It's pretty cool to be a putter these days. Anything goes when it comes to style, shape and function. Sure, drivers and woods have benefitted most from adjustability/interchangeability lately. But putter customization has picked up a lot of steam this year with new and popular models that promise different methods to help you perfect your stroke.
ODYSSEY FLIP FACE
Model Tested: Flip Face #5 ($320)
Rounded mallet with a single-bend shaft (no hosel) and full-shaft offset
First Impressions: The new Flip Face putters (there are currently three models) look fantastic. The #5 is a smallish mallet design, with the most striking feature (other than the adjustable face–more on that in a moment) being the rectangular cutout behind the face. We assume this does more than allow the face to flip–it pushes the CG back, lending a nice balance and feel to the putterhead. The Flip Face tech enables golfers to literally flip the putterface from the soft White Ice insert to the firmer Metal-X insert. This essentially turns one putter into two. This is done by using a simple wrench tool (which doubles as a divot tool, by the way) and loosening a screw located underneath the toe. The process is an easy one, but here's my only gripe. The screw comes all the way out, and it's black. I dropped it in the grass by the green–not fun. Had it been painted white–it might have been easier to find. Anyway, a small detail.
The top end of the putter has a Lamkin 3GEN grip that feels awesome. It also makes it easier to detect the difference in how the two sides of the putterface feel.
Performance: The first insert I tried was the Metal-X, which is an aluminum insert with oval-shaped dimples that grip the ball and impart a better launch on the golf ball. Upon trial, the insert felt impressively firm, but not so firm that it's uncomfortable. This is probably due to a urethane layer behind the aluminum insert. As it so happened, I tested this putter on some slower greens, so the Metal-X actually helped with my distance control. I felt as though I didn't need to muscle the ball toward the hole, helping to smoothen out my stroke. I for one have favored firm putterfaces for this very reason, and the Metal-X was right up my alley.
With a quick flip of the face, I was onto the White Ice insert–the same one in the popular White Ice series putters. First of all, what a difference! I was skeptical as to whether or not there would be much of a discernable difference in how the two inserts felt, but my skepticism quickly vanished. It really is like having two putters in one. The White Ice insert was softer, produced less putt distance and seemed like a great fit for putting on faster greens. If you're like me and you've had doubts as to how different the inserts feel–trust me, it's night and day.
Summary: Being able to adjust the feel and performance of a putter without affecting its overall look and balance is a genius move by Odyssey. The putter does what it says: It offers two unique feels from one putter. The mechanism is pretty slick too (don't drop the screw!), and I appreciate not having to store inserts away from the putterhead–you simply flip the face over. At $320, it may seem on the expensive side–but know that you really are getting two putters for the price of one here. And if that's what you want, you can't go wrong with the Flip Face.
Model Tested: Nome 405 ($299)
Adjustable-length belly putter (Slight Arc shaft configuration)
First Impressions: If we were to hand out an award for the most beautiful mallet we've seen this year, the Nome is a serious contender. Its luxurious finish; unique, 3D "Optigraphic" alignment aid; and overall shaping represent PING's famous dedication to craftsmanship and quality control. The nano-nickel finish you see in the photo? That's not Photoshop. It really does look silky smooth like that.
The Nome is not PING's most radical design, but it's easily our favorite when it comes to mallets. It just looks so simple and makes aligning your putts a cinch. The Nome 405 comes in three shaft bends to accommodate three types of strokes: Straight, Slight Arc and Strong Arc (I tried the Slight Arc). After ogling at the aesthetics for a bit, I couldn't help divert my eyes to the mechanism located just below the grip. This is where the magic happens. The Nome 405 (405g) has an adjustable shaft, meaning the grip end can slide up and down based on player preference. It telescopically slides up to nine inches, effectively turning the Nome into a long belly or a long regular-length putter. And how it works is even more interesting. Using a screw-like tool, you seemingly tighten the mechanism to loosen the shaft. We have no idea how that works, but leave it to the gearheads at PING to create something innovative. The Winn grip felt great too, complementing the feel of the putterhead perfectly.
Performance: Obviously, the performance begins with finding the right length. PING has a fitting guide (and an instructional video on how to make adjustments, starring our very own Jeff Ritter) on their website. It's really not a very complicated process–it's quite easy. Perhaps the only tricky aspect is making sure the grip is on straight–but again, it's not that hard to do. And by the way, length is generally the most overlooked aspect of putter fitting. With the Nome, there's no way to overlook it.
For me, I tried the Nome at various lengths, and found my sweet spot at a length that was around 41 inches long. That's about six inches longer than most standard putters. It felt as though putts were rolling best and my stroke (which is a slight arc by the way) was optimized at this length. Having the ability to adjust the length was crucial and made me realize I've been using a putter that wasn't the right length for my natural putting tendencies. And while I tried a Slight Arc configuration, I felt as though changing the length also changed my stroke a bit–for the better.
As for actual putts, the Nome's firm face generated what I thought to be a very true and immediate roll. The tungsten weighting is perfectly balanced–and combined with the sightline alignment aid, the Nome made putting a lot more fun. It was also cool to try some new putting styles, as it was a cinch to make adjustments to the length.
Summary: The Nome is truly innovative. And even without the adjustable shaft (there is one, called the Nome 355–see Hunter Mahan for endorsements on this one), it's an all-around awesome performer. The internal weighting and the alignment aid round out one of PING's most sophisticated looks yet. No doubt Karsten Solheim is smiling down on this one.