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Rory McIlroy has made a flurry of late-season equipment changes, including switching the shaft in his driver and putting an old 3-wood into his bag last week at the BMW Championship after he tossed his previous 3-wood into the trees during the last round of the Northern Trust. All that came after McIlroy changed back to an old set of irons a few weeks ago.
And then there’s the putter. McIlroy raised the eyebrows of equipment junkies when he benched his TaylorMade Spider X and put an old Scotty Cameron 009M blade back in play at the Olympics in Toyko. But before the BMW Championship, he returned to a TaylorMade Spider.
“I said to Harry (Diamond, his caddie) after the first round (at the Northern Trust), ‘I’m thinking about going back to the Spider,’ and then I proceeded to gain four strokes on the greens over the next two days with the blade,” McIlroy said last Thursday. “But I think the thing with the blade is, the good days are really good, but the bad days are pretty bad, as well.”
The original Ping Anser was designed in 1966 by Karsten Solheim. (Ping Golf)
The first heel-toe-weighted, blade-style putter to impact golf was the Ping Anser designed by Karsten Solheim in 1966. Solheim sketched out the details of the club on the dust jacket of a record album, and as the story goes, he thought it was the answer to a lot of golfers’ putting problems. His wife, Louise, suggested he name the putter the Answer, but Solheim said the name was too long to stamp on the back bumper of the putter. Louise then suggested dropping the w, making the name Anser. The rest is history, and other manufacturers have copied that club’s characteristics ever since.
However, as popular as heel-toe-weighted blades have been over the past five decades, they typically are not as forgiving as mallets. That’s what McIlroy seems to be coming to grips with.
Rory McIlroy’s putter at the 2021 BMW Championship. (Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports)
“There’s quite a lot of inconsistency in it for me. It’s almost like I need to practice with the blade at home, because you have to get your stroke spot-on to hit good putts with that style of putter,” he said at Caves Valley Golf Club. “But then, when I come out here, I started hitting putts with the Spider again, and it felt so easy. Felt like I couldn’t not start it on line. There’s a lesson in there somewhere about maybe just keeping the blade at home and practicing with it and then coming out here and putting with something that’s got a little more technology in it.”
The winner of the BMW Championship, Patrick Cantlay, used a Scotty Cameron Newport prototype, a heel-toe-weighted blade, for years. At the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, he put a Scotty Cameron Phantom X5 mallet in the bag. Using the Phantom X5, he won at Memorial and again last week at Caves Valley.
Justin Thomas’ Scotty Cameron Futura X5 putter. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
You might also recall that Justin Thomas broke through and won the 2017 PGA Championship shortly after switching from a Scotty Cameron Newport prototype blade to a Scotty Cameron Futura X5 mallet.
From a forgiveness standpoint, mallets usually outshine heel-toe-weighted blades because designers can add more weight to the perimeter and pull it farther back, away from the hitting area. That makes the putter more resistant to twisting on off-center hits, so putts that a player strikes outside the sweetspot not only roll out more, they tend to stay online more too.
Jason Day’s TaylorMade Spider putter (David Dusek/Golfweek)
While scores of great putters use blades – Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Ben Crenshaw and Brad Faxon – the increased acceptance of mallets should be attributed to Jason Day. The Australian became the first to finish a PGA Tour season with a strokes gained putting average over 1.0 when he ended the 2015-16 PGA Tour season with an average of 1.13 using a TaylorMade Itsy Bitsy Spider. The red mallet was compact and ideally balanced for Day’s slightly arched stroke. His success spurred more pros to try mallets and permanently destroyed any stigma that mallets were only for golfers who struggle on the greens.
So could a mallet help your putting? The best way to find out is to work with a good custom fitter and try several models. Here are a few to consider.
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Bettinardi Inovai Rev 7.0 - $400
Bettinardi Inovai Rev 7.0 putter (David Dusek/Golfweek)
The silver-toned front area of each Inovai putter is milled from 303 stainless steel, and the blue back section is made from a much lighter material, 6061 aerospace-grade aluminum. The combination helped Bettinardi shift the center of gravity to enhance performance. The Feel Impact Technology (FIT) grooved face pattern in the hitting area is milled directly into the head. It is designed to give the softest feel possible at impact. More ... (From $400 at bettinardi.com and pgatoursuperstore.com)
Cleveland Frontline 10.5 - $199.99
Cleveland Frontline 10.5 putter (Cleveland Golf)
The Frontline 10.5 has a pair of metal-injection-molded tungsten weights added to the heel and toe areas. Totaling more than 47 grams, they increase the moment of inertia to boost stability and shift the center of gravity forward. According to Cleveland’s research, shifting the center of gravity forward helps golfers hit the ball straighter on mis-hits than when the same amount of weight is added to the back of a putter. More ... (From $179.99 at carlsgolfland.com)
Cobra King Agera - $349
The Cobra King Agera putter (David Dusek/Golfweek)
The Agera has a stainless steel chassis along with a dark nylon piece in the center. The nylon is 3D-printed into a lattice using a process created by HP. The advantage of using 3D printing is it allowed designers to create shapes and structures that could not be produced by forging or milling. The intricate design delivers high strength, but the nylon weighs much less than the steel it replaces. At the same time, it absorbs excessive vibrations to enhance sound and feel while supporting a lightweight aluminum crown. Tungsten weights in the back increase the moment of inertia, while a SIK face insert improves roll. More ... (From $349 at carlsgolfland.com and dickssportinggoods.com)
Odyssey White Hot OG #7 - $219
Odyssey White Hot OG putters (David Dusek/Golfweek)
The White Hot insert was developed from the same urethane material Callaway used in the Rule 35 golf ball. It is firm to the touch, but at impact it behaves like soft material. For many players, it also creates a sound that matches the force applied to putts. Some putter inserts feel exceedingly soft or sound too quiet when players hit putts firmly, leading to distance control problems. The White Hot typically creates a soft sound on short putts and a crisper, higher-toned clicking sound on long putts that are hit harder. More ... (From $219.99 at carlsgolfland.com and dickssportinggoods.com)
Ping 2021 Harwood - $380
Ping Harwood (Ping)
This mallet with a high moment of inertia has a new Pebax elastomer insert with two levels of firmness. Pebax is a polymer that Ping has used in select putters before, such as the Sigma 2 family. It is light, feels soft at impact and does an excellent job of returning energy to the ball. In the 2021 putters, Ping used two Pebax layers, with the outermost layer being soft for better performance on short putts and the back layer being firmer for a more solid feel on long putts. More ... (From $347 at carlsgolfland.com and $349 at dickssportinggoods.com)
PXG 0211 Lightning - $189
PXG 0211 Lightning putter (PXG)
To help players aim their putts more effectively, PXG has developed a system it calls Runway Reticle. Based on an airport runway’s design, the split-arrow design encourages golfers to focus on the ball. Along with the alignment mark on the topline, it creates several lines that help ensure a player sets the club down behind the ball perpendicular to the target line. More ... (From $149 at pxg.com)
Scotty Cameron Phantom X5 - $429
Adjustable weights on the bottom of the Phantom X putters allow the swing weight to be changed easily. (Titleist)
The Phantom X 5 is milled from a piece of 303 stainless steel and has extensions in the heel and toe areas. But instead of keeping the entire head solid, which could make the putter extremely heavy, Cameron replaced a significant portion of the bottom of the head with aluminum, which is a much lighter material, then added a pair of weights in the heel and toe areas. The weights are not designed to be changed by golfers, but fitters can swap out the weights to adjust the club’s swing weight based on its length and a player’s preferences. More ... (From $429 at tgw.com)
TaylorMade TP Collection Bandon - $199
Interchangeable sole weights allow fitters to change the swing weight. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
TP stands for Tour Preferred, and this putter is machine-milled from 303 stainless steel for a soft feel before a high-pressure stream of water is shot over the steel to create the smooth chrome finish. The grooved face insert is designed to encourage the ball to roll instead of skid off the face. More ... (From $199 at carlsgolfland.com and dickssportinggoods.com)