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Korean Gadget Report, Pt. 3: A truly unique putter face

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All aspects of golf equipment fascinate me, but nothing beats discovering some new putter technology that can help my putting game.

Since Karsten Solheim introduced the iconic Ping Anser in 1966, thousands of innovative putter designs have surfaced to entice golfers with claims of better performance. Recent notable mentions include Evnroll with its patented Sweet Face groove technology and L.A.B. putters with their torque-free lie angle balance. I have found both putters to be very effective in their respective claims of rolling the ball straighter and resisting torque during a stroke.

Today, I want to introduce the TopSpin™ and 3D Pyramid milling; two unique and effective putter face technology that I have encountered here in Korea.

What constitutes a good putt?

Back in the day, putting used to be all about feel for me. Feeling is very subjective and different for every golfer, so I used to spend hours at local golf stores rolling putter after putter to see which ‘clicked’ with me. I preferred a specific sound with a soft feel at impact. I am still a big fan of the White Hot insert and was happy to see its comeback in the new OG line.

Over the years, however, my handicap index suggested ‘feel; was not enough to help my putting game, and I began looking elsewhere for that extra edge.

Over the last year, I have been trying various hand positions and putter grips. Then I landed on the mythical idea of True Roll, which was to occur when there is no longer any skidding of the ball after impact. For years, I had been told that all the great putters from Bobby Locke to Tiger Woods struck the ball above the equator to impart top spin. This would get the ball rolling forward faster with less skidding and hopping, and hold truer to the line for more holed putts. To be honest, I haven’t researched whether a faster forward roll is really beneficial or not, but I am writing with the assumption that the more top spin we have, the better it is for putting.

TopSpin™ for Top Spin

Made in Korea by James Milr Inc., TopSpin™ putters feature a curve on the top and bottom portion of the putter face. The technology claims to allow golfers to put a top spin on every putt, causing the ball to immediately roll forward in a straight line. Some of you may have already come across this putter or something similar, but it was quite eye-opening for me when I first encountered it several years ago at a golf fair.

After rolling the putter a few dozen times, I was impressed though I did not like the feel and the aesthetics at first. I soon got in touch with the inventor, Jun-hee (James) Kim at his company, located 3-hours from Seoul. Kim is a former computer programmer by trade who first became obsessed in 2000 in his late forties in early 2000. He began breaking 80
regularly within 18 months but continued to struggle with his putting. Then one night, he had his eureka moment while watching a baseball game on TV with his son.

“I was watching a slow replay of a knuckleball being hit out of the park on TV when I was awestruck by the way the (base)ball seemed to wrap around the curved surface of the bat. It was a surreal moment to see two curved surfaces collide together and something just clicked in my head. I began to wonder what a curved putter face would do to a stationary golf ball and got my son’s baseball bat to try rolling a golf ball with it that very night. I soon realized that a curved putter face produced a gearing effect to start the ball rolling forward with minimal skidding and backspin. That was over 17 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. The TopSpin™ putter starts the ball rolling forward faster than any other putter out there.”- Jun-hee James Kim, CEO of JAMES MILR INC.

Over the next two years, Kim was passionate enough to leave his job in Seoul to research and design his own ideal curve for that perfect roll. In 2005, Kim set up his putter manufacturing and named it JAMES MILR INC. to indicate his love of putter milling. He debuted eight putter models in his first year and has since fine-tuned his ideas to patent the TopSpin™ technology. His putters feature an oval curvature on top and bottom of the putter face with a flat surface in the middle. According to Kim, his patented design imparts a consistent and immediate forward roll (top spin) regardless of the angle of the shaft at impact to help all golfers roll the ball better.

A brief online search on my part found several similar curved face putters, such as Tru-Roll (cylindrical pipe-like head) and SIK putter with DLT (Descending Loft Technology). Both putters featured similar ideas of imparting a consistent and quick forward roll through a curved/angled putter face. However, Kim maintains he was the first to design and patent the design concept. To his credit, I was unable to find any similar putter face technology claiming the same effect dating before 2010.

So…does it work?

All tech stories aside, the important question is whether it performs or not. To this end, my friend and I tested our current gamers and several other putters against the TopSpin™ M8 model I had purchased over the winter. For visual confirmation, we used the RollBoard to see how each putter rolled the ball on a typical 15ft, 30ft putts.

The result in the video below clearly showed that the TopSpin™ putter did indeed make the ball roll forward almost immediately. The TopSpin™ putter left an unbroken trace line on the RollBoard right from the start, indicating that the ball rolled immediately upon impact with no hopping and skidding. In contrast, the other putters all showed the ball hopping and skipping (3~6 inches) before landing and beginning to roll forward. I was impressed to see TopSpin™ in action firsthand. And in case anyone is wondering, I am a 10 handicapper and am in no way good enough to roll the ball to get the results I did on purpose.

[YouTube] https://youtu.be/56q64UJWBHw

Did my test prove that the TopSpin putter is better than the rest? Almost certainly not. But if you operate on the idea that putting top spin on the ball to get it rolling forward fast, then you may have found a winner in TopSpin™ putters.

I would be interested to hear if anyone has tried these putters and what your thoughts are on the importance of top spin on putting.

The 3D Pyramid Face

Before PXG introduced their version of the Pyramid Face milling in their putter a few years back, there already existed a technology here in Korea by the same name at least two decades earlier.

Hana Industries, located in Korea’s second-largest city of Busan, has been manufacturing and exporting premium golf equipment since 1995. Their in-house brand, Brama Golf (combining the words Brilliant and Marvelous), has been a prestigious name in Korean golf for over 25 years and features some of the coolest club technologies seen anywhere.

One particular tech that caught my eye was their CNC milled 3D Pyramid putter face.

Whereas the PXG putters provide a “variable-size, [flat] pyramid face pattern that increases in size and decreases in density as it moves from center”, Brama putter face consists of hundreds of uniform-size 3D pyramids milled directly on the face. The pointy ends make up the surface of the putter face and provide an incredibly soft feel with a straight, fast-starting forward roll.

According to the Korean company, the pointy ends of the pyramids help decrease the probability of the ball starting straying off the line from impacting the dimples on the golf ball at a wrong angle. Say what?!  As if there wasn’t enough to think about, I now have to worry about whether or not my putter face hits the dimples correctly?

Apparently, I do. According to this physicist and many golfers I have since asked, golf ball dimples cause the ball to come off the putter face at a different angle on every putt. In short, depending on where the putter face impacts the raised ridges of golf ball dimples, the ball can deflect or bounce erratically to miss even the shortest of putts. I am not kidding. This is really a thing.

Does this mean that none of those missed short putts was my fault? What the heck is going on? More importantly, what do I need to do to keep this newfound knowledge from messing with my brain while lining up a two-footer for the win over my buddies?

[YouTube] https://www.youtube.com/shorts/g0r-oGrLMXk

As shown in the video, the pyramid points “bite” into the surface of the golf ball for a consistent impact regardless of the dimples, and ensure that the ball consistently rolls straight and true. Simply, the 3D Pyramid face tech allows me to remain blissfully ignorant about any new-fangled issues related to dimples and their harmful effect on our putting. (Wouldn’t I have been better off not having learned that dimples can affect putting in the first place?)

My two cents

I have owned two Brama putters, a blade and a mallet and used them for several months last summer. Although I didn’t have a Roll Board at the time, I did find that the ball pretty much rolled where I aimed, indicating a good forward roll (and no interference from those pesky dimples!).

However, it took me a few rounds to get used to the fact that these putters tended to roll about 10% less distance than what I was used to. So if I was looking at a 20-footer and was sure that I put a good stroke on it, the ball would still end up about 2ft short of the hole. This threw me off my feel for distance until I realized that since so little of the putter surface was making contact, that much less energy was transferred to the ball. I had to adjust by mentally thinking the hole cup was further and hit the putt that much harder.

In addition, the CNC Pyramid face was perhaps the softest feeling putter I have ever rolled. It felt as if the tiny points were absorbing(?) the shock at impact, and the ball came off the face with a soft “thud” sound. Personally, I didn’t like the sound it produced. Once I got used to the shorter distance, however, I liked that I could go after short putts more aggressively, knowing that the impact will feel soft and the ball won’t rocket off the face.

[YouTube] https://youtu.be/FdWQigcbnYc

Are they conforming?

The governing rules of golf for putters require at least one surface of the putter face to be flat to be conforming. TopSpin™ putters meet this requirement despite a curved putter face since the middle of the face is milled flat. SIK putters are conforming for the same reason, while Tru-Roll and similar tear-shaped putters are not conforming due to their cylindrical
shape with no flat area on the face. TopSpin™ putters by James Mller are mostly cast, with some of the more premium models being forged. They can be found online (www.jamesmilr.co.kr) in diverse blade and mallet designs to fit the eyes of all golfers.

Brama’s CNC milled 3D Pyramid face putters are forged and come in several blade and mallet heads. Unfortunately, the putters are not as easy to find outside Korea and can only be seen online (www.bramagolf.com). As for conforming to the rules of golf, I wasn’t able to find any information on it at the time of this writing. However, I suspect the tech may be conforming as I have recently seen new Ray Cook putters featuring a similar face albeit, with much bigger pyramids than the ones found on Brama putters.

What other unique putter tech stories have you come across? Please share the ones that impressed you in the comment section below.

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James is a golf gear-nut living and writing about all things golf in Korea. A fan of Tiger, Fred, and Seve, he is forever seeking the holy grail of golf clubs that will lower his score. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada and has been in Korea to witness the explosive growth of golf since 1996. Despite playing golf for over 30 years and being a perpetual 10-handicapper, James steadfastly claims to be the embodiment of the Average Joe Korean golfer. He can be reached at [email protected], and often introduces cool new Asia-based golf gear on YouTube and Instagram.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Paul Runyan

    Jul 4, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    Yes, all wonderful re-engineered updated ideas from Teardrop and the like. Impressive!

    Of course this didn’t take into account of what type of green and how fast or slow it is and if it’s been recently cut and rolled.

    I have several Yes! Putters that are the same style but tweaked for different playing/putting surfaces. And, 8 Bettinardis with several of the same except for weight and loft. BB37 is my favorite. Ping putters from the 60’s — Great, They all work. Teardrop was Ok.

    Some of the “face technologies” just don’t work on PNW greens. Some do.

    But, if you can keep your average putts for the season below 30, your doing well!

    I just tried a TM small mallet width 3 lines similar to the Rossi and I must say on synthetic carpeting it was terrific! It may go into the bag.

    But try before you buy on your local club or course conditions. And if you love it buy another just in case. I’m sure Sam B loves that!!

    And, a Garsen Grip is the only grip I use!

    I do know putting…. Just sayin’

    Paul

  2. Pingback: Meet KOTI: The Korean Scotty Cameron – GolfWRX

  3. Al

    May 30, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Tad Moore did something similar.

    • Matthew

      Jun 1, 2022 at 10:26 am

      Came here to say this! Called them “washboard grooves” or something like that. Would love to see Golfwrx do some writeups on Tad Moore and Byron Morgan. Two unsung heroes of the custom putter world.

  4. Gunter Eisenberg

    May 29, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    This is nothing new. Rife Putters had that top spin technology in the 90s.

  5. Steve Hjortness

    May 29, 2022 at 11:11 am

    MacGregor produced a putter back in the 50’s and early 60’s with a concave face. It was called a Smoothy and they had a copper face. You can find them for sale on ebay.

  6. BJ

    May 29, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Didnt PLOP already make this as well

  7. Paul

    May 28, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    The “Overspin by Medicus” tells almost the exact same story of imparting topspin on the ball. Even the logo is almost identical. Nothing new here.

    • Karsten Solheim

      May 28, 2022 at 7:59 pm

      There hasn’t been anything new since Odyssey stole the “2 ball” design.

  8. Eric

    May 28, 2022 at 11:03 am

    Teardrop made putters with roll face technology, basically the same thing as the topspin putters, in the 90s. I own a Zebra putter from the late 90s that has this.

  9. Ed

    May 27, 2022 at 10:56 am

    All pictures and videos associated with various “topspin “ putters show hard surfaces, come back when you show grass similar to a muni green.

  10. Drew O'Neil

    May 27, 2022 at 9:38 am

    I worked as a rep for ProGear in early 90’s and we had a putter at the time called the Swashbuckler – designed by Harold Swash. The concept was eventually incorporated by Yes Golf – Retief Goosen won a US Open using one. Not a new idea. Good article.

  11. JJ

    May 27, 2022 at 6:18 am

    Brama’s 3D pyramid face milling sounds interesting. Kevin Burns has a version of pyramid face milling; details in the GolfWRX forum here: https://forums.golfwrx.com/topic/1781388-updated-21121-anyone-rolling-a-kevin-burns/?do=findComment&comment=23442339

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Luke Guthrie WITB 2022 (July)

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Driver: Ping G410 (9 degrees @8)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS T1100 75 6.0

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Shaft: Aldila Tour Blue ATX 85 TX

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