Putters: We speak to Odyssey's head designer Austie RollinsonSeptember 13, 2013 Golf Equipment
We spoke to Odyssey's head designer Austie Rollinson (AR), and the brand's global direction Chris Koske (CK) about everything from putting confidence to the merits of forged versus cast...
What has been Odyssey’s greatest innovation so far?
CK: We judge everything we do on its success in the marketplace, so with that as our barometer, the 2-Ball would have to be the most successful. It represented 50 per cent of the market within its first year at retail and we’ve sold about 5 million of them in the last 10 years.
What made it successful was its innovative alignment system. It was one of the first putters in the market where the bold alignment feature defined and worked well with the shape of the putter.
Initially, it was designed with beginner golfers in mind. It helped these golfers align square to the target line which is essential in making putts. However, tour players around the world immediately saw the advantage to having such a bold and simple alignment feature on a putter and quickly started using it. This usage and validation by the best players in the world attributed to its initial and sustained success for over 10 years.
What makes a good putter?
AR: It needs to inspire confidence. That is the most important quality. We do this by ensuring that the shape is the head is pleasing to the eye down to the smallest detail. The shape needs to be balanced so that it is easy for the golfer to align the shape to the target.
The putter needs to have loft to ensure that the ball is launched enough to get on top of the grass with a minimum amount of bounce. The putter must also feel great to the golfer. Feel means different things to different golfers. Basically, it is what the golfer can hear, see, and feel with his hands. When we design putters we pay very close attention to the sound the impact with the golf ball makes as this helps the golfer judge distance.
We also work very hard to select the right face materials to ensure good ball speed off the face. Lastly, we design the club as a system playing close attention to the grip material and size, the balance of the whole club, and the overall weight of the club. Insert applicable?
Are you for or against putter face inserts?
AR: I am for inserts. We design our inserts to be very lightweight. Whether it is using urethanes or a combination of aluminum and urethane like on our Metal-X putters we strive to remove as much weight from the face in order to reposition it low and deep in the putter head to increase forgiveness and improve roll.
Inserts are also great tools for us to change the sound and feel of impact. We can change the hardness and stiffness of the face material in order to tune both the sound at impact and the ball speed off the face. It is more difficult to do that with an all metal putter.
CNC milling a putter is an expensive way to make a putter. We like to forge our blanks because it reduces the amount of wasted during the process.
Do you think that golfers should be fitted for their putters?
AR: I believe it is always a good idea to get fitted for any golf club. It can help you determine the right length and lie to fit your stance. Fitters can also help you evaluate your stroke in order to give recommendations on which putter style best fits it. However, in the end you need to be comfortable with the look and feel. No matter what the fitter says always trust your feelings on whether you can make putts with the new putter. Confidence goes a long way in making three-footers.
Design of the Tank: How Odyssey’s new heavyweight putter was born
AR: The genesis of the idea came from the Japan LPGA tour. The Odyssey Team there started getting requests from players to make shorter and heavier putters using Belly heads (400g) with a heavy putter shaft (150g) and an oversized grip (110g). They really found that this design helped smooth out their strokes and made them putt more consistently.
The Tank uses inertia to stabilise the putter during the stroke instead of anchoring. To do this we increased the weights of all the components to increase the total club inertia as much as 109 per cent over a conventional length putter. We use a counter-balance weight under the grip to increase the inertia and move the centre of gravity of the entire club to a position that is more in-line with a conventional length putter.
Cast or forged? Which method is best for making putters?
AR: We do both. All of our machined putters are forged and CNC milled. CNC milling a putter is an expensive way to make a putter. We like to forge our blanks because it reduces the amount of wasted during the process. This makes the milling time faster. The forging process does help to retain the nice uniform grain structure of the metal. This will help to ensure the sound of the each head is very consistent. When you are making a non-inserted and machined putter it is a great way to start.
Casting is a fantastic way to mass produce a product because you can make a lot of parts very fast. However, during the casting process the grain structure of the metal is very different and more random than in a forged part. That is why we put inserts in our cast putters. The insert help to tune the sound of impact so that we get a very consistent and pleasing sound and feel from our cast putters.