I enjoy perusing the Golf Digest Hot List each winter, but I don’t know that it’s ever sparked a burning desire in me to purchase new golf clubs. I’m not much of a gadget guy or technology-head. I rarely like, much less need, the next latest, greatest technology (2004 called yesterday and asked for my special edition U2 iPod back).
I usually run a cool decade or so behind the times as far as keeping up with the Jones is concerned. I think my early 2000’s Cleveland TA5 irons and TaylorMade 200 Steel series 3-wood attest to my stubborn, miserly disposition and lack of faith in the next big thing. I’ve been using my original Odyssey White Hot No. 2 putter for more than a decade now, and am perfectly content to continue doing so for another 10 years.
There is a little voice inside my head that keeps telling me, “this is the year I finally submit to a club fitting and upgrade my clubs,” but I end up blowing the money on things like greens fees, lawn equipment, and the mortgage. However, more often than I’d like to admit, I am prone to online window shopping and daydreaming about new golf clubs.
This month, some article I read piqued my interest in the multitude of putters available on the retail and custom markets. So, I decided to peruse the Ping website to see what the original cool putter manufacturer had to offer.
I like Ping putters. The first putter I ever bought was an old Ping Karsten Anser 2 bronze putter that I found in the second hand bin at a driving range. It was a great beginner’s putter because it was uncomplicated, which was perfect because I had no idea what I was doing on or around the greens at the time.
It felt good in my hands, and that bronze patina looked like what I thought a putter should look like. Compared to today’s technology, with precise counter-balancing and isomer inserts, it felt like swinging a pendulum with a Volkswagen on the other end. But it worked for my purposes and I still have a soft spot for the Anser’s classic styling.
I was comforted to discover that Ping still offers the familiar looking line of milled Anser putters. But I was a little overwhelmed with the number and variety of putters available, just from one manufacturer. Ping’s website included a veritable Excel spreadsheet of specifications and features from which to choose: shape, material, finish, something called “face response,” shaft length, head weight, lie angle, and stroke path.
If I just encountered Ping’s current offerings at my local pro shop, it might take me hours of stroking thousands of putts to discern the subtle difference between all these choices. And even then, I’d probably end up choosing the putter that simply fit my eye best and felt most comfortable in my hands standing over a putt.
Slightly mentally exhausted, I headed to the Odyssey website to check out their latest and greatest. Odyssey claims to be the number one putter company in golf, which I assume means the highest number of putters sold. I soon discovered why. To my dismay, I discovered their current line includes 95 putters from which the disparate and desperate golfers may choose. Let that sink in for a second.
Since a consumer will likely be overwhelmed by all the choices, Odyssey offers an “eyeFit” test designed to determine which hosel and shaft combination best matches the individual’s putting stance and stroke, complete with an instructional video about how “revolutionary” this new diagnostic tool will be. Additionally, the “Odyssey U” page gives one all the information a golfer could ever want or need about all the different aspects and variations of putters.
My initial takeaway from this online excursion was complete information overload. I’m sure these are useful tools for those the boost of confidence a new putter may bestow. But these are putters, not ground-to-air missile defense systems. Putters roll the ball across the green towards the hole. I’m not sure their intended function warrants such prodigious engineering. I think it’s much more likely that the the golf marketing machines are all just taking us to the cleaners.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of getting fitted for clubs that match my body and golf swing. A good club fitter can neutralize the impact of a player’s variations in height, hand position, and swing arc from “the norm.” My next set of irons will be the first set custom fitted for me.
Maybe I’m exactly the wrong kind of consumer to kick the tires of the putter makers’ display models. I have no desire or intention to purchase a new putter anytime soon, so I’m unimpressed by the volume of choices available or how much the manufacturers have tried to design the perfect putter just for me. It seems more than a little silly.
I do intend to ask my teaching pro for some advice on my putting stroke towards the conclusion of our lessons this year. You know, correcting mechanical deficiencies or perhaps developing a sturdy mental approach. However, I’d be a little shocked and disappointed if he didn’t laugh out loud if I asked him if I needed to undergo a proper club fitting for a new putter.
Perhaps I have this all wrong. I’ve been a decent putter for a while, but I will occasionally have rounds of 30-something putts. But I have a hard time accepting that the science of all these “new” putter technologies can overwhelm the art of figuring out what is comfortable in my hand and practicing to improve my stroke. So for now, I’m going to stick with what works, most of the time.