Technology Year Two
On one of the No Putts Given Podcasts, Tony mentioned that it’s typically the second release featuring a new golf technology (Odyssey Triple Track Putter) where significant gains happen. Basically, companies have had a full year of marketplace research to identify the bugs with the technology, ideally then removing said bugs and thus delivering purified product performance for the second iteration. Naturally, this idea holds true for more than just golf equipment, with each new version of a product typically being superior to the preceding ones, with late ’60s muscle cars being the exception, naturally.
Another situation where the second run of a product featuring a new technology may not actually be superior is when the technology didn’t change. Same tech, new year. In some cases, the tech is still working, so why change it?
That is the core of the 2020 story with Odyssey’s Stroke Lab shafted putters. When you compare the 2019 version to the 2020 version of the Stroke Lab putter shaft, you will find they are exactly the same. It is kind of an oddity, actually, in the ever-changing golf equipment landscape – a technology that lives unaltered through multiple release cycles.
Odyssey is committed to the Stroke Lab shaft, with it being the stock shaft on all of their putters, from the lowest- to the highest-priced models. Both of the new 2020 putter lines that I have to share with you, the Stroke Lab Black line and the Triple Track line, come stock with the Stroke Lab shaft. Like in 2019, Odyssey is all Stroke Lab all the time. As such, before we get to the new putters, let’s run a quick Stroke Lab shaft recap.
Deeper (Tour) Penetration
While tour usage typically drives about 0% of my golf purchases, people comment all of the time that if a technology truly gave the pros an advantage, then they would all be using it. Take a look at that graph above. During the first half of 2019, pros on all professional tours were switching to Stroke Lab shafted putters.
Not only were more pros using Stroke Lab putters, but they were also dominating the tours with these putters. Here are a couple of 2019 Odyssey putter stats to ponder.
- Odyssey won the year-long count on every major tour.
- More Odyssey putters in play than Titleist #2 and PING #3 combined.
- More wins with Odyssey (65) than any other brand.
- Odyssey won the count at every major in 2019 (14 of 14 and 6 major wins).
So over the course of last season, lots of Odyssey pros switched to the Stroke Lab shaft and those pros won tournaments. I get why redesigning the Stroke Lab shaft for 2020 was not imperative. The shaft is working and the population of Stroke Lab shaft users is growing. That’s not a recipe for product overhaul.
So it’s working, and gaining popularity, but what is the secret Stroke Lab sauce that is driving its proliferation?
Hits the Hole More
At the end of the day, it’s all about balls in cups. That’s what earns pro golfers prize money and gives the amateur a sense of satisfaction as he or she heads to the next tee box. Missing putts sucks. Something that helps us miss less is something that we need, period.
As you can see from the graphic above, the Stroke Lab shaft improves consistency over multiple putting metrics. Consistency may be the most important thing when it comes to putting. Simple logic states that if your stroke can become more consistent, then your putting should be more consistent. Even if you are consistently missing three feet left, that tells you to aim three feet right, correct?
Last month, when I visited Odyssey headquarters, the putter guys dove a little deeper into the Face Angle At Impact data point, providing the following table to show why the value is so important.
The quick interpretation of this table is that with a 4.25″ hole, as soon as you are more than 2.125″ off center, you are going to miss the putt. So green boxes are made putts, yellows are maybes, and red boxes are misses. As the Face Angle at Impact increases, so does the degree of off-center travel. Contrasting this, if you can improve the angle at impact, you should be closer to the center of the cup, and more putts should be falling.
The reported improvement of 13% doesn’t seem like much, but think about what making 13% more putts would mean for your index. I’d like to make ~three more putts a round. Naturally, the 13% Face Angle value doesn’t translate directly to 13% more putts made, but it should absolutely translate to more putts made. You can fight me on this, but anything that makes you a more consistent putter should make you a more accurate putter, assuming you can make reads and aim.
No, the Stroke Lab shaft won’t help you read greens better – take an Aimpoint class for that – but Odyssey does have a new aiming trick for you that we will get back to in a bit.
2020 Stroke Lab Black Expansion
We actually got to take a look at the Stroke Lab Black line back in October when Odyssey unveiled the Stroke Lab Black Ten and Bird of Prey models. While most people focused on the Spider-likeness of the Ten, the actual story was all about the new Microhinge Star insert.
The White Hot insert is the standard by which all inserts are judged at Odyssey. That insert’s popularity has been a bit of a curse for Odyssey designers. Players love the sound and feel of the White Hot insert so much that they resist trying any new putter with a different insert. Players want the White Hot sound and feel. The design challenge then becomes making an insert that performs better than White Hot, but still sounds and feels like White Hot.
Without getting too technical, the Microhinge Star insert’s new construction allows it achieve this seemingly impossible White Hot benchmark. The ball speed to club head speed ratio of the new Microhinge Star insert is within a few hundredths of the White Hot ratio, as are the tonal frequency and amplitude values. Simply put, the Microhinge Star insert feels and sounds like the White Hot insert, while delivering improved top spin on the ball.
Microhinge Star looks like it could be the insert that finally kicks White Hot putters out of bags, or at least the one that White Hot loyalists should take a long look at.
Seven Stroke Lab Black Options
In 2020, Odyssey will be adding five more models to the Stroke Lab Black line, with the Ten and Bird of Prey rounding out the set. Some of these models are the expected popular kids, like the One and the Seven, but Odyssey is also bringing back the historically beloved Rossi, as well as a brand-new large mallet design, the R-Line Arrow. Here are some up-close-and-personal shots with these two new models.
The Triple Track Story: 5 Minutes of R&D
One of my favorite things is to chat with putter designers about their design process. To me, there is nothing more interesting than hearing how moving metal and changing shape changes the performance and sound characteristics of a putter. Making a new putter is a lengthy process, with putter designs usually going through a bunch of prototype iterations before they settle on the final design.
For the Triple Track putters, the design process is rumored to have taken five minutes.
That five-minute design roundtable took place last year after Callaway introduced the Triple Track alignment scheme on their ERC balls. The design team supposedly grabbed some tape and a couple of Sharpies and created an instant mock-up of a Triple Track putter. Simple as that. Some designs basically design themselves.
I didn’t get what they were doing with these when I first saw the photos. I actually saw photos of these putters before I went down to visit and I have no problem reporting that my enthusiasm for their looks was definitely lacking. To my putter minimalist sensibilities, these putters looked gaudy and were almost immediately relegated to my not-gonna-ever-putt-with-that zone. My feeling of Triple Track blasé continued through the Odyssey putter guys’ presentation, until I saw this image:
That picture gobsmacked my smug disregard. How had I missed the brilliant simplicity of the design? Seriously, are you going to address the ball like the putter on the above right or the above left? Only someone looking to miss on purpose would address the ball without the lies all lined up. If you have aimed the lines on the ball correctly, then the putter head is aimed correctly as well.
It was so simple that I just didn’t see it, or maybe it just seemed too simple to be effective. Once again, Odyssey had some data to report.
Odyssey used a laser-based system to measure where their test golfers were aiming and the data supported that the Triple Track alignment system on the ball and putter increased the likelihood that golfers were indeed aiming at the target. The 29% number coming from the combination of ball and putter is not incosiderable. If you aim at the right target more, you are probably more likely to make putts.
In addition to aiming better, golfers using the Triple Track system were more likely to strike the center of the face of the putter. The Odyssey guys were a bit surprised by this, but definitely pleased. 106% is a crazy improvement. Apply that to any part of your game and see what I mean. You driving distance is now 106% longer. See, that’s a big deal.
So maybe it did come from a five-minute design meeting, but the Triple Track alignment system looks like it could really be an easy-to-use, beneficial technology. Obviously, you’ll also need Triple Track golf balls for maximum effectiveness but Callaway will be happy to sell you those as well.
The other big take-home from the Triple Track testing is that obviously nobody should ever putt with a blank Tuttle…
Triple Track Models
The Triple Track lineup is very mallet-centric with the only “blades” being the Double Wide and 2-Ball blade. Odyssey’s design theme of mallets that play like blades is alive and well in the Triple Track line as well, with slant-neck options available on the Ten and the Double Wide.
Like the Stroke Lab Black putters, the Triple Track putters all feature the new Microhinge Star insert and the Stroke Lab shaft.
Here are some more detailed shots of a few of the models.
Triple Track 2-Ball
Triple Track Ten
Triple Track Double Wide
Odyssey Will Be Fun To Watch In 2020
I think that 2020 will be a fun year to watch what happens with Odyssey, both with sales and on tour. Will the Microhinge Star insert be the one that finally takes away White Hot’s crown? Will more players move to the Stroke Lab shaft, especially players who are not under contract with Odyssey? Will players, both professional and amateur, embrace the Triple Track tech?
I totally expect to see someone on tour using a Triple Track putter. I’m basing this expectation on watching Joe Toulon, Odyssey’s putter specialist on tour, drop a ninety-foot putt with the Triple Track Ten when we played together during my visit. Not a nine-foot putt. Ninety. Joe is a great player who could obviously play any putter and was dropping bombs with the Triple Track Ten. Since Joe is on the Odyssey tour truck, that’s zero degrees of separation from Odyssey tour pros. You know that some tour pro is going to have a bad week on the greens and look for something new. It would be a great story if a five-minute design could earn a player $100,000 per design minute.
You should be able to find both of these lines in shops near you at the end of the month (01/30/2020) with the retail pricing of $299.99 for Stroke Lab Black, and $249.99 for the Triple Track putters. I can’t wait to hear what you think about both lines.
To find out more about both putter lines, be sure to visit www.odysseygolf.com