But sometimes technology, especially in the case of putters, needs to take a backseat to good, old-fashioned feel. That's clearly the mission statement for TaylorMade's new Ghost Black Tour line.
With an emphasis on a more classic look, the line includes four traditional models (two blades and two mallets). All feature a milled lightweight aluminum face insert, which is designed to provide a soft feel at impact. That soft feel actually is a form of game-improvement, according to Clay Long, director of putter product creation. "The insert gives players precise auditory feedback," he says, noting that the aluminum insert produces a wider range of sound across the face to help players have a better sense of whether they've made center contact.
But for the first time in more than a decade, the face insert will not feature grooves. Over the years, TaylorMade's team of engineers produced grooves in various forms of metal or polymer construction in an effort to enhance forward roll, improve putter launch conditions and reduce initial skidding. But on the new Ghost Black Tour models, the 13-gram 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum face insert saves weight over an all-stainless steel cast head. The saved weight is then redistributed to enhance roll. The deep milling pattern on the face and the use of a metal insert over a polymer was inspired by input from tour players, according to Long. "I think sometimes with the polymer insert players were seeing putts take off hotter than they sounded," he said. "The metal gives it a much sharper sound and gives some players a better relationship between the sound they hear and how hard they hit it and how far it's going.
"But there's no doubt in my head that the grooves are producing overspin so don't be surprised if we see that come back one of these days."
Long believes while putters can take a variety of non-traditional shapes, the classic forms always will last. Aesthetics are particularly powerful in putter designs, and he says with modern manufacturing capabilities it's increasingly easier to incorporate the subtle elements of a classic shape at a more affordable price point. That was the intent of the Ghost Black Tour line.
"I've studied those classic designs over the years," said Long, who's been in the equipment design business through most of the last four decades. "You see the way the weight is proportioned, how the pocket in back is not really in the center of the face, how it's a little in the heel side and how the heel and toe weight pads aren't really the same but they sort of look the same, how the toe is a little longer than the heel but they still somehow look balanced to your eye, how all of those subtle aesthetic elements sort of balance together to please your eye.
"Those kinds of things aren't necessarily expensive to do, and they'll probably never show up in a survey about what somebody likes in a putter. But I'll guarantee you people will tend to buy the best looking one, all things being equal. The more it's got those things properly built into it they'll like the look of that one the best even though they won't really know that's what they're looking at."
According to the company, the Ghost Black Tour putters are in play on several worldwide tours already. The four shapes have been played by TaylorMade tour staff players for years. These include the standard heel-toe weighted plumber's neck Daytona, the straight-neck, heel-shafted Indy blade, the half-mallet Maranello and the full traditional mallet Monte Carlo.
All models are available in three standard lengths (33, 34 and 35 inches, $140) with a Golf Pride rubber red cap grip, and an upgraded model ($160) will feature a Super Stroke Mid Slim 2.0 grip.