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Facing Your New Putter Choices

In the competition for your golfing dollar, several putter manufacturers are facing off with new technologies designed to impart “true roll” for optimal accuracy on the green—and much of this competition is being waged right on the putter face itself, where you will find inserts, grooves and other special features that aim to raise your game.

True roll is defined as the ball rolling with perfectly straight topspin off the putter face without skidding, hopping or other unpredictable movements that can wreak havoc on direction and distance control. Actual true roll is a bit of a mythical concept, given the many variables of natural putting surfaces, but the pursuit of what you might call “truer” roll is keeping a lot of putter designers very busy.

If you’re in the market for a new putter, the technological crossfire can be confusing. Following is a breakdown to help you navigate your current choices in putter face technology—and to alert you to some newcomers that will be hitting the market soon.

Face Inserts
A face insert is a separate material that has been inserted into, or on, the putter to create a desired ball-striking effect. In most cases, the insert is a softer material than metal.

The notion of a face insert sounds relatively simple, yet in practice it can be quite complex and multidimensional. For example, Odyssey’s White Hot XG insert technology, found in the popular Odyssey Marxman and other models, features an elastomer core material, a thin outer striking surface and a textured impact zone that the company claims creates “even better forgiveness and truer roll than previous models.”

STX Putters takes the tech talk a step further, referencing scientific concepts such as “dwell time” and “coefficient of friction” to demonstrate how its elastomeric inserts cradle the ball during contact for reduced skidding.

MacGregor’s new Response DCT putter is literally changing the face of insert technology with its “Face-Off” design—the putter comes with two easily interchangeable faces, one made of polymer and the other titanium, to best fit your game or playing conditions.

What next? Keep an eye out for the Dark ACE by Profound Putters, an exciting new European putter that should cross the Atlantic sometime this summer. The Dark ACE features a soft insert behind the face to dampen vibrations while maintaining the pure audio feedback of metal.

Face Groove Technology
Rife Putters, Yes! Golf, TaylorMade and GEL Putters are some of the companies leading the charge with groove technology, through which precisely engineered grooves on the putter face are designed to create a truer, more consistent roll.

According to Yes! Golf, “the key to more accurate putting is to achieve forward rolling motion immediately upon striking the ball.” Yes! Golf’s answer is its C-Groove technology, which features distinctive concentric grooves on the putter face, as seen on Yes! putter models such as the Yes! Callie and Yes! Dianna. According to Yes! Golf: “The patented concentric edges on the C-Groove putter face grip the surface of the ball and apply physical forces which simultaneously lift the ball out of its resting position and impart an over-the-top rolling action.”

The horizontal RollGrooves found on Rife’s putters, such as the Rife Barbados, and the Anti-skid Groove System Insert on TaylorMade’s Rossa putters, such as the Rossa Imola (pictured here), promise a similar effect. A newcomer on this groovy scene is GEL Putters. GEL stands for Groove Equipment Limited, which tells you that this company takes the groove business pretty seriously. Keep an eye out for GEL Putters, as they are poised to make a national rollout soon.

Face Loft (or lack thereof)
Larry Garcia, founder of Q-Roll Golf, believes the answer to true roll is found in loft (or lack thereof), not in inserts or grooves.

Putter loft is the angle of the putter face in relation to the ground, in the same way that a nine iron has a lot of loft and a three iron has less loft. Most putters feature a small degree of loft.

Q-Roll’s putters, however, feature Radius Face Technology, through which the leading edge of the putter face is toward the top of the face, not at the bottom—a sort of anti-loft. Radius Face Technology is designed to “strike the golf ball above its equator, producing immediate topspin and a true, forward role for improved control and accuracy.” Q-Roll is a smaller company with a big idea that is gaining converts by the day.

As you can see, the answer to achieving true roll depends on who’s asking the question. Regardless, you can take comfort in the fact that many great scientific minds are working hard to raise your game, and that somewhere among the above technologies is a putter that just might perfectly fit your stroke and style.

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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