STREET PRICE: $130WEBSITE: macgregorgolf.comTECH TALK: The cast, 17-4 stainless-steel head features "distance control technology," which is a polybutadiene insert with a blend of five responsiveness zones. The farther a strike occurs from the center of the face, the livelier that portion of the insert will be. The purpose of this design is to get mis-hits to roll out the same distance as center strikes.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Looks cheap but doesn't play like it. Deadly accurate." ... (M) "Has a cushy impact." ... (L) "I'm not a soft-face guy, but I like this. The roll is fabulous." ... (L) "I love the diamond as an alignment aid. Original." ... (T) "No hops, baby. Love that true roll."HOT: Enlivening the outskirts of the face is one of the most inventive putter technologies to emerge in recent years. Usually there's a premium to be paid for such innovation, but this is a great value.NOT: The ultra-soft face doesn't let you know if you've mis-hit it. Some golfers will want more feedback.
ODYSSEY WHITE HOT XG 330
STREET PRICE: $120WEBSITE: odysseygolf.comTECH TALK: The design is based on Odyssey's popular 330 Dual Force model from 1998. This revamped version has the "hi-def alignment system" of two white bars bordered with three thin black lines on the flange and the soft, textured two-piece face insert shared by all XG models. The hosel is a traditional plumber's neck.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Sets up perfectly square without manipulation. It's just ready to go and has predictable distance control." ... (M) "It's a very good-looking, effective alignment system." ... (L) "This is the first mid-mallet that has truly fit my eye. I've been waiting for this." ... (T) "The insert gives great feedback and good roll."HOT: Achieves the perfect middle ground that defines this category. After a while the slender body starts to feel and look like a blade, but the forgiveness never leaves.NOT: A lot of alignment features are crammed into a small space, which will be a deterrent to some players.
TITLEIST CAMERON FASTBACK
STREET PRICE: $300WEBSITE: titleist.comTECH TALK: Like the Titleist Newport blade line, the Fastback (shown) and Switchback models are milled from forged 303 stainless steel, and each features a topline that curves slightly upward from heel to toe. The idea is to discourage the user from lifting the toe and inadvertently aiming left. The Fastback has a rounded flange, and the Squareback's is square. Both models are near face-balanced and have double-bend shafts with a half-shaft's width of offset.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "[Designer] Scotty Cameron knows what he's doing." ... (T) "The face has that Cameron 'click.' "... (L) "You get the stability of a big mallet in a compact package, which is awesome." ... (T) "I find the short heel-toe length refreshing."HOT: You can expect to see a lot of these in play on professional tours next year. Money players rely on Cameron, and so can you.NOT: What was the rationale behind having a lefty version for the Squareback, but not the Fastback?
CLEVELAND CLASSIC #2
STREET PRICE: $70WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comTECH TALK: First, the heel-shafted head is cast from 17-4 stainless steel, and then the face is computer-milled. The gooseneck hosel flows forward to provide a full shaft's width of offset. For alignment, a white line extends to the back of the rounded flange and is framed by a shallow rectangular cavity. The hand-polished satin finish is designed to be durable and reduce glare.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "There's something very familiar about this. It's comfortable and has a squeaky clean look." ... (L) "I liked that I didn't have to jiggle it. It just sat there on the ground on its own." ... (M) "Back to basics. Had good control of the stroke." ... (M) "This thing's not entirely milled? You're kidding."HOT: Just about any putter for $70 is a steal, let alone one that still has the shrinkwrap on it and performs as well as this one. They've taken a classic design and manufactured it efficiently.NOT: Fitting is limited to three lengths, and the weight might be too light for some.
PING IWI 1/2 CRAZ-E
STREET PRICE: $170WEBSITE: pinggolf.comTECH TALK: This center-shafted version has the same construction as the blade and mallet models: a 17-4 stainless-steel body and a machined 304 stainless-steel insert with an elastomer back for feel. It comes face-balanced with two 12-gram weights, but total weight and toe hang can be customized nine ways with a kit of 20- and 28-gram tungsten weights for the heel and toe.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Easy to align. Plus, distance control is easier with this versus the full mallet." ... (L) "I felt like I was putting with a blade, but it still offered the forgiveness of a mallet." ... (T) "The center of the face feels harder than it should." ... (T) "It has enough weight where it'll swing itself, which is uncharacteristic of a putter this small."HOT: If you've never liked center-shafted putters, this might change your mind.NOT: We said it once; we'll say it again: Dinging us an extra $70 for the weight kit just ain't right. Some putters sell for that amount.
STREET PRICE: $180WEBSITE: rifeputters.comTECH TALK: This computer-milled 304 stainless-steel head is reminiscent of the flange-blade styles of the middle 20th century. The T-shape alignment aid is formed by the intersection of two white lines. A small notch on the topline allows you to check if your eye and hand positions are correct. Like every model in the company's line, the face has horizontal grooves designed to grip the cover of the ball at impact, lift it out of its depression and impart forward roll.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "It has a true roll, and it sure seems like these grooves really do what they're supposed to."... (T) "The solid weight tunes your tempo." ... (T) "The notch might not be so great for players who hang their hands low."HOT: The lines of the square toe and square heel want to flow straight back, but the gooseneck hosel and rounded flange keep the overall look soft.NOT: Two degrees of loft as standard isn't enough for even mildly shaggy greens.
SEEMORE FGP2 STAINLESS
STREET PRICE: $185WEBSITE: seemore.comTECH TALK: The distinctive asset of this milled 303 stainless-steel head is the company's "rifle-scope" technology. The bottom portion of the shaft is painted black to conceal a red dot located between two white aiming lines on the heel. Seeing the dot indicates that the setup is incorrect or the head is not releasing properly during the stroke. A new option is the "whistle" offset shaft that permits golfers with forward presses to utilize the red-dot system.PLAYER COMMENTS: (M) "Their technology works for me." ... (M) "Unless you're custom-fit, I think the alignment system could be a distraction." ... (T) "Might be one of the ugliest putters out here, but the roll was excellent." ... (T) "It's simply a great-rolling putter."HOT: The new whistle offset shaft cleverly addresses (pun intended) what used to be a problem: The Zach Johnson "hands-back" style was a prerequisite. It no longer is.NOT: The nickel-satin finish reduces glare, but looks an awful lot like Civil War gray.
STREET PRICE: $120WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comTECH TALK: The 304 stainless-steel head has a plumber's-neck hosel and an aiming line framed by a slight cavity in the flange. The Anti-skid Groove System Insert, common to all putters in the basic Rossa line, has 14 polymer-filled grooves designed to grab the cover of the ball at impact and impart forward spin. Light materials, such as aluminum, are used for the insert, and the saved weight is redistributed throughout the head to increase MOI.PLAYER COMMENTS: (T) "I like the soft edging around the perimeter. Not so robotic-looking." ... (L) "Great touch on downhillers. The ball comes off the face real nice." ... (T) "Seems like the perfect size for this category. It's easy to see the line with this offset hosel." ... (M) "Sweet feeling."HOT: The Tuscan nickel finish over the softly milled curves produces an artful mix of shade and reflection.NOT: No versions for southpaws is unfair to 10 percent of the golfing population.