Equipment

The softest blade and mallet putters, according to players of all skill levels

February 29, 2024
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When judging putters for the Golf Digest Hot List, one of the key criteria is feel. That makes sense for a club you use approximately 30 times per round and in a manner where the feel resonates in your hands. That rating, however, is simply a measure of whether our player testers think it is a good feel, poor feel or somewhere in between. While valuable for a ranking of equipment, it’s not all that helpful for the consumer as everybody’s definition of a pleasing feel is different. Some might be drawn to the firm-ish click of a fully milled steel face while others might lean towards putters with polymer inserts that provide a cushiony sensation at impact.

That’s why for the first time in the history of the Hot List, we took things a step further, asking our panelists for a soft-to-firm rating as well. Here we give you the putters that ranked the highest on the soft side of things, for both mallets and blades, as broken out by each of our three handicap groups: Low, mid and high. Here’s hoping that extra bit of wisdom can make the decision on the next putter you purchase a tad bit easier. —E. Michael Johnson

Mallet Putters

Low-handicap

L.A.B. Golf DF3
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

The musical “Shrek” reminds us that we need to raise our freak flag high because, to paraphrase, weird for a purpose works. L.A.B. Golf’s putters are a good example in golf. Their distinctive looks belie a foundational idea that is irrefutable: If a putter’s weighting keeps it square to its lie angle (like this one does with its sole-weighted aluminum body), it’s going to square up. The company’s original Directed Force putter reveled in that idea, and this third generation continues in the same freakish but sleeker shape.

Odyssey Ai-One Milled
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

To design its putter face Odyssey’s engineers looked to titanium for its light weight, strength and flexibility. They needed the face’s intricately varied indentations—designed through a range of artificial-intelligence simulations—to respond to every impact like a high-performance race car moving across an undulating road. These titanium faces have “micro-deflections” to direct energy to the ball for consistent distances.

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TaylorMade Spider Tour
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

TaylorMade returns to the core shape of its Spider from five years ago, one of the most successful versions of the mallet brand that has become an icon. What’s intriguing is from that base model, the company is launching a collection of five versions that share the same concepts of high stability with clear alignment and a face with grooves to enhance initial roll. Helped by research in recent years that shows how different players respond to center-of-gravity depth, each model pushes weight selectively back or forward.

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Cobra Vintage
$250 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$250

The mission of a mallet is to minimize off-center strikes, but that fixes only part of the problem. These putters use a face design that staggers loft from top to bottom, 1 degree on the bottom of the face increasing by 1 degree three times to 4 degrees at the top of the face. In that way, when we mis-hit our putts high or low on the face, the ball still launches at the same angle, reducing skid and producing better roll.

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LA Golf Malibu
$600 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$600

Moment of inertia sounds wonky, but it’s simple: “Replace heavy with light wherever you can. Then redistribute heavy to make the head deliver consistent speed for every impact.” LA Golf’s mallets get rid of “heavy” in the body, replacing it entirely with “light” (carbon composite, which is five times less dense than steel). This frees up room to redistribute “heavy” (super dense tungsten) at the tips of this pronged mallet. The result is ultra-high MOI, or stability on off-center hits so that your worst hits still roll close to your best hits.

Mid-handicap

Bettinardi Inovai
$400 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$400

Designers of mallet putters can be guilty of over-engineering everything—from moment of inertia to center of gravity—and forget about how the face feels at impact. That’s why the Bettinardi team uses the tour-preferred 303 stainless steel from its blade putters in a single piece at the front of these four large mallets. A back piece of softer aluminum provides the stability and alignment features mallet users demand.

L.A.B. Golf DF3
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

The musical “Shrek” reminds us that we need to raise our freak flag high because, to paraphrase, weird for a purpose works. L.A.B. Golf’s putters are a good example in golf. Their distinctive looks belie a foundational idea that is irrefutable: If a putter’s weighting keeps it square to its lie angle (like this one does with its sole-weighted aluminum body), it’s going to square up. The company’s original Directed Force putter reveled in that idea, and this third generation continues in the same freakish but sleeker shape.

Odyssey Ai-One Milled
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

To design its putter face Odyssey’s engineers looked to titanium for its light weight, strength and flexibility. They needed the face’s intricately varied indentations—designed through a range of artificial-intelligence simulations—to respond to every impact like a high-performance race car moving across an undulating road. These titanium faces have “micro-deflections” to direct energy to the ball for consistent distances.

More on this club

TaylorMade Spider Tour
$350 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$350

TaylorMade returns to the core shape of its Spider from five years ago, one of the most successful versions of the mallet brand that has become an icon. What’s intriguing is from that base model, the company is launching a collection of five versions that share the same concepts of high stability with clear alignment and a face with grooves to enhance initial roll. Helped by research in recent years that shows how different players respond to center-of-gravity depth, each model pushes weight selectively back or forward.

More on this club

Cleveland HB Soft 2
$150 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$150

Don’t let the simple-looking designs fool you. Each putter’s perimeter weighting, hosel style and grip are distinct enough to resonate with different strokes, and custom counterbalanced weights provide a deeper fit. These “simple” putters technologically upstage almost all putters by using an array of face-milling patterns. Rather than one pattern for the whole line, each model has a milling density to perfectly combine with the head’s built-in forgiveness. These sleek, techy putters do all of this for a third of the price of some other brands.

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High-handicap

Bettinardi BB Series
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

The appeal of Bettinardi’s putter shaping is that the designs look like something from a simpler era. The company’s milling process, however, is built on a seamless blending of old-world vision and modern-day precision. The face’s flymill pattern creates a uniform feel, sound and control from heel to toe. The subtle sloping of the shoulders in the back flange frames a ball-width cavity and centers the putterhead’s mass to stabilize aim and stroke.

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L.A.B. Golf DF3
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

The musical “Shrek” reminds us that we need to raise our freak flag high because, to paraphrase, weird for a purpose works. L.A.B. Golf’s putters are a good example in golf. Their distinctive looks belie a foundational idea that is irrefutable: If a putter’s weighting keeps it square to its lie angle (like this one does with its sole-weighted aluminum body), it’s going to square up. The company’s original Directed Force putter reveled in that idea, and this third generation continues in the same freakish but sleeker shape.

Odyssey Ai-One
$300 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$300

Most of us think of the putter face as a study in feel, but the engineers at Odyssey thought, Why can’t we get the face to be active and flexing on putts, too? The key was using artificial intelligence to produce the strangely bumpy back of the face. This insert uses “micro-deflections” to help mis-hits roll nearly as well as center strikes. When it comes to feel, is there anything better than fewer three putts?

More on this club

Odyssey Ai-One Milled
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

To design its putter face Odyssey’s engineers looked to titanium for its light weight, strength and flexibility. They needed the face’s intricately varied indentations—designed through a range of artificial-intelligence simulations—to respond to every impact like a high-performance race car moving across an undulating road. These titanium faces have “micro-deflections” to direct energy to the ball for consistent distances.

More on this club

Titleist Scotty Cameron Phantom
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

Scotty Cameron putters make for an artistic and immensely practical tool. With his milled mallet line, Cameron wants us to see where we’re going through subtle aim and alignment clues. Notice how the angles and edges often point down the target line or how the shaft bends aim down the line, too. An array of dots, lines or arrows focus your eye line.

Blade Putters

Low-handicap

Odyssey Ai-One
$300 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$300

Blade putters that stretch the boundaries of off-center-hit forgiveness to mallet-like levels seem more prevalent these days than pickleball injuries. Rather than dull the center, though, Odyssey’s team found a method to keep the center speed and raise it for mis-hits. Although that probably sounds like alchemy, for Odyssey it’s all about machine learning and artificial intelligence. The odd topology on the back of these faces creates “microdeflections” for consistent rollout. The urethane face coating makes all that technology feel like the company’s most favored White Hot insert.

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PXG Battle Ready II
$390 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$390

For all the bodacious TV ads, you might forget that PXG is dead serious about one of the less sexy aspects of the business. Fitting is central to PXG’s philosophy, and that’s especially true for putters. These blades, which feature super-thin faces supported by a feel- and forgiveness-enhancing polymer fill, come with an array of hosel options ranging from heel-shafted to armlock. The heel and toe weight ports on the sole can further customize the look you want fit to the stroke you have.

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Cleveland HB Soft 2
$150 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$150

Given the technological efforts in its design and manufacture, this putter sports a price that seems like a misprint. These bargain blades stoutly cater to two stroke types, use different grips to accommodate those strokes and produce the same manufacturing tolerances as a $300 putter. Most importantly, the complex milling pattern on the face with its varying density specific to each model normalizes ball speed on mis-hits.

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Cleveland HB Soft Milled
$200/$250 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$200/$250

Milling a putter serves a purpose. Although generally expensive, perfectly cutting the metal from a solid block of steel (as opposed to poring a liquefied metal into a mold) results in a consistent-feeling putter. Cleveland’s R&D team sought a more affordable approach, only milling the critical parts of a cast putter blank. The milling creates the face’s varying surface-texture densities for consistent ball speed and eliminates porosity in the raw cast head for better feel.

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Cobra Vintage
$250 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$250

Putters usually don’t come up in the rollback discussion, but the insert used in these relatively traditional-shaped blades might raise an eyebrow. Light, soft and flexible Pebax is a “block copolymer” that has been referred to as “technological doping.” This has to do with its use in running shoes and its ability to be soft and resilient in terms of energy return. That’s a good thing for a putter seeking consistent roll out on mis-hits. Of course, it also helps that the insert varies loft from top to bottom for a skid-free consistent launch.

More on this club

Mid-handicap

Bettinardi BB Series
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

A certain juice company touts its beverages as “100 percent un-fooled around with.” In golf, that company could be called Simply Bettinardi. These unfooled-around with designs eschew face inserts and screw weights and are milled from a block of 303 stainless steel. The pocket cavity and flange shift the center of gravity in line with the center of the face for crisper contact. A uniform “flymilling” pattern on the face stretches from heel to toe for consistent sound, feel and energy transfer.

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Meridian Milled Stainless
$250 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$250

Golf seems smitten with milled putters as if they were some kind of farm-to-table quiche pan. Meridian takes your artisanal-cheese swooning and makes its finished tool more practical and technologically efficient. Rather than milling putters one at a time, a special process might cut a dozen or more blades out of that single block at once. Those blanks are then finished with another precise milling process that includes three face patterns for three different feels. All that mass customization takes these delightfully authentic blades to a place rarely seen in golf today: affordability.

Odyssey Ai-One
$300 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$300

Blade putters that stretch the boundaries of off-center-hit forgiveness to mallet-like levels seem more prevalent these days than pickleball injuries. Rather than dull the center, though, Odyssey’s team found a method to keep the center speed and raise it for mis-hits. Although that probably sounds like alchemy, for Odyssey it’s all about machine learning and artificial intelligence. The odd topology on the back of these faces creates “microdeflections” for consistent rollout. The urethane face coating makes all that technology feel like the company’s most favored White Hot insert.

More on this club

Odyssey Ai-One Milled
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

A titanium face on a putter would seem to make as much sense as a 6.2 liter V8 Hemi in a Dodge Caravan. Titanium is what makes driver faces hot, and a hot putter face seems like a recipe for binge drinking, but think again. Titanium is thin, light and strong—the kind of alloy that has great flexure properties. Flexing matters when you’re trying to create a putter face that intricately responds to the slightest variations in thickness, all created through artificial-intelligence simulations. Those thicknesses yield similar roll across the face.

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Piretti Premier
$450 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$450

Sometimes sexy is smart, like, say George Clooney. Sometimes smart is sexy, like, say, Amal Clooney. In putters, Piretti designs might be both smart and sexy. Milled from 303 stainless steel and thankfully unbedazzled, every curve, angle and mill mark seems fully considered thanks to tour-player input. The heavier stock head weight smooths out the stroke, and the slightly lower lofts work well on today’s faster greens. That’s just smart, but none of that gets in the way of how these heads look, like when Amal and George address the U.N.

High-handicap

Bettinardi BB Series
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

A certain juice company touts its beverages as “100 percent un-fooled around with.” In golf, that company could be called Simply Bettinardi. These unfooled-around with designs eschew face inserts and screw weights and are milled from a block of 303 stainless steel. The pocket cavity and flange shift the center of gravity in line with the center of the face for crisper contact. A uniform “flymilling” pattern on the face stretches from heel to toe for consistent sound, feel and energy transfer.

More on this club

SeeMore Mini Giant Curve Back
$400 | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$400

Like an EV or solar power or a flexitarian diet, SeeMore’s putters keep reminding us they really are a better idea. Around for a quarter-century, SeeMore did not invent alignment technology in putters, but it remains its most ardent adherent. If putting is a search for consistent results, it starts with a certain consistency in method. SeeMore’s hide-the-dot system breeds such consistency, leading to more reliable aim and a repeatable stroke. Copper weights in the sole, heel and toe add stability to the milled-aluminum body.

Titleist Scotty Cameron Super Select
$450 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$450

Someday we want someone to talk about us the way Scotty Cameron talks about his putters. His tone about these blades seems to emanate from a cathedral, and why not? Their dominance in the milled-blade marketplace isn’t an accident. Cameron and his team comb over every detail and resource to improve these designs without changing them. Subtle tweaks like milling out sections of the plumber’s neck and the iconic “cherry dots” redistribute mass to heel and toe sole weights. Cameron says that makes his blades “as forgiving as a large mallet.” Sweet talker.

Cleveland HB Soft 2
$150 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$150

Given the technological efforts in its design and manufacture, this putter sports a price that seems like a misprint. These bargain blades stoutly cater to two stroke types, use different grips to accommodate those strokes and produce the same manufacturing tolerances as a $300 putter. Most importantly, the complex milling pattern on the face with its varying density specific to each model normalizes ball speed on mis-hits.

More on this club

Cobra Vintage
$250 | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$250

Putters usually don’t come up in the rollback discussion, but the insert used in these relatively traditional-shaped blades might raise an eyebrow. Light, soft and flexible Pebax is a “block copolymer” that has been referred to as “technological doping.” This has to do with its use in running shoes and its ability to be soft and resilient in terms of energy return. That’s a good thing for a putter seeking consistent roll out on mis-hits. Of course, it also helps that the insert varies loft from top to bottom for a skid-free consistent launch.

More on this club