When putter companies say that their latest models were produced with guiding input from top tour professionals, one might suspect that it’s all just a bunch of marketing hype.
Today, as part of our continuing coverage from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, we report from inside the TaylorMade tour van, where we discover that the “tour-tested” mantra is more than mere hype, but rather a serious part of the tour crew’s job.
For example, take the Corza Ghost, the first of what would become numerous Ghost putters. According to TaylorMade’s putter guru Shawn Mullin (pictured below), it took a year of testing and tweaking to finalize the shape. The tour crew “shortened it, rounded it and shrunk it,” making a nip here and a tuck there as the professionals weighed in on what they liked, and what they didn’t.
And even when a golf putter is finished for the retail market, the tweaking continues. TaylorMade’s latest Ghost model is the Manta, and the tour crew has already produced two versions with smaller heads by request of tour professionals.
That should be good enough, right? Nope. Mullin reaches into a drawer and removes some bubble wrap to reveal a wax mold of a fourth size they plan to prototype (see the black mold in the accompanying photo). According to Mullin, some pros, like Peter Hanson, actually roll and control the ball better with less MOI in a smaller head shape. Other pros simply prefer the look of a smaller head. Will any of these smaller sizes reach the retail market down the line? It’s impossible to say. But if they do, you’ll know where it started.
Mullin said that this is the same continual testing process that yielded the TaylorMade Itsy Bitsy Spider, the diminutive version of the original Spider. While simply shrinking a putter down may not sound like rocket science, it requires a considerable work to get it just right, from both a performance and aesthetic standpoint.
“It’s simply a part of our tradition of getting feedback from the best players,” Mullin says. “It’s like NASCAR—let the best in the world test it first. I’ve been working with these players for years, and they give me honest feedback. They don’t gloss things over. They point us in the right direction, and then we relay that information to our engineers.”
Mullin says that the Ghost Manta putter is off to a strong start on tour, even though the season is only a month old. “It’s starting off stronger than the original Spider in terms of early interest and usage,” he says. “I think it’s going to be big.”
TaylorMade’s Shawn Mullin holds down the TaylorMade tour fort: