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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.

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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Accessory Reviews

Review: FlightScope Mevo

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In 100 Words

The Mevo is a useful practice tool for amateur golfers and represents a step forward from previous offerings on the market. It allows golfers to practice indoors or outdoors and provides club speed, ball speed, smash factor, launch angle, spin rate, carry distance and flight time.

It also has a video capture mode that will overlay swing videos with the swing data of a specific swing. It is limited in its capabilities and its accuracy, though, which golfers should expect at this price point. All in all, it’s well worth the $499 price tag if you understand what you’re getting.

The Full Review

The FlightScope Mevo is a launch monitor powered by 3D Doppler radar. With a retail price of $499, it is obviously aimed to reach the end consumer as opposed to PGA professionals and club fitters.

The Mevo device itself is tiny. Like, really tiny. It measures 3.5-inches wide, 2.8-inches tall and 1.2-inches deep. In terms of everyday products, it’s roughly the size of an Altoids tin. It’s very easy to find room for it in your golf bag, and the vast majority of people at the range you may be practicing at won’t even notice it’s there. Apart from the Mevo itself, in the box you get a quick start guide, a charging cable, a carrying pouch, and some metallic stickers… more on those later. It has a rechargeable internal battery that reaches a full charge in about two hours and lasts for about four hours when fully charged.

As far as software goes, the Mevo pairs with the Mevo Golf app on your iOS or Android device. The app is free to download and does not require any subscription fees (unless you want to store and view videos of your swing online as opposed to using the memory on your device). The app is very easy to use even for those who aren’t tech savvy. Make sure you’re using the most current version of the firmware for the best results, though (I did experience some glitches at first until I did so). The settings menu does have an option to manually force firmware writing, but updates should happen automatically when you start using the device.

Moving through the menus, beginning sessions, editing shots (good for adding notes on things like strike location or wind) are all very easy. Video mode did give me fits the first time I used it, though, as it was impossible to maintain my connection between my phone and the Mevo while having the phone in the right location to capture video properly. The only way I could achieve this was by setting the Mevo as far back from strike location as the device would allow. Just something to keep in mind if you find you’re having troubles with video mode.

Screenshot of video capture mode with the FlightScope Mevo

Using the Mevo

When setting up the Mevo, it needs to be placed between 4-7 feet behind the golf ball, level with the playing surface and pointed down the target line. The distance you place the Mevo behind the ball does need to be entered into the settings menu before starting your session. While we’re on that subject, before hitting balls, you do need to select between indoor, outdoor, and pitching (ball flight less than 20 yards) modes, input your altitude and select video or data mode depending on if you want to pair your data with videos of each swing or just see the data by itself. You can also edit the available clubs to be monitored, as you will have to tell the Mevo which club you’re using at any point in time to get the best results. Once you get that far, you’re pretty much off to the races.

Testing the Mevo

I tested the FlightScope Mevo with Brad Bachand at Man O’ War Golf Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Brad is a member of the PGA and has received numerous awards for golf instruction and club fitting. I wanted to put the Mevo against the best device FlightScope has to offer and, luckily, Brad does use his $15,000 FlightScope X3 daily. We had both the FlightScope Mevo and Brad’s FlightScope X3 set up simultaneously, so the numbers gathered from the two devices were generated from the exact same strikes. Brad also set up the two devices and did all of the ball striking just to maximize our chances for success.

The day of our outdoor session was roughly 22 degrees Fahrenheit. There was some wind on that day (mostly right to left), but it wasn’t a major factor. Our setup is pictured below.

Outdoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our outdoor testing are shown below. The testing was conducted with range balls, and we did use the metallic stickers. The range balls used across all the testing were all consistently the same brand. Man O’ War buys all new range balls once a year and these had been used all throughout 2017.  The 2018 batch had not yet been purchased at the time that testing was conducted.

Raw outdoor data captured with range balls including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

You’ll notice some peculiar data in the sand wedge spin category. To be honest, I don’t fully know what contributed to the X3 measuring such low values. While the Mevo’s sand wedge spin numbers seem more believable, you could visibly see that the X3 was much more accurate on carry distance. Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our outdoor session when separated out for each club. As previously mentioned, though, take sand wedge spin with a grain of salt.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (outdoor testing).

The first thing we noticed was that the Mevo displays its numbers while the golf ball is still in midair, so it was clear that it wasn’t watching the golf ball the entire time like the X3. According to the Mevo website, carry distance, height and flight time are all calculated while club speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rate are measured. As for the accuracy of the measured parameters, the Mevo’s strength is ball speed. The accuracy of the other measured ball parameters (launch angle and spin rate) is questionable depending on certain factors (quality of strike, moisture on the clubface and ball, quality of ball, etc). I would say it ranges between “good” or “very good” and “disappointing” with most strikes being categorized as “just okay.”

As for the calculated parameters of carry distance, height and time, those vary a decent amount. Obviously, when the measurements of the three inputs become less accurate, the three outputs will become less accurate as a result. Furthermore, according to FlightScope, the Mevo’s calculations are not accounting for things like temperature, humidity, and wind. The company has also stated, though, that future updates will likely adjust for these parameters by using location services through the app.

Now, let’s talk about those metallic stickers. According to the quick start guide, the Mevo needs a sticker on every golf ball you hit, and before you hit each ball, the ball needs to be placed such that the sticker is facing the target. It goes without saying that it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to spend time putting those stickers on every ball, let alone balls that will never come back to you if you’re at a public driving range. Obviously, people are going to want to avoid using the stickers if they can, so do they really matter? Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls with and without the use of the stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you use the metallic stickers and when you don’t

The FlightScope website says that the metallic stickers “are needed in order for the Mevo to accurately measure ball spin.” We observed pretty much the same as shown in the table above. The website also states they are working on alternative solutions to stickers (possibly a metallic sharpie), which I think is wise.

Another thing we thought would be worth testing is the impact of different golf balls. Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls as compared to Pro V1’s. All of this data was collected using the metallic stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you switch from range balls to Pro V1’s

As shown above, the data gets much closer virtually across the board when you use better quality golf balls. Just something else to keep in mind when using the Mevo.

Indoor testing requires 8 feet of ball flight (impact zone to hitting net), which was no problem for us. Our setup is pictured below. All of the indoor testing was conducted with Titleist Pro V1 golf balls using the metallic stickers.

Indoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our indoor session are shown below.

Raw indoor data captured with Pro V1’s including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our indoor session when separated out for each club.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (indoor testing)

On the whole, the data got much closer together between the two devices in our indoor session. I would think a lot of that can be attributed to the use of quality golf balls and to removing outdoor factors like wind and temperature (tying into my previous comment above).

As far as overall observations between all sessions, the most striking thing was that the Mevo consistently gets more accurate when you hit really good, straight shots. When you hit bad shots, or if you hit a fade or a draw, it gets less and less accurate.

The last parameter to address is club speed, which came in around 5 percent different on average between the Mevo and X3 based on all of the shots recorded. The Mevo was most accurate with the driver at 2.1 percent different from the X3 over all strikes and it was the least accurate with sand wedge by far. Obviously, smash factor accuracy will follow club speed for the most part since ball speed is quite accurate. Over every shot we observed, the percent difference on ball speed was 1.2 percent on average between the Mevo and the X3. Again, the Mevo was least accurate with sand wedges. If I remove all sand wedge shots from the data, the average percent difference changes from 1.2 percent to 0.7 percent, which is very, very respectable.

When it comes to the different clubs used, the Mevo was by far most accurate with mid irons. I confirmed this with on-course testing on a relatively flat 170-yard par-3 as well. Carry distances in that case were within 1-2 yards on most shots (mostly related to quality of strike). With the driver, the Mevo was reasonably close, but I would also describe it as generous. It almost always missed by telling me that launch angle was higher, spin rate was lower and carry distance was farther than the X3. Generally speaking, the Mevo overestimated our driver carries by about 5 percent. Lastly, the Mevo really did not like sand wedges at all. Especially considering those shots were short enough that you could visibly see how far off the Mevo was with its carry distance. Being 10 yards off on a 90 yard shot was disappointing.

Conclusion

The Mevo is a really good product if you understand what you’re getting when you buy it. Although the data isn’t good enough for a PGA professional, it’s still a useful tool that gives amateurs reasonable feedback while practicing. It’s also a fair amount more accurate than similar products in its price range, and I think it could become even better with firmware updates as Flightscope improves upon its product.

This is a much welcomed and very promising step forward in consumer launch monitors, and the Mevo is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for one.

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Sergio Garcia WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Honda Classic (2/20/2018).

Driver: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage Dual Core 70TX

3 Wood: Callaway Rogue 3+ (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

5 Wood: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro 16 (3, 4), Callaway Apex MB 18 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Nippon Modus Tour 130x

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (48-10S, 54-10S, 58-08C)
Shafts: Nippon Modus Tour 130x

Putter: Odyssey Toulon Azalea
Grip: Super Stroke 1.0 SGP

Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft

Related:

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

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Gary Woodland WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Honda Classic (2/19/2018).

Driver: TaylorMade M3 440 (9 degrees)
Shaft: Acra Tour-Z RPG

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 2017 (15 degrees)
Shafts: Accra Tour-Zx 4100

Driving Iron: Titleist 716 T-MB (2)
Shaft: KBS Tour C-Taper 130 X

Irons: Titleist 716 MB (4-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper Limited Edition Black PVD 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (48-10F, 52-08F, 56-10S), Callaway Mack Daddy PM Grind (60-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper Limited X (48), KBS Hi-Rev Black PVD S-Flex (52, 56, 60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T 009
Grip: Scotty Cameron Pistol

Golf Ball: Bridgestone Tour B X

Related:

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

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