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|The long L2 Lateral Line Putter is like nothing you've ever used or seen before. (Courtesy Fargo Toolite)|
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Retief Goosen won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004, he not only overcame prejudice against people who'd been struck by lightning, he also overcame some of the most vicious greens ever unveiled in any USGA championship.
The stoic South African's weapon of choice in both events was a Yes! Golf putter. The Tracy model, to be exact. Well, actually, the putter wasn't named Tracy until after the 2001 win. You see, that's Goosen's wife's name, and the upstart company re-named the putter model in her honor.
Today, the still young Yes! Golf company has 15 putter models, all named after Tour wives and wives and daughters of company employees. Their success both on Tour and in pro shops all over the nation is just the sort of fairy tale that every new putter company dreams of.
Here's the story of Yes! Golf, which has "made it" in the equipment world, the Heavy Putter, which is on the brink of fame, and the Straight Aim, L2 Lateral Line and the Logical One putters, all of which would truly love to taste the success of Yes! Golf.
After decades of golf instruction and club-building, European putting guru Harold Swash discovered that concentric grooves etched into the face of a putter at a 20-degree upright angle would get the golf ball rolling faster than standard milled or smooth faces. Thus was born Yes! Golf's C-groove technology. The grooves resemble a bumpy little rainbow in the center of the putter face.
The most visibly different thing about Yes! Golf putters, however, are the stock yellow, black, and white grips. Despite the non-traditional looks, these flat sticks are flying off pro shop shelves.
"I'm have trouble keeping them in stock," said Dave Huber, head professional at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill.
Rick Anderson, director of golf for the Decatur Park System, said that the Yes! Golf models are very popular at the Hickory Point pro shop, too.
Yes! Golf putters are common in the bags of Futures Tour players, and during the Futures Tour event held at Hickory Point, Anderson said the Yes! sales rep did a demonstration showing how fast the ball begins forward rotation after being struck. "It's really amazing how much faster the ball gets going forward (with the Yes! Putter)," Anderson said.
Indeed, the Yes! Victoria II mallet putter (MSRP $190; $230 for belly or long models) that we tested appeared to get the ball rolling forward faster than any of the other putters below. In fact, the roll was so pure, that it took some time to get the speed right, because without skipping or back-spin, the ball seemed to jump off the putter face.
According to Yes! Golf Director of Sales Dave Richardson, sales in 2005 surpassed any another year since the putters hit the market in 1997 by more than 600 percent. And the number of tour professionals using these putters is growing, too.
"We run about four to six players each week on the PGA Tour, 23-26 on the LPGA Tour, 12-15 on the Nationwide Tour and over 20 each week on the European Tour," Richardson said. "With the exception of 10 players on the LPGA Tour, we do this without any paid endorsement contracts."
Yes, Yes! Golf has arrived.
The Heavy Putter is, well, heavy. Standard weight is 900 grams (about two pounds), compared to about half of that for most other putters. The putter head alone on the B3-M (matte) model that we tested (MSRP $200) is 475 grams. What makes it heavy and why would you want such a heavy putter?
Although we risk spoiling Boccieri Golf's new million dollar infomercial running on The Golf Channel, the whys and where fors are pretty simple. The guiding principle Heavy Putter is to use your large muscles while putting, in a perfect pendulum stroke.
The combined head- and grip-weight are supposed to make the putter so heavy that those large muscles take over for your hands and wrists, the use of which during putting yields inconsistent strokes. To keep the Heavy Putter from becoming unwieldy, there is also a significant counter weight in the grip-end of the club.
The putter head of the B3-M that we tested comes with two removable weights at the heel and toe. For a lighter clubhead, you can swap in lighter aluminum weights. For an even heavier head, you can swap in two tungsten weights. If you pull or push a lot of putts, you can fiddle with the weights to promote or hinder rotation of the face through impact.
We found the Heavy Putter to be very solid, especially on short putts where the weight did indeed promote a back-and-through stroke. Curiously enough, long putts took more time to get used to. Paradoxically, it was difficult to hit the ball hard enough with this hefty flat stick, resulting in a lot of short efforts. Perhaps it was the grip-end weighting that threw us off.
Heavy Putter doesn't have a huge Tour presence, but it is getting noticed. PGA Tour member Troy Matteson went from 110th to eighth in putting on the Nationwide Tour last year and, in the process, earned the money title on that tour last year.
The current Heavy Putter infomercial features Champions Tour player Mark Lye, as well as top-100 instructor Mitchell Spearman, and will certainly raise awareness of this putter, which is on the brink of top-level success. Tour caddies are probably unhappy about this increasing popularity, though. The extra weight is noticeable in your golf bag while walking 18 holes.
Minnesotan Richard Patten has a degree in human factors, and his Straight Aim putters incorporate a remarkable number of engineering features aimed at making putting easier from when you line up the putt to when you pick the ball up out of the cup.
Patten makes each one of his putters by hand, doing all the fitting and grinding himself.
"These putters are cast, hardened aluminum and machined for a flat hitting surface," Patten said. "I do all the assembly and finish work myself, so these do not drop off the end of an assembly line; they are pretty much hand-crafted with customizable features (length, swing-weight, lie and grip) and minor trimming differences between clubs to make the pick-up work."
All Straight Aim models incorporate face-balancing, extreme heel-toe weighting, an alignment line, a higher face to impact the ball above the equator and promote forward roll, and a hollow in the bottom of the putter head that picks up the ball, even out of the hole. Patten bills the proprietary EVR system (explained in detail on the company's Web site) as an engineering breakthrough that will reduce the distance between the ball and the hole, even on mis-hits.
Straight Aim putters range in price from $50 to $70, and can be custom ordered. Their look is a bit rough, due to all the hand-finishing, but each is undeniably a one-of-a-kind. Due to the hollow ball-retrieving center, the mallet models are lighter than they look, and are thus perfect for players who would like some advanced alignment aid but do not feel comfortable with other companies' heavy mallets.
Sam Sneed, toward the end of his career, fought the yips by putting croquet-style, with the ball between his feet so he could look directly from the ball to the hole without turning his head. The USGA outlawed this stance when Sneed began getting really good at it, so he went to a side-saddle putting style, with both feet on the same side of the ball.
Fargo Toolite company, maker of tools and fishing and hunting gear, has recently brought the L2 Lateral Line Putter to the market, and it would have made Sneed a happy man.
The L2 is nothing like you've ever seen. It has the length of a long putter - affectionately known as a "broomhandle" - but the putter head is turned 90 degrees so that the player stands facing the hole when address the putt. The grip-end of the long putter rests just below the armpit and is held by the left hand (for righties) with the left arm bent at the elbow across the chest. The right arm is straight down the shaft. The putting stroke is made by swinging the right arm back and through, as if you were tossing the ball at the hole.
Indeed, this is the motion Toolite engineers were trying to replicate because, as the Web site states, if you asked anyone to roll a golf ball toward the hole, they would face the cup.
The putter head of the L2 is enormous and appears unwieldy at first, and the new orientation takes a while to get used to. But after a few practice sessions, short putts begin rolling in very easily. One drawback is that facing the hole, with the ball alongside your right foot, it's easy to look up too soon. Another is that this putter, too, is extremely heavy, and weighs down the walker's golf bag.
The company offers fitting and measurement instructions on its website.
LogicalOne is not your typical putter. Web Dx2 Golf, maker of the LogicalOne, was founded by Kelly Thompson and his six-year-old son Kendric, who also helped design the Logical One.
When he was three, Kendric was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura). The disease results in the body killing off its own blood platelets. Kendric nearly died, and has to undergo a series of blood transfusions whenever his platelet count gets low.
Although the prospect of his son having a chronic, life-threatening disease terrified Kelly, he drew strength from the little boy's courage, as well as the boy's love for golf. Together, as a father-son project, the two South Dakota residents designed the LogicalOne.
The engineering insight behind the mallet putter, which looks like something that might snap onto Batman's utility belt, is in the alignment. There's a line directly behind the center of the putter face, two representing the width of the golf ball, and two representing the width of the hole. The Thompsons contend that if you keep these relations in mind - and in line - you'll set up better and sink more putts.
We found the alignment aid to be, well, logical, and found the feeling at contact to be almost buttery. The lie angle from the putter head up through the shaft was a bit flat compared to the other putters discussed here, though, which made putting feel a little like hockey. However, according to Thompson, a clubfitter could bend the shaft enough to steepen the lie angle without damaging the tightly milled putter head.
For the MSRP of $209, you not only receive a LogicalOne putter, but also the ITP Awareness Package, including material explaining ITP, a cap and a T-shirt. A portion of each sale also goes to help find a cure for ITP.
For Kendric's sake, as well as all those fighting ITP, we hope that the LogicalOne finds success on the scale of Yes! Golf. The disease sounds worse than being struck by lightning.
Yes! Golf: yesgolf.com
Heavy Putter: heavyputter.com
Straight Aim putters: straightaimgolf.com
L2 Lateral Line Putter: toolite.com/golf
LogicalOne Putter: logicalone.com
August 16, 2006
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, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
The commercials for Nike Golf's VR_S Covert Driver are some of the best recent equipment spots on TV, with players teeing off and yelling, "Sorry!" to the groups ahead that they've just purportedly hit into. Based on my testing, I'd say the portrayal of the Covert as prodigiously long is perhaps only a slight exaggeration. This driver is definitely in the top echelon of recent "long" drivers.
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