GOLF EQUIPMENT

STX ProF.T.T. 1Techno-Putting:
The STX ProF.I.T.
Putter puts
technology on our side

By Kiel T. Christianson,
Senior Writer

AMHERST, Mass. (May 22, 2003) -- Not that there will be any shortage of new drivers on the market any time soon, but basically, we've hit a design wall with the big sticks: Titanium, thin face, freakishly large head, $300 shaft. It's a different story with the flat sticks, though. Putters more than any other club are all about looks, feel, and the ephemeral tastes of golfers. And we make more strokes with the putter than with any other club in our bag, too.

Equipment companies are turning their attention to these valuable, stroke-saving weapons. Designs have become more radical, and prices have gone up. But as a fellow mid-handicapper told me just this last weekend: "I'd pay $2,000 for a putter if it would guarantee me 5 strokes every round."

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One of the more radical putters we've run across in a long time is the STX ProF.I.T. series. The three models in the ProF.I.T. line of putters feature replaceable face inserts of varying softness, held in place by small screws and a magnet. Depending on the weather conditions, the speed of the greens, and the type of ball being used, golfers can switch to a harder or softer face insert with a few turns of a hex-wrench. As long as you don't switch faces in the middle of the round, it is perfectly legal.

Jeff Matheson, STX Golf Director of Global Sales, says "ProF.I.T gives golfers of all levels access to putting technology that has never been available before. The ProF.I.T. series' quick and easy fine tuning enables golfers to customize their putters on the spot to adapt to feel and feedback preferences, different course conditions, and individual styles of play. Until now . putters have been essentially one-dimensional, offering minimal options for customization."

Testing

STX ProF.T.T. 1We took the STX ProF.I.T. 1 putter -- an adaptation of the popular STX Synch Tour model -- out to the practice green at Hickory Ridge Country Club (Amherst, Mass., hickoryridgecc.com) for several test sessions with golfers ranging from assistant club pros to high handicappers. Just about all of the golfers we asked to try the putter were familiar with the STX name, thanks in part to Rich Beem's PGA Championship win last year using an STX model. Thus the unique look of the ProF.I.T. (a thin blade with a weighted cylinder jutting out from the back) proved to be no distraction at all.

As for the face-changing technology, reactions were generally positive. The assistant pro speculated that club members would buy the putter, because it would give them the feeling of having "some degree of control" over one more of the game's numerous variables. Psychologically speaking, people do have more confidence performing certain tasks if they believe that their actions have a direct effect on the outcome (even if they don't).

The putter comes with color-coded face inserts: Green is hard, red is medium, and black is soft. Also included is the wrench to switch the inserts and a carrying case for the inserts and extra screws. Each insert comes in two weight options. Lightweight aluminum backplates reduce the standard overall weight of the putter head, while brass backplates increase the static weight by approximately 20-30 grams.

Personal taste dictates one's choice of insert weight and density. The assistant pro felt the black insert was too soft when used with soft-covered balls. One mid-high handicapper liked the softer insert with all kinds of golf balls, especially the softer ones. One golfer who uses every kind of golf ball from Pinnacle to ProV1 figured he'd do best with the middle of the road insert.

This same gentleman was one of two who suggested that they personally would not want to have the added chore of testing the conditions and matching balls to inserts every time out. "I probably wouldn't ever change the insert," he remarked. Several other testers, though, said they like to tinker, and would enjoy doing so.

Performance was good overall. No one noticed any real decrement in accuracy compared to his usual putter. Those who use insert-faced putters fared better with the inserts that matched their own in softness, as would be expected. The rather uniquely bent shaft appealed to most, giving the feel of keeping your hands ahead of the ball.

The Verdict

The STX ProF.I.T. 1 putter found no serious detractors in these test sessions, although the price -- $250 including inserts -- was deemed too high by some participants. Those who felt that they would utilize the face-changing technology, however, did not find the price to be exorbitant.

The solid black finish results in no glare on sunny days, and the quirky-chic head shape and head cover are real attention-getters on the greens. The tacky, extremely soft grip is very comfortable. Some of the paint in the lettering on the head began flaking a bit, which makes absolutely no difference in performance, but for $250....

STX was the first company to introduce face inserts into putters in the early 1980s, and this new replaceable insert takes that technology to a whole new level. Golfers bedeviled by diverse conditions, inconsistent turf from one course to the next, or the eternal feel-vs-distance choice when it comes to golf balls should give the ProF.I.T. a look. And if it makes you feel like you'll putt better, you probably will putt better, at substantially less than $2,000.

More information: stxgolf.com, or phone 800-STX-PUTT

For more information go to touredge.com or phone (800) 515-3343.



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