Here’s my only problem with modern putters and modern golf balls: I no longer know which is which.
Golf balls and putters have been quietly sharing technology for nearly a decade now. While we’ve all been galavanting about in search of more driver yardage or wailing about U-grooves and V-grooves and me-grooves, cooler heads have been making cooler putter heads. With golf ball stuff in them.
Bobby Grace, one of a handful of putter designers whose work enjoys an elevated cult status on the professional tours, consulted with golf ball rubber expert Larry Cadorniga some years back to develop a new face insert that helps maintain energy on off-center hits (that is, most of the ones you and I make). Turns out the best way to do that was to make the insert out of polybutadiene, the same rubber variety used to make golf ball cores. Bobby calls his insert stuff HSM, for Hole Seeking Material. He credits it with taking his company to the next level.
If you think this whole groove-face contact question has been deeply researched, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Or heard it. Developers have paid and overpaid attention to what happens physically and aurally when putter strikes ball. Odyssey’s White Ice line, for example, has a multi-layer face insert, complete with an inner core that is intended to provide both firmness and resiliency. And the outer layer has been roughened up for the sole purpose of making a more pleasing sound on softer golf balls. Sound is such a crucial component of feel that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the next generation of putters come with iPods attached, including those ear-sealing headphones.
But kidding aside, putters offer more technology for the dollar than any other club in the bag.
It’s somehow comforting to know that wise heads, passionate about putting, are working to make wiser club heads for those of us who are passionate about making putts. And even before 2008, the economic reality was clear: a $600 driver is a risk. But a $130 putter could change your game in a weekend. And if it doesn’t...well, it wasn’t $600.
Meanwhile, the sharing of technologies between ball and putter makes satisfying sense. For real golfers, those who understand that there is more to the game than bombing it, neither putter nor ball is useful without the other. So if TaylorMade makes a putter the same color as its Penta golf ball to increase contrast with the green (the new Rossa Ghost line), and if Odyssey’s 2-Ball models (a turning point in putter design, and an enduring favorite) end up blurring our ideas about what’s what, so be it.
As long as the ball goes in the hole. That part, we’re all clear on.
____________________________________________Adam Barr, an industry expert is the publisher of Adam Barr Golf Gear Guide found at www.AdamBarrGolf.com. Previously Adam Barr was a part of the prestigious Golf Channel since 1997 and best known for hosting “What’s In The Bag?”, a weekly show on the network which featured him analyzing golf’s best gear and equipment. Barr also served as correspondent on the PGA TOUR and senior correspondent for business and legal issues for Golf Channel.