By Kiel Christianson,
During my preview round at The Castle Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, I played with Maggie Weder, founder of Golfin 4 MS. Maggie is a remarkable story in her own right, having taken up golf just eight years ago as therapy for paralyzing multiple sclerosis and now playing to a scratch handicap and raising money for the Gimbel Center, which treats MS patients without insurance.
But Maggie's remarkable story is a whole other article.
What caught my eye first, besides how incredibly far the ex-Marine hit the ball, was how well she putted, and the putter she was using: The Rife TwoBar Hybrid.
See, I had this same high-tech flat stick sitting in my basement at home, waiting for a rigorous testing and review.
So I asked Maggie how long she'd been using it and how she liked it.
"I got this putter a couple of months ago," she said, "and it hasn't left my bag. It does exactly what the company says it does."
Rife has pulled off a notable feat with the TwoBar Hybrid: It's what I call a "kitchen sink" putter that actually looks very cool. Usually putters that include every feature but the kitchen sink look like some alien component that just fell off of a Transformer.
The TwoBar Hybrid is cool, sleek even, despite offering practically every performance aid in the rule book from putter face to grip.
Let's start with the "Dual Response" face insert, made of 6061 CNC milled anodized aluminum fused to durometer polymer. The result is metal that doesn't feel like metal. And the toe-to-heel face grooves grab the ball, lifting it slightly up off the turf and getting it rolling so fast, the 2-degree loft (compared to the normal 4 degrees on most putters) is plenty.
The mallet head incorporates features from the company's tour-winning original TwoBar putter, and its critically acclaimed (and also tour-proven) Island Series Barbados putter. Two weighted bars extend back from the putter face, with ports at the back for the adjustable weights that come standard.
The color scheme of cobalt blue face and stripes on the sole with white accents against the highly polished stainless steel head is very eye-catching.
The alignment aid is a line-and-notch system, in which the line that runs perpendicular to the face intersects with a notch in the top back of the face. The putter also comes standard with the LieAlign tool, which can be used to adjust the lie angle yourself, thanks to the adjustable hosel.
The stepless shaft is made of extruded stainless, and the white and blue honeycombed Winn grip is one of the most comfortable I've ever felt in a putter. And even the headcover is clever, with a zipper pocket housing the heavier rear weights and wrench.
As for how it plays, all I can say is that all this technology pays off, as Weder said. The feedback is exceptional, despite an overall extremely soft feel. The face-balanced head stays stable throughout the stroke, and the sound at impact is not the "ting" of some competitor mallets, nor is it the squishy "thud" of some polymer inserts.
The Rife TwoBar Hybrid putter encompasses all things great about putter technology. The MSRP of $200 puts it into the "premium" range. But if you have the money, as well as the taste for a weighty mallet, this Rife offering deserves serious consideration.
The putter also comes with a putting instruction DVD along with the lie-angle adjustment tool. With respect to that tool, I am somewhat skeptical that most average golfers will feel comfortable bending their own clubs, no matter how simple Rife has made it. Also, I wonder how durable such an easily bent hosel is over time.
But aside from these speculative issues, about the only concrete negative I can find is that the headcover seals with an extremely strong magnet, which sticks onto the clubhead every time you take it off or put it on.
Back at The Castle Course, Maggie Weder told me that, in fact, she'd received two TwoBar Hybrids to try out. She'd let a scratch-handicap friend use the other one for a round, and hadn't been able to pry it out of her friend's hands.
"Like I said," smiled Weder, "it does what they said it would. It gets the ball in the hole."
July 15, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.