Not too many years ago, Odyssey Golf engineered one of the largest putter releases of all times. I am referring specifically to their 2013 launch of the Versa line of putters which featured bold black and white paint jobs (insomuch as black and white can be bold). That line had a lot of putter models, just under six-thousand different ones if I recall correctly.
Every Versa head came in both black-white-black, and white-black-white color configurations. A few of the models also came in a 90° paint scheme variations. It wasn't six thousand putters, but it was at least fourteen putters, and that's no small number of SKUs, even from the world's leading putter maker.
Odyssey has decided that 2018 is going to be the "Fourteen putters? Hold my beer..." year for them. This time around, there will be thirty-two putters in their primary line, and that doesn't include the new Toulon Design and Special Edition putters. I am Jack's overwhelming putter options.
Having visited Odyssey HQ last week, I'll tell you that there is a method to the madness of this mass release. The odds are that shop owners worldwide are taking out second mortgages to cover the costs of expanding their putter corrals.
It's either a stroke of genius on Odyssey's part, or they have just lost cabin pressure.
The vast majority of the thirty-two putter barrage will be somewhat familiar as they are largely extensions of Odyssey's 2017 O-Works Red and Black putter line.
Last July, Odyssey unveiled red versions of their popular O-Works line of putters. That mid-year release retained the O-Works microhinge insert while expanding the O-Works model line into the realm of red.
Whether you believe that they did so because of tour player pressure, or instead as a direct response to TaylorMade’s success with their red spider, it’s tough to deny that the red Odyssey putters added some new gear excitement to a month typically devoid of much in the way of new equipment.
Even cooler than the run of red was the release of the iconic Odyssey #7 with a slant neck. That little slant neck motivated no small number of blade putter players to experiment with the “Now With Toe Hang” #7s mallet. Based on my own experiences, I found the #7s a far more comfortable swinging companion than any previous #7 - that little bit of hang allowing the mallet to mesh with my more blade-appropriate stroke.
The red #7 was a solid midsummer's dream.
That’s the nuts of what Odyssey is doing in terms of red and black this year: They are giving you MOAR! Last summer, While there were nine total putters in the red and black release, only three of those were red. I’m cool if you technically want to drop that number to two, since two of the three putters were #7 heads.
Now, the greens will be run with red!
Will your local shop have all of the heads there waiting for you to try out? Probably not, but Odyssey’s online store is reasonably user-friendly with respect to customization and ordering.
Be sure to take a close look at the models when you demo. Beyond the color differences, there are other more subtle points of differentiation. The Jailbird mini, for example, looks quite a bit different at address in the black and red configurations. The body lines are paintfilled with black in the Branden Grace-approved red, giving it a more Versa-feel than the black version, where the lines alignment scheme is black on black.
I’m sure that you’ll find additional examples of these subtle differences when you put the heads side by side in your shop. Were I to editorialize, I'd say that you'll likely find the red finish to be a bit richer than what you'll see from other red putter makers. These putters weren’t blasted with rattle cans of Krylon red or black and left to drip-dry.
Unlike last summer's release where the pairings of head an color were somewhat restricted, with this new release, all heads are available in both colors. Pick the head you like, and the color that you like will be there. Odyssey won’t even mind a tiny bit if you eschew the flashy red for the more traditional black. I was in the anti-red camp initially, but I’ve definitely warmed to the color. It’s a rich red color that seems to change with the available light.
As far as choices go, how many heads would you like to choose from? How about twenty-four heads? That’s right, you have twelve different heads in red, and another twelve in black.
My apologies to the shop owners who must keep track of all of these new putter SKUs. I am Jack's Odyssey dominated putter corral.
We are not quite finished with the model count just yet. Remember, the target number here is thirty-two.
Last summer you got to choose between the #7 head, and, well, the #7 head if you wanted to try a mallet with a slant neck. Now, every single mallet has a slant neck option. Does that mean that you can roll a slant neck 2-Ball Fang? You can indeed, and you are right to be excited about that putter. I know more than one person who likes the 2-Ball alignment system, but it doesn’t mesh that well with its typically face-balanced nature. Now your arcing stroke will feel more comfortable with a more free-swinging 2-Ball.
Many arcing players will find their 2-Balls more comfortable, but don’t forget that there are other mallets at well. The shocker for me was how much I liked rolling the slant-necked version of the Marksman. I have hated the looks of the Odyssey Marksman for years. I would rather attend a blood parasites support group than play a round of golf with a Backstryke Marksmen. Throwing up a little in my mouth right now just thinking about that putter.
The red Marksman elicits the opposite response for me. The big sight line scheme is still there, but it has been toned down to usable levels. This putter with the slant neck is point and shoot for me, and I’m glad I overcame my Marksman bias to roll it. Luke Williams, one of Odyssey’s main putter designers, games the Marksman slant as well. It seems like common sense that if the guy who can make and use any putter in the world games a specific putter, it’s a putter worth taking a look at.
So why is Odyssey all in on these slant necked mallets? Odyssey is getting out in front of, or perhaps creating, the trend on tour away from blades and towardsmallets. One of the favorite quotes from my visits was "most golfers aren't good enough to play blades." I don't remember who said it, but I loved it because it was in reference to putters and not irons as per the norm.
Mallets can offer higher MOI, mallets can offer more intricate alignment schemes, and mallets can offer a lower center of gravity - all of which should help make mallets easier to putt with.
The issue comes when the blade putter player swings the traditional-neck mallet. It doesn't gate like a blade and just feels funky. With the slant necks, Odyssey is making mallets that should feel more comfortable to the blade player. Based upon my research cohort (me), the swinging feel of the slant neck is preferable to that of the traditional double-bend shaft set up. Maybe we should get a bunch of these and have golfers swing them blindfolded to see what the results look like...
One final note about the Red/Black. Remember that all of these putters will feature the O-Works quietly-soft-yet-rolly microhinge insert, where the stainless steel Microhinge plate is co-molded into our Thermoplastic Elastomer Feel Layer. Colors, necks, and techs, that's what you'll find in the O-Works Red and Black putters.
Add Two From Toulon
The coolest cat in golf, Sean Toulon, along with his sons Tony and Joe, have a few new putters for you as well. Keeping with the Year of the Mallet theme, Toulon will be releasing two new mallets, The Atlanta and The Portland.
Of the two, I'd bet that you've already seen The Atlanta. There was a stretch there where putter social media blew up with The Atlanta as it was the model of choice for Callaway's new acquisition, Sergio Garcia. Did you see the shot below on the Toulon Design's Twitter feed?
The Atlanta is a little mid-mallet, and though rounded on the edges, it actually squares up to the target like, well, a more square putter. Lopping off the trailing edge of the putter really changes the overall visuals of the putter.
The appropriately-named Portland mallet is a bit stranger in design. It too is more on the small mallet size, with just a touch of fang-ness. Once again, social media gave us a prototype Portland peek a few months back. Here is the final version of the Portland.
Just like the Red/Black mallets, the Toulon Design mallets will be available with the slant neck option. I told you that mallets with hang is a thing this year. Once again to the maker trusts the product, as Sean Toulon was quite effectively rolling a slant-neck Atlanta last week in SoCal.
Like the other offerings from Toulon Design, the stainless steel Atlanta and Portland putters can be customized for head weight by changing the sole plates, and customized for swing weight through counterbalancing. Both also feature the friction-generating Deep Diamond milled "contact patch" at the center of the face, though I'll be referring to the Portland scheme as soul patch milling.
Oh Yeah, There's Also A Balls-Out 2-Ball
If we add the four Toulon Design variants to the putter count, we are now at thirty-six putters, and we haven't even got to the big one yet. That would be putter thirty-seven, the EXO 2-Ball.
Guys, what would you wish you'd done before you died? -Tyler Durden
Though that's probably not the actual quote that inspired the Odyssey putter guys to make the EXO 2-Ball, the spirit of the quote matches their design plan pretty well. Odyssey's design power-trio Luke Williams, Sean Toulon, and Austie Rollinson set out to make the ultimate 2-Ball. They didn't care about cost, or even if they would ever sell a single one, but rather they just wanted to see what they could come up with if they dropped their usual design restraints. What they came up with was the EXO 2-Ball.
The EXO 2-Ball is a model in multi-material putter design. Obviously, they needed to keep the 2-Ball-ness of the 2-Ball, but this EXO version features metals and manufacturing methods not found in any prior 2-Ball incarnation. The EXO 2-Ball shares the insert with the O-Works line, but the body is fully milled.
The rose gold top is milled from aluminum, with the bottom portion consisting of milled stainless steel. This materials scheme drops the center of gravity of the putter, which according to the Odyssey putter guys, promotes better roll. These precision plates take a long time to mill; hours, not minutes. In our time is money economy, this extended production time definitely plays into the pricing. You can see the attention to detail everywhere, from the badge on the bottom to the milled bevels around the two balls.
Those of you familiar with the 2-Ball, and there are a lot of you out there, will notice that the EXO 2-Ball has some internal bars and other structures not found on other versions. One of the coolest behind the scenes thing that I picked up from my visit to Odyssey was just how much thought goes into the sound profiles of the inserts and putters. A putter needs to look good and sound good to be a success. Adding, removing, and tweaking the geometry of the putter's body changes its sound profile. The EXO 2-Ball has been (over) engineered to look and sound amazing.
I'll just let that sit there with you for a second... Thirty-seven putters seems like a lot, even to a putter obsessed guy like myself. I asked the guys why putter releases always feature more models than other club categories. The simple answer given was that consumers, aka you and I, have a broader list of wants and likes when it comes to putters. One or two putters would not satisfy the masses. Instead, we get thirty-seven.
I'll admit that I'm busting balls a bit with that thirty-seven number. It's really far fewer putters with multiple options for color and necks. I'm definitely curious to see how these go over in the shops. I'm a fan of the mallet with hang, but I'm wondering how many of you blade players will buy and bag these. Odyssey believes that mallets with hang are the next big thing in putters, and they are making a big push to be the company that leads, and dominates the movement. They have thirty-seven examples of their conviction.
Some of you may be wondering why I didn't mention what Austie was gaming last week. Unfortunately, I am not legally allowed to talk about that putter yet, but let's start a rumor that I may be telling you exactly what it is next week.
Odyssey is at thirty-seven, and it's not done yet.
I am Jack's putter tease.