I used to work with a guy named Ned. Ned’s been retired for a while, but he had this down-home, folksy way of letting you know he’d been there and done that, especially if you hadn't.
If you had it in you to shut up and listen, you could learn something from Ned.
Golfing with Ned was a trip because I swear Ned was the inspiration for that “Putt It” video. Ned looked at chips, pitches and bump-and-run shots the way a vegan looks at a Porterhouse – disgust laced with a little fear. No lie – I saw Ned putt from a good 35 yards off the green once. He didn’t get up and down, but he didn’t skull his pitch over the green and into a trap, either.
Ned gamed a very old Wilson putter. It wasn’t expensive when it was new, and Ned picked it up used for about 10 bucks. “I used to have a Scotty,” he told me. “Couldn’t putt worth a damn with it. This one’s good enough.”
Good enough is an interesting concept when it comes to putters. What is good enough and how much would you spend on it? If you’re thinking around $100.00, you may want to take a look at Wilson Staff’s upgraded Infinite line. The changes from the previous line are almost entirely cosmetic (but badly needed), and the bottom line is an intriguing option for the budget-conscious golfer.
To Infinity And Beyond
I’m not sure if it can be called a trend, but you can find good quality, milled-face OEM putters at prices that would make ole Ned smile. Cleveland’s Huntington Beach putters are some of MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted top performers and are priced to move at $99.00. Cleveland’s new TFi putters cost a bit more, but there’s plenty of technology packed into a still modest price.
First introduced in 2015, Wilson Staff's $99.00 Infinite line was as bare bones and straightforward as you can get - essentially Wilson’s milled-face take on popular putter designs. The entire line had an industrial, utilitarian look and feel to it, with lots of steel gray and white. If a 19th Century German house frau played golf, they were what she’d putt with. The Infinites featured skinny, middling and fat Anser-type blades, a couple of mid-mallets and three full mallets, including a center-shafted model Padraig Harrington used to win the Honda Classic in 2015.
Over the past three years of Most Wanted Testing, Wilson’s Infinites had, shall we say, meh to less-than-meh performance, but still finished ahead of far pricier models from Scotty, TaylorMade, and Bettinardi. Regardless of performance, however, a three-year product cycle might suggest that putters remain a bit of an afterthought for Wilson. Nevertheless, the Infinites are getting a makeover.
First off, the Infinite line is a tad more, uh, finite – whittled down by a couple of models to just three blades and three mallets. A trademark of the Infinite line, each putter carries the name of a Chicago street, neighborhood or landmark.
For blade-lovers, you have the skinny Lake Shore, the middling Windy City (both with Plumber’s Neck hosels) and the fat (for a blade) Michigan Ave. For mallets, there’s the Grant Park (an Odyssey #9 clone), the center-shafted (and Harrington-approved) South Side, and the big daddy called The Bean. The names and head shapes remain the same from the original Infinite line, but it appears the mid-mallet Lincoln Park and 41” full-mallet Midway models are being discontinued.
The rest of the changes are, quite frankly, cosmetic.
A Little Touch Up, A Little Paint
Ned used to always call them as he saw them, once referring to a young manager’s brilliant new initiative as “a new dress on an old girl.” The cynic out there could say the same thing about the new Infinite line – the updates are purely cosmetic. But give Wilson credit, the old girls do look pretty sharp in their new outfits.
The original Infinite line featured industrial-looking smoked-gray heads with an overly busy alignment aid – three white lines separated by two black lines. The soles had chrome strips and a ton of branding, and the whole thing looked slapped together. The new heads, however, do get their sexy on.
They've been cleaned up significantly, with a black PVD glare-reducing finish and the Wilson Staff shield added to the heel of each double-milled putter face. The alignment lines are cleaner – the contrasting black lines are gone, leaving just three white lines to frame the ball. The shield logo on the sole adds to the improved - and much classier - look.
The oversized grip looks better, too. It’s the same grip as the previous models, but the new black and white color scheme pops much better than the original battleship gray and white. At 104 grams, it’s a heavy grip, and it gives you a nice, counter-balanced feel for a smoother stroke. A new black head cover, with the Wilson Staff shield embroidered on top, rounds out the look.
It may be a new dress on an old girl, but Wilson clearly went Yves Saint Laurent little black dress, with a nice Gucci bag on the side. Okay, maybe the dress and bag are imitations, but it's an infinitely better look.
The new Infinites are available at retail and on Wilson’s website beginning today, with all models priced at $99.00. The stock models are 34 and 35 inches, and the Bean and Windy City models are available in women's models (the only difference appears to be less red and more powder blue). You won’t be able to custom order for length, loft or lie on Wilson’s website, but Wilson says you can special order a custom length through your retailer. Loft and lie adjustments will apparently need to be made at the retailer.
Make no mistake: unless there’s something Wilson isn’t telling us, these new Infinites are the same as the old Infinites, in a much nicer looking package. So now comes the hard question.
Despite the data MyGolfSpy regularly bombards you with, and despite proven groove technology in putters from PING, Evnroll, and others, plenty of golfers still insist on one fundamentally flawed assertion and one value judgment:
- Looks/feel are the most important criteria for selecting a putter. Tech matters less, because you have to love the look and feel.
- “Tech” putters are too damned expensive.
Many golfers still hold these to be self-evident truths, completely disregarding data that suggests otherwise. And many more will say the putter itself doesn’t matter because putting success lies solely with the person holding the putter, which essentially creates a circulator argument feeding the fundamentally flawed assertion listed above.
So the hard question is this: if looks and feel are really the most important criteria for selecting a putter, and if putting success has little to do with the club and virtually everything to do with the golfer, and if tech putters (and boutique putters, for that matter) are too damned expensive….
Is a $99.00 Wilson, Cleveland or whatever putter good enough?
Wilson is giving you is nice-feeling, milled-face, counter-balanced putter for under a hundred bucks. And while the Infinites may not have the eye-candy appeal of a Scotty or the milled sexiness of a Bettinardi, they’re a hell of a lot better looking than they used to be. And even though it's subjective, there is a bit of a feel difference between the Wilsons and, say, a Bettinardi, but $300 worth of difference?
The sub-$100 milled putter movement (is it a movement? It feels like a movement) is challenging golfers to rethink preconceived notions on putters and on price. OEMs like Wilson and Cleveland are giving you clear alternatives. In Wilson’s case, that alternative may be a new dress on an old girl, but the old girl does have a new appeal.
So what say you, golfers? If good enough really is good enough, will you be trying a $99.00 putter?