STREET PRICE: $150WEBSITE: odysseygolf.comTECH TALK: The elastomer-core face insert addresses feel and stability. Its surface is infused with urethane to augment sound, and the weighting scheme of the insert has been shifted toward the perimeter to increase moment of inertia (MOI). The rationale behind using a 355-gram head for 33- and 34-inch shafts and a 340-gram head for 35-inch shafts is to keep the torsional balance--or how heavy the putter feels in a player's hands--constant.PLAYER COMMENTS: (T) "This insert could make a Pinnacle feel soft." ... (L) "Roll was end over end, and this alignment line seemed really simple yet effective." ... (T) "I could putt with my eyes closed, and I would still know this putter was for me. Something about its weighting just felt so right."HOT: The burnt tour finish provides a regal appearance and won't reflect glare even in the brightest sunlight.NOT: Some panelists complained of distance-control issues with the soft insert.
PING I-SERIES ANSER
STREET PRICE: $120WEBSITE: pinggolf.comTECH TALK: The heel-toe-balanced, 17-4 stainless-steel body is investment cast and then heat-treated. The machined face has an insert that combines a thick, urethane piece with a softer central layer. The taper-tip shaft is stepless, and the grip is Winn AVS. The company's online Web-Fit program calculates the proper length, lie and grip size based on static measurements provided by the consumer.PLAYER COMMENTS: (T) "I was very impressed with the feedback on off-center hits. It lets you make stroke corrections quickly." ... (M) "If you like the Anser style, you'll love this." ... (L) "I actually liked this insert, and I'm not a guy who normally likes inserts."HOT: An example of product evolution that would make Darwin proud. The company that invented the Anser has made it better. The insert is a sign that the metallic sound that gave Ping its name has been bred out.NOT: It would've been nice to have heavier head-weights for the shorter shafts.
PING IWI ANSER
STREET PRICE: $170WEBSITE: pinggolf.comTECH TALK: The 17-4 stainless-steel body features a two-piece face insert (machined 304 stainless steel encased in elastomer) and housings for adjustable weights in the heel and toe. It comes standard with two 12-gram weights, but an optional wrench kit with 20- and 28-gram weights permits nine custom options. In addition to total weight, by altering the putter's toe-hang balance, one can influence how it might rotate open and closed for a particular stroke.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "A classic with just the right amount of technological tweaks." ... (L) "I'm a tinkerer, so I love the ability to change the weights." ... (L) "I like the softness. Sounds and feels like a putter should."HOT: Packs about as much innovation as is possible within the confines of a blade head, yet it's deftly hidden where you can't see it: right in the sole.NOT: Charging an extra $70 for the weight kit. Automatic access to what makes a product unique should be part of the deal.
STREET PRICE: $120WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comTECH TALK: The 304 stainless-steel construction is finished in Tuscan nickel. This model employs the company's AGSI+ (Anti-skid Groove System Insert) technology, designed to minimize backspin at impact to reduce initial skidding. The 14 computer-milled, polymer-filled grooves are designed to grab the cover of the ball, increasing face friction and imparting forward spin. Lighter material choices for the insert enable saved weight to be distributed lower to improve CG and roll.PLAYER COMMENTS: (L) "Insert feels soft yet there's some authority to it. It really put a good roll on the ball for me." ... (L) "Wow! I dig the jazz of the matte-red and matte-black colors. Plus, it lined up perfectly." ... (T) "Ball came off the face slow and soft." ... (M) "Even my bad putts felt pretty good."Hot: The face insert feels so uniform you'll never know if you've mis-hit it. NOT: The face insert feels so uniform you'll never know if you've mis-hit it.
HEAVY PUTTER K4
STREET PRICE: $170WEBSITE: heavyputter.comTECH TALK: At 750 grams, this toe-droop design is about 50 percent heavier than a conventional blade. However, because this is the introductory piece of the company's Mid-Weight series, it has been scaled back from the usual model weight of 850 grams. The idea behind a weighty putter is to engage the larger muscles in the body to create a better pendulum stroke.PLAYER COMMENTS: (L) "Releases automatically. The block to the right is no more."... (T) "Great on short putts, but distance control could be an issue on long ones." ... (M) "Much sleeker than the company's past models. A little bit of a hollow feel, but I like the simplicity of its alignment."HOT: Keeps your stroke smooth even after the second cup of coffee. The thin topline and slightly reduced weight will make the company's concept more palatable to a wider pool of golfers.NOT: A beefier shaft might eliminate the faint wobbly feel.
PING KARSTEN SERIES ANSER
STREET PRICE: $90WEBSITE: pinggolf.comTECH TALK: The tungsten-polymer inserts in the sole serve two purposes: They increase the club's MOI by 25 percent over the original 3DX Ironwood, making the club more stable through the swing, and the polymer backing helps dampen vibration. Six lofts will fill every possible gap you might have in your bag.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Goes right where you're aiming, good swing or bad. Easy to hit." ... (M) "Destined to be a classic. It might not be as forgiving, but when you hit the ball, it goes." ... (M) "The weight and balance made it very easy to swing. Good distance and a nice sound." ... (L) "I think I'm going to hit this well just by looking at it."HOT: Nickent's reputation was built on this kind of quality. Golfers get tour-proven performance for $100.NOT: Off-center hits feel worse than on others.
SNAKE EYES TOUR PLATINUM
STREET PRICE: $180WEBSITE: golfsmith.comTECH TALK: The face of the 304 stainless-steel head features what the company calls ARC (Advanced Roll Control), which is a pattern of semicircular scales milled at an upward angle of 44 degrees. The width of each scale is 0.4 centimeters and is designed to consistently enter the space of a traditional 0.5-centimeter-wide dimple to grip the ball's cover. The design objective is less skidding with quicker forward roll.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Just an incredibly solid look at address and well-balanced." ... (L) "I like the gunmetal finish. Whatever's going on with the face sure gave it a nice feel." ... (L) "The way the hosel flows straight into the head is an example of great design."HOT: The Tour Platinum series is available in four body styles with three neck designs, so even the pickiest players should find something that fits the eye.NOT: If you like a strong alignment feature, the single gray line doesn't provide much contrast against the rest of the head.