Fatback: what one should fry chicken in were you to follow grandma’s tried and true recipe. The one discovered long before a Kentucky Colonel was old enough to acquire the appearance of a southern gentleman much less discover the secret of eleven herbs and spices.
That’s what I thought when I first heard a Machine Fatback was the style putter best suited for me. Not anymore. After two conversations with Dave Billings, the creative mastermind of all the Machine brand putters, and numerous emails with Chris Hoeppner (who many of you know if you’ve spent anytime in the Flatstick forum) the word Fatback no longer causes me to think immediately of chicken. What comes to mind now is a unique instrument, both practical and beautifully designed to help me play better golf.
Choosing a custom putter involves a lot of questions. A LOT of questions. Likes and dislikes of the putters used in the past. What worked best, what didn’t work so well, what looked best to my eye, what about the appearance of a putter used didn’t I like. Which leads to a lot of thinking. A LOT of thinking. All that thinking leads to introspection and doubt, like maybe it’s never been the putter at fault and I just flat suck at putting. Which leads to places in one’s psyche best left undisturbed, adequacy issues and all of that kind of thing best categorized as witchcraft.
After deciding on a style of putter the next question is what kind of metal should be used to create the club. Once again, questions and choices which can be hard on a person who shies away from introspection out of fear of dark scary places and has a problem with decisions involving personal choice. The decision issue is one reason why I own multiples of everything. With this putter I had the choice of 303 Stainless steel, 1018 Carbon Steel, Copper, or Aluminum Bronze. I chose the Aluminum Bronze, the thinking being Bronze is bright, shiny, and pretty; all the adjectives the intelligent 21st century man uses when selecting jewelry for the woman (or women as the case may be) in his life. Being said intelligent man with significant formal education I also know that Bronze is the first great metal to have an entire Age named after it, marking the first step toward the Age of the Cellphone in which we are currently ensconced. Now Bronze combined with aluminum, which airplanes are made of, should create an attractive putter with natural aerodynamic qualities sufficient to satisfy any charter member of the Tommy Bolt School of Club Throwing. I may not be a metallurgist, but I do have enough practical knowledge to recognize the unique characteristics afforded by this combination.
It’s all too rare to engage conversationally with anyone who is knowledgeable and passionate about what that person does. Dave Billings is one such individual, and he was gracious enough to speak to me on two separate occasions. What fascinated me about our conversations was that, despite my lack of understanding of metal work, or the actual science (beyond the simple physics involved in imparting directional force to a stationary round object) I felt myself caught up in Mr. Billings passion. He loves what he does, and enjoys explaining his process. I came away from both our conversations energized about putters and putting. I had so many options about the visual characteristics of this putter it was almost overwhelming. I was especially interested in his description of peening the head, creating multiple indentations with whacks of a hammer. This creates very attractive interactions with light adding to the beauty of the finished product. I did not choose to have this done as I need really simple visuals on all my clubs. I have a difficult time focusing on just one thing when I’m on the golf course. I have been known to be in the middle of a swing, hear a bird singing and identify said bird in my mind resulting in my golf ball suddenly becoming directionally challenged. I could see myself with a peened putter getting caught up in the play of light off the head and forgetting to complete my stroke. Not exactly a desirable outcome. So simple we decided was best.
I want three site lines, as that is what I find helps me align the putter accurately. It’s not for everyone, I believe it was a first for Machine, but they came out quite nicely. I also chose 34 inch length, 2* loft and standard 71* lie and 350gm headweight. The milling marks on the face are set from heel to toe because they actually work to get the ball rolling, something not achieved with lines from top to bottom of the head. Mr. Billings explained all of that to me as well, and while I don’t have a grasp of the technical explanation I now have practical experience and can say it does indeed work. Quite nicely in fact. At Mr Hoeppner’s suggestion the neck is hand bent to make the face nearly face balanced. What I’ve found also is that the neck helps with alignment so I keep a right angle to my target line. It’s also quite sexy.
The quality of the workmanship is outstanding. The fit and finish is solid. Speaking of finish, Mr. Hoeppner sent me an email advising me that after having polished the putter head the finished product was bright enough to rival the light emitted from the sun. Not exactly a desirable quality when outdoors playing golf. He suggested a “mist” finish called Morning Dew, which removed the reflective quality of the bronze. I will admit I considered leaving the head alone, which would have allowed me to blind my playing partners by scorching their retinas. Would have made winning so much easier. I changed my mind when I concluded that bothered me, proving I have higher ethical standards than most long term congressmen (not a great achievement I admit, but hey it’s a start).
This club came with a set of weights so I can tinker with the headweight and location either to the heel or toe. I have not had the opportunity to experiment with this yet, due to global warming the temperatures have been in the 40’s during the day and well below freezing overnight. I’ll mess around with those once we get back into the 60’s. The grip is a blue rubber reverse arch, which I’ll be changing out soon. I have short fingers and can’t get the grip seated comfortably in my hands. I have a Gripmaster Tour Laced grip that should be a nice fit with this club.
To date, I’ve made a lot of putts with this putter. It’s very easy to line up thanks to the sight lines and the cavity. The head is longer heel to toe than my Yes Marilyn and the lines I see looking down give me real confidence I’m square to my target line. The ball off the face is intriguing, I hesitate to say “soft as butter” because that’s not quite accurate. It feels like the ball attaches to the face for a split second after contact then rolls (rolls, not hops, jumps, stutters, or skids) off the head along the intended line. There is definitely a “click” when you strike the ball, but it’s muted quite pleasantly. The feedback into my hands is also very honest, straight forward, and telling. It’s not at all weird like the Yes feedback, which is quite smooth when the sweetspot is hit, but clunky, chunky, noticeably dead when you miss that spot. I really like that aspect of this club because I am much more a feel player than mechanical or gorilla type player. Distance control is at this early point quite acceptable, even on slight mishits there is not a lot of lost distance. Nor are directional issues significant on the same mishit. I also like that the feedback is instantaneous, I know if I hit the ball poorly and just how poorly by the feel and sound. On extreme toe hits I don’t get a lot of twisting, as I have a very light grip pressure this keeps the ball more on line than with any of my other putters. I find this property particularly advantageous since when I feel a mishit my hands grab at the putter grip in an effort to get the clubhead back online. The ball can go anywhere afterwards, anywhere that is except into the hole. With the Fatback, I don’t grab reflexively and the ball stays close to the intended line, which means I may luck a few of those into the hole.
Overall, this is one beautiful putter. I am looking forward to spending a lot more time getting better acquainted with it’s properties. I can highly recommend Doglegright, Machine putters, Mr. Dave Billings, and Mr. Chris Hoeppner. They more than fulfilled all my expectations of a custom putter acquisition.
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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