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|The STX Envision TR putter looks like no putter you've ever seen before. (Courtesy of STX)|
STX putters are known for their radical integration of art and engineering. The company's Bob Engman Signature Series features putters that will never be confused with those of any other company.
Engman once chaired the Sculpture Department at Yale and was Dean of the Art School at the University of Pennsylvania. For the past several years, he's been bringing his artistic sensibilities to putter design, and the latest in his namesake series, the Envision TR ($199), is as artsy and unique as you'll find in today's putter market.
All STX putters feature the company's proprietary full-face insert, which sort of sits atop the putter face, rather than being set into it, as is the case with most insert putters. STX's inserts come in three flavors: black is softest, green is firmest and red is in the middle.
The Envision TR is hard to describe, actually, thanks to Engman's nontraditional design. The putter head is quite small, with an understated, very thin, very heavy heel attached to a blade-like face. The clubhead is "bullet black" with a "gun-metal finish" - at least that's how STX describes it. However you describe it, it is quite striking.
I took the Envision TR to the familiar greens and practice green at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill., to run it through extensive testing.
On the course greens, the Envision TR was a solid performer, though the insert required me to stroke the ball more firmly than I would have otherwise been inclined to do.
The weight of the face-balanced clubhead is centered behind the face, rather than at the perimeter, as in many larger mallets. As a result, center-struck putts rolled incredibly well, but putts struck on the heel or toe lost some speed and direction.
On the practice green, I recruited three low double-digit handicappers like myself to provide some feedback. They tested the Envision TR against three other new models from competing companies. The STX offering was a strong contender, ultimately coming in a unanimous second in overall rating.
Randy Feese, from Lincoln, Ill., took one look at the Envision TR and joked that it "looks like something that should plug into my TV set."
Similarly, Karl Newton, of Mahomet, Ill., commented that "it looks stupid," but "it putts the ball very pure." (You probably won't find Newton contemplating a modern sculpture exhibit any time soon.)
John Patterson, also from Mahomet, remarked on the small, square body of the mallet head. "The back of the putter is the same width as the golf ball. That really helps me line the ball up - just naturally flows from the putter to the ball."
As for the feel, Patterson thought it was a little firmer than he'd expected, Feese thought it was a little soft and Newton played the role of Goldilocks: It was just right for him.
All of them liked the black, red and white Golf Pride grip better than the grips of any of the other putters tested.
The STX Envision TR was the consensus runner-up for "out-of-the-box" playability and feel among the four putters tested by the players I recruited to provide feedback. All of them agreed, though, that with the right face insert to match their individual preferences, the Envision TR would be a solid choice.
However, their enthusiasm was damped a bit by the price tag, which was $50 higher than the unanimous first choice flat-stick.
Maybe they just don't appreciate fine art - at least, not on the putting green.
For more information, visit www.stxgolf.com.
July 16, 2009
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.
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