Which company makes the best putters? Odyssey? Scotty Cameron? PING? TaylorMade?
They all do. Right? It just depends on how you ask the question.
With that, it’s fair to suggest that independent brand Evnroll Putters has claimed a position within the industry that is unlike, and unmatched, by others. Before you hoist the torches and pitchforks, hear me out.
I’m not suggesting that the Mount Rushmore of putters should feature a single face. More so, that the piece of real estate now owned by Evnroll is well protected and possibly provides it with a perpetual competitive advantage.
It’s an audacious stance to be sure. But does it have merit?
Based on annual Most Wanted testing, it’s fair to suggest Evnroll is among the best brands we’ve tested. One-hit wonders (I see you MLA and Carbon) can happen. However, sustained excellence is far more difficult to achieve.
(Side note and small rant: It takes very little effort or putter-making acumen to order a run of classic putter heads from a machine shop, throw some stamps on them and call it good. Plenty of putter makers do this, hence why we often refer to some putters as “no-tech.” You don’t get to call the local pizza shop, order a medium pepperoni pie and then tell your neighbors to come try your new recipe. I digress.)
In 2017, Guerin Rife (founder and chief designer of Evnroll) submitted a putter to us for Most Wanted testing. As with most challenger brands, expectations were low. But that’s exactly why you run the test. That year, the Evnroll ER2 (blade) and ER7 (mallet) both placed first in Most Wanted testing.
It’s one thing to go up against industry behemoths and tread water. It’s something else entirely to beat them straight up.
To give some longitudinal perspective, if you tabulate the Most Wanted results from 2017-2022 (2019 data excluded because of how we reported results) and allocate points to each podium finish (3 points for 1st, 2 points for 2nd and 1 point for 3rd), here are the results.
Evnroll is first with 15.5 total points. Odyssey is 2nd with 13 points. No other manufacturer is in double-digits. Scotty Cameron (4), Tommy Armour (5), Wilson (4) and TaylorMade (3.5) all made incremental noise, but again, consistent performance is far more arduous.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive statistical analysis of historical putter performance. The purpose is to provide some quantitative context to the performance of Evnroll putters in a testing environment that doesn’t give points for bogus categories such as “market demand” or “sound/feel.”
Critics will note that Evnroll performed best in 2017-2020 with only one top-3 finish in 2021 and 2022. Whether that’s evidence of a trend or something else is TBD.
Early testing indicated Evnroll’s “Sweet Face Technology” was more than a convenient talking point. The data confirmed a clear performance benefit, even if we couldn’t exactly pinpoint why it worked. The relationship was correlative, not causal. Golfers that used Evnroll putters made more putts from every distance tested. However, at that time, we didn’t have evidence to state that the grooves were the primary determining factor for the class-leading performance.
According to Evnroll, the patented groove technology corrected for both distance and dispersion. Translation: Evnroll asserted that when using one of its putters, golfers should expect the ball to travel the same distance and end up in nearly the same spot regardless of where it was struck on the face. We’ve tested it independently and came to the same conclusion. The technology works as advertised.
Unlike grooves on the face of a wedge or iron, the secret sauce is how the ball interacts with the contact area between the grooves. The ratio of contact area-to-groove changes as you move from the center of the face toward the heel/toe. Simply put: Contact area=ball speed. So, to provide nearly uniform ball speed off the face, it’s necessary to have less contact area in the center and more contact area as you move away from center. To be clear, many putter brands use (or have previously) some version of grooves, inserts or various face materials intended to provide a similar benefit.
Where Evnroll’s approach differs is that the parabolic groove shaping creates an inward “V” shape that compensates for dispersion. Think of it a bit like bulge/roll on a driver face. If you hit a putt on the toe/heel, the parabolic grooves help direct the ball back to center.
I get that might seem implausible. But other manufacturers didn’t take much convincing.
IMITATION and FLATTERY
Since its inception, numerous competitors have mimicked Evnroll’s groove technology. Given legal proceedings and the litigious nature of things, I’ll stop short of naming names but these are all recognized brands. Some have flown a bit too close to the sun and others decided to back off a comfortable distance.
It’s a bit of a game across the industry and it certainly isn’t limited to putter technology. If “Company A” has a compelling technology, process or material, everyone is going to consider whether to pursue something similar. Then the question becomes, “Should we want to do so, how close can we get without crossing a line?” And depending on any number of dynamics, “If we do happen to overstep, then what?”
Evnroll CEO and Chief Designer Guerin Rife told MyGolfSpy, “Emulation is flattering. They’re only going to notice if it works.”
Well, they noticed.
Evnroll is going to keep Evnrolling. The parabolic groove technology is Evnroll’s ace in the hole and I can’t foresee any situation where it would create a putter without it. The converse—licensing it to another brand—is possible but highly unlikely.
Rather, the most obvious path forward is to continue producing three categories of putters. Models like the ER2 and ER5 are best-sellers and will remain as staple offerings in the catalogue. Next, Evnroll will identify popular designs upon which it can improve (See: ER11VX) Finally, concept cars like ER ZERO allow Rife necessary space to continue exploring boundaries with less regard for commonly accepted aesthetics.
What we don’t know is what other manufacturers are going to bring to the party in 2023. That’s the wild card. But absent a creative breakthrough that resonates with off-the-rack buyers, I suspect putters like the Evnroll ER2 and ER1v will outpace most competitors. The technology that separated Evnroll from the masses in 2017 and 2018 is the same applied science (or damned close to it) that many competitors use currently.
The genius of Evnroll’s fundamental technology is two-fold. First and most importantly, it works. Have I mentioned that? Fidelity matters. Secondly, it isn’t dependent on a type or style of putter. Regardless of which model might fit you the best—and how you arrive at that conclusion—the tech is there.
Rife opined that his technology is “destined to become standard.” Audacious? Perhaps. Ultimately, we can’t assess Rife’s prognostication until certain patents expire but you have to give him points for bravado.
Evnroll isn’t going to challenge Odyssey or Scotty Cameron in the retail market. Cameron ranks first in total revenue and Odyssey is second in revenue and first in units sold. PING and TaylorMade round out the top four. Next up is Evnroll. That puts it first among companies without a brand name manufacturer relationship and ahead of companies like Wilson, Mizuno and Bettinardi.
Too many consumers view putter technology as less than because the performance differences aren’t as stark. Putting is a slow science. The best golfers on the planet swing a driver at 120 mph or more. A putting stroke hovers between two and five mph. Moreover, golfers too often focus exclusively on the two inevitable outcomes of a putt—miss or make. However, closer “misses” lead to more “makes.”
There isn’t a single putter that’s universally best for every golfer. But there is a putter that’s best for each golfer.
What putter is in your bag and how did it get there?
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