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Spotted: A new Odyssey “Stroke Lab Three” prototype putter

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Correction: This story originally reported this putter was in Patrick Reed’s bag. After further investigation, it was not.

Spotted at the 2018 Tour Championship at East Lake was an Odyssey Stroke Lab Three prototype putter. The putter appears to have a milled head and Odyssey’s familiar White Hot Microhinge face insert.

Stroke Lab may be a familiar name for some who know the Stroke Lab putters from around 2017. Mostly only available in the Japan Domestic Market (JDM), the Stroke Lab putters weighed heavier in the head — about 15 grams — and lighter in the shaft (about 29 grams), according to descriptions from True Spec Golf.

Is this a sign of things to come from Odyssey, or just a one-off? It would seem given the familiar name that it’s more the former than the latter, but only time will tell. What do you think about the Stroke Lab Three putter? Do you think it will be available in America at some point?

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Barry Boyd

    Oct 7, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    There hasn’t been a putter made in the last 25 years that I’ve found that gives you a real “pop” at impact…you want some “pop”, pick up a used Cleveland Ken Giannini putter. Wouldn’t trade mine for the world.

  2. TM

    Oct 5, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    What’s with the TM driver colorway?

  3. Walt Pendleton

    Sep 21, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Putters with softer insert can be taken too far causing a player to loose feel on longer putts. For me these softer inserts are harder to match ball speed with alignment on putts running over 10 on the stimp. Secondly, I don’t like the “dead hit” feeling at impact…it makes me feel like I missed the sweet spot on the putt, reducing feedback and therefore control on ball speed around the cup. Give me feel at impact thank you!

  4. Tom54

    Sep 19, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    I have a #7 odyssey with the micro hinge insert and I was wondering if anyone other than myself thinks it’s almost too soft. Most of the time it seems like I have to hit it harder. It’s definitely a soft feel. I definitely like the grey/black color scheme

  5. Tucsonsean

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Ping gets ripped off again–it looks like the old Ping Specify putter from the last decade, except with a few too many ‘bells and whistles.’

  6. NormW

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Putter reviews should always include a view of the top of the putter. That’s what you see when you use it.

  7. adan

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Looks like my #6 Odyssey with a different paint job. Not crazy about inserts. Prefer milled face.

  8. rolf

    Sep 18, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Odyssey Stroke Lab Three Putt putters?

  9. D Mack

    Sep 18, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    This micro hinge insert is much better feeling than the original version. Glad to see it in different head selections. Could be good.

  10. Tom

    Sep 18, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    WOW!!! so different from anything else ever introduced, amazing!!!

  11. gunmetal

    Sep 18, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Liked it until I saw the face.

  12. uhgolfguy1

    Sep 17, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    Oh how the Ping Anser 4 has evolved over the decades. Lots of new bells and whistles but still the classic anser head shape.

    • Bart Broesamle

      Sep 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      The same old comment.Every blade style heal/toe weighted putter from hear to eternity will be a copy of a Ping.So,should we all get rid of our other putters and just play Ping because they were the first. That means all football players should go back to leather helments and we should go back to crank telephones.

      • Tucsonsean

        Sep 19, 2018 at 12:37 pm

        Sounds like someone who paid too much for a Scotty Cameron.

  13. Barkley Charles

    Sep 17, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    I hope so! I like what I see.

    • xox

      Sep 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      This has got to be the stupidest putter design with it’s silly face that tries to ‘hinge’ on to the ball. It should be banned from golf.

      • gunmetal

        Sep 27, 2018 at 12:28 am

        It’s just marketing fluff man. Don’t get too hot over it.

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Whats in the Bag

C.T. Pan’s winning WITB: 2019 RBC Heritage

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Driver: Titleist TS2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos 6 Blue X

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK 70 TX

Irons: TaylorMade M3 (2/3), Titleist 718 T-MB (4), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Project X HZRDUS Red 85 (M3), Project X 6.0 (others)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-10F, 52-08F, 62-08M), Titleist Vokey 2017 Prototype (58-10K)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 (Purple)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Prototype

Ball: 2019 Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

Another look at Pan’s wedges, c/o Vokey wedge rep, Aaron Dill on Instagram

 

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Whats in the Bag

Brooke Henderson’s winning WITB: 2019 Lotte Championship

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Driver: Ping G400 (9 degrees set at 8)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-VR 5X, 48″

3-wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 degrees set at 12.4)
Shaft: Ping Alta CB X, 45″

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees at 18)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD TP6X

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees at 22.75)
Shaft: Fujikura Pro 73 R, 41.5″

Irons: Ping i210 (5-UW) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, UW 1/2″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 105-S

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (52 degrees at 53), (60 degrees) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, 3/4″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 115 Wedge

Putter: Ping Sigma 2 Valor (33″, 23-degree lie, 2-degree loft)
Grip: Rosemark MFS Wide Top

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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Talking New Level Golf with founder Eric Burch

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“If you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before, not just with the golf industry but in other industries that are, let’s call them — leisure or sports-focused. It’s an uphill climb to enter any market, but golf might be on another level. There are the big players that are worth BILLIONS, and spend millions of dollars in research and development, along with equal amounts marketing, to make sure that every golfer is aware of their new club technologies. They also have well-oiled systems of distribution.

But in this new world of brand-agnostic fitting centers, boutique brands, social media, and the ability to reach your target demographic like never before there are a LOT of new companies creating high performance, high quality, well-engineered products. But when it comes to forged irons for golfers of all abilities, industry veteran Eric Burch’s New Level Golf stands on its own.

If you don’t know Eric Burch, and you’ve gone through a custom fitting recently, then you are at least partially aware of some of the breakthroughs he’s helped create in the golf industry, including the Club Conex system. His newest endeavor New Level Golf was only started in 2017, but in that short time, it has made some very big strides including distribution in over 150 brand agnostic club fitting facilities and now some professional golfers signed to the roster (including PGA Tour winner Ken Duke).

So how do you go from designing club fitting components to designing forged irons and starting a company that has products on the Golf Digest Hot List? I got the chance to talk to Eric about New Level Golf, his background and how after his years in the golf industry he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

RB: Based on your history in the golf industry you seem to be a real problem solver with a “Be your own boss” mentality, is that how you would describe your self?

EB: I’ve been in business for myself since my early 20s. Other than a few short stints for other golf companies, I have primarily been my own boss involved with golf. I would consider myself a problem solver. Not necessarily by design, but mainly due to starting companies that have always been undercapitalized which forces your hand to learn a variety of tasks to help the business move forward.
Although I’ve received notoriety as a club fitter/retailer, Club Conex, and now New Level. I’ve been fortunate to have won the professional Clubmaker’s Top Shop Award (2004), Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitters (2016),  & have products I’ve designed be on the Golf Digest Hot List (2019).

RB: What was the first product & club head you ever designed, and how does the workflow go now with New Level?

EB: The first golf products were, of course, the Club Conex prototypes and those were generated from hand-rendered sketches. I still believe, given what I did with Club Conex and the universal system I designed, I hardly get the credit I deserve. I bought a milling machine without really knowing how to use it and over the course of 6-7 months taught myself how to use it and started creating prototypes. Those prototypes eventually became the Uni-Fit system.

The first clubs I ever designed were putters dating back to the mid 2000s, but in terms of New Level, I know what I am trying to accomplish in design as well as fitting into player categories that comes from my years working at my own shop and fitting golfers from professionals to higher handicaps. Since product is made overseas, the engineers I work with at our factory have done a very good job of helping bring my concepts and designs to fruition. I really enjoy doing the designs and creating something that will one day be in someone’s golf bag.  The only current issue with the success we’re seeing now is if the company continues to push forward we will at some point be forced to bring on an industrial design engineer to further help with product development, but that would be in 2021 as most of our products for next year are in development, or have already been developed.

RB: On that note, how long from having an initial concept to that first set of irons or at least a prototype head in hand?

EB: This is heavily dependant on the complexity of the design. The 4995 HB took almost 9 months to get it where we wanted, whereas the 902 took just about four months. Typically we can get a first article sample of a playable sample in less than 60 days.

RB: When you consider the logistics and tooling involved, that’s quite an impressive turnaround time. From a design perspective, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of creating an iron head and the manufacturing process that you face?

EB: This is a hot topic with me since most people just don’t understand the depth of the manufacturing process. A lot of people think of the term open model (a factory’s in house design produced to create a starting point for some companies), they think we are just stamping our name on a head that is already been refined and finished by someone else which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like with many aspects of club designs some of the tooling we use are openly available, but for example the raw forged blank head is on average 407 grams on a 6 iron that needs to be designed into a profile that weighs just 262 grams. So as you can imagine a club head overweight by more that 35 percent, it’s far from being a finished product. We call all the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter and specifications of our design. The only thing incorporated into using this process and something we can’t change is the offset of the club. All other facets of the design are facilitated by my directive and incorporated into the final design.

I chose this method of manufacturing for New Level because it allows a far more flexible range of experimentation before a final design is consummated and brought to market. As a new company starting out it would have been near impossible to use a process similar to other OEMs that create a final tool for each and every design solely based on scale. We had several designs that were not used because they didn’t make the cut when it comes to performance and if we had gone the other route we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling alone from products that never saw the light of day.

This process is called the “near net” process, and I find it to be much more in tune with today’s industry. I will take it one step further by saying regardless how good one may be at hand grinding and polishing, a human will never be as consistent and effective as a CNC machine. This entire process allows us to keep our costs reasonable and offer a…uniquely designed, full one-piece forged club for a fair price. There are a lot of other companies using this process you’d just never suspect it.

RB: As a club builder and fitter myself, I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions from golfers, what do YOU feel is the number one thing golfer misunderstand from a design perspective of their clubs?

EB: I can only speak from my experiences, but most golfers are scared of the word “forged” as it has been far too long associated with blades and hard to hit designs. I believe the average weekend warrior still views forged as a design methodology as opposed to a manufacturing process. That is a major objective for New Level to prove that forged clubs can be forgiving, can produce great ball speed, & can be used by your average mid handicap player. Our 1126, for example, is longer from heel to toe, has a shallow profile, and deep undercut – lots of forgiveness for any level of player. From a fitting perspective, I’d say that over 80 percent of players are using shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff for them.

RB:  We’ve talked a lot about the product, and now I need to know – How many retail outlets currently carry your irons and wedges. And lastly, what advantage do you believe New Level irons and wedges have over the competition?

EB: New Level products can be found at roughly 150 locations worldwide and growing almost weekly. If I had my way, we’d never sell another club off the website since I truly believe getting fit by a professional is the best way to get the right set, but saying that as the brand is growing and during the infancy stages, I am trying to get as much product in the field of play as possible to spread brand awareness. We get positive feedback on a daily basis. We have an extensive questionnaire on our site to help those that are not close to one of our retailers, and we also have a lot of people that see our clubs, like what they see and order to their known specs.

As far as our advantages go, I believe it’s pretty simple — being small allows us to pay more attention to each and every client and ensure they are getting the attention that they deserve. The mentality is always to be big enough to make money, yet no matter how we grow, act small and care about every single customer. Currently, we have the care part down very well. My belief is with any business I’ve ever been involved with is that if you do the right thing and stay focused eventually the money will take care of itself. It’s funny because I experience many of the same challenges with New Level as I did with Club Conex early on. Although I am mixed in with a ton of larger players in the golf industry, with New Level I am starting to see our awareness with golfers grow. I hope that this growth continues and we still maintain a great rapport with our customer base.

If you are interested in New Level products check out their website, or call and check with your local club fitter for availability.

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