycle. It is much more stable as it spins.”

According to Franklin, a backspinning golf ball is much more susceptible to interruption from imperfections on a putting green. That’s why he said it has taken Tiger Woods time to adjust to his Nike Method putter, technology that the former world No. 1 is very excited about.

“With the Method, whatever energy you put into the ball is what you get,” Franklin said. “The ball rolls better for Tiger, but it also rolls different. He has had to make some adjustments to the way he reads greens. From what we saw in the President’s Cup, he seems to be on his way.”

The Method line offers traditional shapes and a premium price point (models start at $299.99). This year, Nike also released the Method Core Series putters, which offer the same roll as the original Method putters at a lower price point (models start at $155.99). The Method Core Series uses a lightweight aluminum and polymer insert that removes 35 grams of weight from the middle of the putter.

“It doesn’t fee exactly like the Method,” Franklin said, “but that’s on purpose. Some people like a softer feel, some like the crisper feel (of the original Method.)”

The weight that is removed from the face of the Method Core putters is redistributed to different areas of the putters, increasing the putter’s MOI. LPGA Tour player Suzanne Petterson began the year using an original Method putter, but after struggling with her putting, she switched the Method Core Drone. According to Franklin, the physics of the larger mallet-style putter actually helped her smooth out her stroke. Since the change, Petterson has won twice on Tour.

“She was struggling a little with her putting, and she’s a professional,” Franklin said. “You’ve got you think that’s going to help a player that doesn’t get to practice as much as a professional.”

Nike is going to take high MOI putters even further with its future release of the Method Concept putter, which has an even high MOI than the Method Core Drone.

 

It has an anodized aluminum face, which accounts for less than one-third of the weight of the putterhead. The black portion is constructed of a much heavier steel ring.

“A lot of aluminum putters have a very hollow feel,” Franklin said. “The way the toe and the heel are bolted together in the Method Concept gives the putter a very solid feel. The dogleg shape in the heel keeps the center of gravity deep, and positions the weight as far back as we can get it. The weight is so far away from the face, it smooths out the stroke.”

Cleveland Golf

Adam Sheldon is the brand manager at Cleveland Golf. He oversees all of the putter craftsmanship for Cleveland’s putters, as well as the Never Compromise line. Cleveland is one of the few companies that does not currently offer any putters with an insert, a decision that Sheldon does not apologize for.

“There is a split between people who like inserts, and people who don’t,” Sheldon said.

For players who don’t like inserts, and are looking for a putter with a price point that won’t break the bank, Cleveland’s Black Platinum series is right for them. The putters are cast from 17-4 stainless steel, and feature CNC milled faces.

Because the putters do not have an insert, they can be manufactured at a lower price (models start at $79.99). They are available in a variety of classic styles and different lengths, including belly and “almost belly,” a 39-inch putter that allows a player to capitalize on the higher MOI of a belly putter without the need to anchor the grip to the body. Clevelend’s T-Frame Mallet is the only high MOI putter available is Cleveland’s current line, but that doesn’t mean it’s Cleveland’s only forgiving putter.

“With high MOI putters, there’s a forgiveness factor that you can’t get in blade putters, although most blade putters these days offer some heel-toe forgiveness,” Sheldon said.

Never Compromise’s Limited Edition putters are a high-end line forged entirely from 303 stainless steel, providing the look and feel purists demand. David Toms called the Dinero series putter he used to win the Crowne Plaza Invitation in May 2011 “one of the best feeling putter he’d ever hit in all of his years on the PGA Tour.” That’s because the Limited Edition series, which includes the Gambler, Dinero and Connoisseur, are 100 percent CNC milled, and are manufactured to some of the tightest tolerances in the industry.

“We don’t like to hand polish the Limited Edition putters,” Sheldon said. “Every machine mark is intact on the putters, which give them a very distinctive look.”

In March 2012, Never Compromise will release a line of two-piece insert putters called the Sub-30 that are based on the extensive feedback of PGA Tour players Graham McDowell and Jeff Overton, who prefer insert putters.

“It’s for someone who’s looking for a little more forgiveness, or a slightly different feel,” Sheldon said. “It will be reminiscent of a line we did years back.”

TaylorMade

TaylorMade market research has shown that players are more interested in insert putters, which is why their most recent lines are composed entirely of putters that have an insert.

“Amateurs have a significant amount of backspin on their putts,” said Brain Bazzel, Product Marketing Manager at TaylorMade. “With our inserts, they can take the same stroke and get better forward roll.”

According to Bazzel, their insert putters create 60 more rpms of forward roll than non-insert putters. TaylorMade offers two inserts in its current line, one made of Titialium, and the other made of Suryln. Both putter features grooves in the putter insert to help create a better roll.

Chris Schartiger, a member of TaylorMade’s putter team and R&D Department spent nearly a year developing the Surlyn insert, which provides the soft feel many players prefer, and all of the performance of the firmer-feeling Titialium insert. TaylorMade’s Ghost Spider and EST 79 putter line employ the Suryln insert, while the Corza Ghost and the rest of the Ghost Series putters feature the Titialium insert. Rory Sabbatini is one of the players that prefers a softer feel in his putter, and used a TaylorMade Ghost 770 Tour Prototype with a Suryln insert to win the 2011 Honda Classic at PGA National Golf Club.

 

“At TaylorMade, performance is still No. 1.” Bazzel said. “There had been a ton of interest for high MOI putters. Shape and alignment have been our key focus, and we’ve been able to create a ton of momentum there. We’ll add to our line in 2012, and release a high-performing, easy-to-align mallet as well as other more classic shapes.”

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ian

    Nov 5, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I understand where you’re conmig from, but not sure I agree. This new TaylorMade Manta is loaded with MOI and has some amazing alignment features, and it’s going to help a lot of recreational golfers. It’s the putter equivalent of a super-game improvement iron. So I don’t think this stuff is being developed to the exclusion of the recreational golfer. That said, if the average recreational golfer grabs a toe-down blade because he saw Mickelson win with one yesterday, then, yeah, the frustration curve is probably going to be steeper. So I think it’s less about products being developed to the exclusion of the average golfer, and more about the average golfer not always grasping the choices. It’s not about what’s hot, but rather what fits (not only in the strictest term of putter fitting, but also what’s a manageable style given one’s particularly skill level and practice time). There are plenty of super-game improvement putters out there. But if the golfer is hell-bent on getting a Mickelson-style putter, then he needs to know, going in, that he’s playing with the putter equivalent of a blade iron, and commit accordingly.

  2. Nick

    Nov 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Because of the Belly Putter mania from last year I decided to give one a try. In order to sneak up on this protsoipion I found a Ping putter fitting club at my local golf retailer that allowed me to determine what length would work for me. Turned out to be 39.5″. I converted an existing putter by extending the shaft and when that almost worked, I added considerable weight (50 grams) to the head. The combination worked pretty well so I decided to buy a “real” one. The primary advantage of a “real” belly putter is that the shaft is heavier and make the whole thing much better balanced that the converted club.What I found shopping around (not at my local store) was a new Cleveland Classic “Almost Belly Putter”. The “almost” is because most off-the-shelf belly putters are way longer than 39.5″. If you shop for a Belly Putter, GET FITTED or you likely suffer frustration. Also, like Ping is now recommending, get a putter that supports your natural putter swing (Straight back and thru, or arcing). My Cleveland encourages a slight arc, which matches my normal swing.My experience so far is positive, at least enough to open my wallet to the tune of $150. Am I a measurably better putter then with my other putters? I can give you a big “maybe”. Distance is still a question mark, but mid and short range accuracy seem to be a bit better.

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pga tour

Andrew “Beef” Johnston WITB 2017

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2017 RSM Classic (11/14/17).

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 70TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F3 (15 Degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 80TX

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H2 (19 Degrees)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 90HY TX

Driving Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB 2 & 3 Iron (17 & 20 Degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue

Irons: Titleist 718 MB (3-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-10F, 50-08F, 54-10S)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Super Rat I GSS Inlay
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Pistol

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Newport 2
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Cord Pistol

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Super Rat II GSS Inlay
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Cord Pistol

WITB Notes: Beef was testing a variety of putters ahead of The RSM Classic. We will update this post when his choice is confirmed. 

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Beef’s clubs. 

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Equipment

The hottest blade irons in golf right now

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As we’ve written before, the decision to put a new driver in the bag is usually obvious. Better numbers at testing, perceptibly longer distance, and as long as your bank account allows, you have your new gamer.

The iron switch, however, is a trickier beast. Comfort with the variety of shots one needs to hit is key. Confidence from one’s long irons through the higher lofts is critical. Thus, even the greatest enthusiasm for a new iron release isn’t always followed by a mass exodus to gaming said irons. This is doubly true at the professional level, where the tools are critical to a player’s livelihood.

That said, the combination of forum chatter, GolfWRX member enthusiasm, and what we’re spotting in our WITB photos from tour stops are a reliable indicator of the hottest irons in the game.

And judging by the response to our recent Instagram post, we’re confident that these four models are the hottest blade irons in golf right now.

Callaway Apex MB

Buzz built steadily for the Apex MB iron when we first spotted them in Tour players’ bags at the beginning of 2017. The irons are the product of direct feedback from the company’s Tour staffers, according to Luke Williams, Director of Product and Brand Management at Callaway. Forged from 1025 Carbon Steel, these irons have the shortest blade lengths, the thinnest soles and the smallest overall heads in the vast line of Callaway irons. They’re designed for maximum workability, and for tour-desired turf interaction.

Related: Callaway (finally) launches new Apex MB and X Forged irons

Mizuno MP-18

The pioneers of Grain-Flow Forging, Mizuno went back to its roots with the MP-18 iron model. A throwback to the great muscle backs in the company’s history, Mizuno was shooting for the look of an iron that could have been forged a century ago. Shorter blade length, cambered top line, sharp, compact wedges, all combined with the most minimal badging make the MP-18 an instant classic that set the GolfWRX forums afire.

Related: Mizuno brings the MP family closer together

TaylorMade P730

TaylorMade’s P730, particularly in its prototype incarnations, made quite a splash on the PGA Tour. Building on the heritage of the TP-MB irons, P730 was developed in collaboration with the very best players in the world. The 1025 carbon steel irons irons feature a smaller profile and crisper lines than the MB series irons. The combination of the clean look and a deep rear groove have players drooling. Discussing working with Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose to design the P730, TM’s Senior Director of Irons, Tomo Bystedt said, “What these players need is a very low-inertia club that they can [manipulate] easily, almost like a surgeon’s scalpel.” Behold the scalpel.

Related: Taylormade expands forged offerings with P730 and P790

Titleist 718 MB

“For the purist there is no substitute for a one-piece, muscle back iron. The 718 MB is the modern choice for those desiring a traditional forged look and feel,” says Titleist in the 718 MB marketing materials.

It’s hard to argue with that statement from the “appearance of a classic forged iron” standpoint. Purists appreciate that the 718 MB maintains Titleist’s traditional lofts (the 6-iron is 31 degrees, the pitching-wedge is 47 degrees), thin top-line, minimal offset, and limited badging. In short, if it ain’t broke…

Related: Titleist’s 718 irons offer endless possibilities.

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Whats in the Bag

Austin Cook’s Winning WITB: The 2017 RSM Classic

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Driver: Ping G400 LST (8.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 Evolution TX-Flex

3 Wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 Degrees)
Shaft: Fujifuke Motore Speeder VC 7.2 TX-Flex

Hybrid: Ping G400 3 Hybrid (19 Degrees)
Shaft: Matrix Ozik Altus Tour H8 91X

Hybrid: Ping G400 4 Hybrid (22 Degrees)
Shaft: Matrix Ozik Altus Tour H8 91 X

Irons: Ping S55 Orange Dot (5-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour S-Flex

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 SS (50-12, 56-12), Ping Glide 2.0 WS (60)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue

Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne 
Grip: SuperStroke Mid-Slim 2.0

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

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