The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!

-Navin Johnson

Nothing starts an article about putters better than a movie quote from 1979. I’m willing to bet that some of you were not even playing golf, or alive, in 1979. If you are unfamiliar with the Steve Martin movie The Jerk, you really should go and watch it, or at least watch this YouTube clip so you can relate to what I am feeling about these new Bettinardi putters.

In that scene, Navin experiences what I would define as pure joy when he sees that he is finally listed in the phone book. Yes young folk, phone numbers used to be listed in books.

This is the time of the year when I typically tap into near-Navin levels of excitement when the boxes of new putters arrive on my doorstep.

Though I’ll deny it, my wife would likely tell you “The new putters are here! The new putters are here!” has come out of my mouth more than once.

The New Bettinardis Are Here

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Our first look at 2018’s putters comes in the form of the new 2018 Bettinardi Golf BB and iNOVAi lines. Keeping true to their word, Bettinardi is following a two-year release cycle for their putter lines, alternating years between the BB/iNOVAi and Studio Stock/Queen B lines. You can expect the BBs in the even-numbered years, and the SSs in the odd for the foreseeable future.

Let’s take a look at what the new lines are all about.

2018 Bettinardi BB Line Specs

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  • Material: Soft Carbon Steel (BB56 is 6061 aluminum and 303 stainless steel)
  • Weight: 350g
  • Face: Super Fly Mill
  • Finish: Stealth Black
  • Lie/Loft: 70°/3°
  • Length: 33”-35”
  • Grip: Lamkin Deep Etched with cord
  • Models: 4
  • Dexterity: BB1 & BB56 Right and Left Handed/BB29 & BB39 Right Handed only
  • MSRP: $300.00

General Features: 2018 Bettinardi BB Line

Aesthetics

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Perhaps the looks of a putter are not the first thing that one should be concerned with when shopping for a new stick, but I’m willing to admit looks are probably the first aspect of a putter that I check out.

If I were to describe the looks of the 2018 BB line in one word it would be bolassic. Linguists reading this know that bolassic is the accepted conjugation of bold and classic. College students, feel free to include bolassic in your next paper. It’s an English professor favorite.

Though these BBs lack the lime green and stepless silver shafts of their 2016 ancestors, the black finish - coupled with the yellow paint and grip - still makes a bold statement. It’s not just Wiz Khalifa who knows that black and yellow always pop together.

At the same time though, the new color scheme, when combined with the more traditional shaft, results in a putter that I feel looks like a classic Bettinardi design. The 2018 aesthetics don’t scream look at me like they did in 2016. Instead, I bet this time around it will be golfers saying look at that.

Face and Fit

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The 2018 BB putters all feature Bettinardi’s Super-Fly face milling. This too is new for 2018 as the previous BB models all had Micro Honeycomb milling. According to the Bettinardi literature, the Super-Fly face milling will produce a softer feel than the Micro Honeycomb. It’s not as soft as the F.I.T face, but I’ll attest that when you couple Super-Fly milling with carbon steel construction, you get a very soft feel at impact.

I could really feel the difference face milling makes when comparing feel between the Super-Fly BB56 and the F.I.T. faced iNOVAi 5.0. Though both heads are made of aluminum, the impact feels are markedly different, although one should likely include geometric construction differences in the feel conversation as well.

As for fit, Bettinardi’s BB putters should match up with straight (BB39 & BB56) and slight-to-strong (BB1 & BB29) swing paths. It’s worth noting that the two mallets are not actually face-balanced, featuring just a touch of toe hang. If you are looking for a putter with 1/4 toe hang, you’ll need to check out the Studio Stock or Queen B lines. However, when you do look at the Bettinardi catalog as a whole, you’ll see a pretty comprehensive fitting scheme, with multiple models fitting multiple swing paths.

Next, let’s take a closer look at the 2018 Models

BB1

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The BB1, our classic blade-style putter, has received unique cosmetic and performance upgrades for 2018 which includes a neck that has been moved slightly forward towards the sweet spot which promotes less toe hang. The traditional Honeycomb face has been replaced in favor of our aggressive Flymill milling technique, which produces a softer feel at impact.  A new Stealth Black finish is complimented with an electric yellow paint scheme, reducing glare and improving aim optics.  Available in both right and left-hand models, the BB1 comes with a Flymill pattern headcover and a matching deep-etch cord Lamkin grip available in standard or jumbo sizes.

What can you say about the BB1 except that it is the workhorse of the BB line. Though I’ve no data to back my claim, I bet that Bettinardi sells more BB1s than any other head style. Add in that you lefty golfers can game the BB1 as well, and you have the potential for even more BB1s finding bags.

Why are so many BB1s finding bags? I think that the BB1 is where the "classic" descriptor fits best. The heel-toe weighted blade has been a classic design back to its inception in Karsten Solheim’s workshop. Every putter maker out there has a version of this design, some that lean more modern, and others that reflect the design’s classic nature. Even with the bold yellow color and Super-Fly milling, I still feel that this incarnation of the BB1 fits in better as a classic. Golfers are comfortable with the heel-toe design, and the BB1 is a solid version of that design, and so off to the bags they go.

BB29

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New to the 2018 BB Series, this traditional heel-toe weighted blade features a squared frame, crowned topline and a mid-slant neck - all attributes designed to promote ideal hand positioning and locked in feeling at address. Milled from Soft Carbon steel, the aggressive Super-Fly face milling produces a softer feel than the previous Honeycomb pattern. This pleasing design utilizes an electric yellow paint scheme set against our new Stealth Black finish.  The putter comes with a Flymill pattern headcover and a matching deep-etch cord Lamkin grip available in standard or jumbo sizes.

Grab your picks and torches Minecraft players, Bettinardi has a new putter for you. Now I’m not saying that the BB29 is blocky, but damn, the BB29 is blocky! You’ll not find sweeping bumpers on this one. The bumpers on this one are big and 80’s fashion shoulder pads square. Blocky may be just what your eye is looking for though.

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Take a look at the address photo for the BB29. It’s all business. Every angle sets you up square to the target. Bumpers line up square. The face lines up square. The cavity and the edges of the putter line up square as well. I’ve owned more than one putter where the geometry at address confuses my eye. The BB29 is not one of them. When you drop it behind the ball, you know exactly where the ball is headed. Remember, if it’s too blocky for your eye, there’s the BB1 for ya.

BB39

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The BB39 mallet, with its elongated flange and rounded edges, is the most visually striking putter in the new BB Series lineup. An extended flange increases the perimeter weight distribution for a consistently solid strike, while the elongated sightline simultaneously creates visual confidence at address. The craftsmanship that goes into making every Bettinardi unique is on full display with this new design. The BB39 comes with a Flymill pattern mallet headcover along with a matching deep-etch cord Lamkin grip available in standard or jumbo sizes.

The BB39 fills the rounded mallet spot this time around, replacing the now relegated BB40. The BB39 really only resembles the outgoing BB40 in the fact that it’s a round mallet. Though the BB56 probably wants to have a talk about the most visually striking quote, the BB39 is a beast sporting a larger footprint and more face-to-tail stoutness than the BB40.

I thought I recognized the BB39 when I first saw it, but couldn’t quite place my recognition. Specifically, the BB39’s bumpers looked really familiar.

A bit later, I realized that they look a whole lot like the bumpers on the Signature 6 from 2013. No, I don’t remember what the bumpers looked like on all putters from five years ago, but the Sig 6 sticks in my memory as it was the very first winner of a Most Wanted putter competition. Obviously, we are not going to crown the BB39 Most Wanted because it looks like a past winner, but I’ll definitely be performance curious if Bettinardi enters this one in the 2018 competition.

BB56

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By utilizing features from both the Antidote and iNOVAi, the BB56 is the most intricate and advanced putter in the BB Series lineup.  The body is milled from 6061 military grade aluminum and features a special topline weight made of 303 Stainless Steel.  By relocating the stainless steel weight directly behind and above the equator of the ball at address, combined with a high MOI head shape, the Center of Gravity is raised resulting in consistently solid contact and proper roll, even on miss hits. Vented channel grooves on the sole and flange create an aerodynamic appearance at address, further improving aim characteristics.  Available in both right hand and left-hand models, the BB56 comes with a Flymill pattern MOI headcover and a matching deep-etch cord Lamkin grip available in either standard or jumbo sizes.

Bettinardi has made some ugly “BB50’s” mallets. BBs numbered in the 50s are typically big mallets, often made of aluminum, featuring stainless steel somewhere for weight. I can only speak for my tastes, but the marriage of stainless and aluminum usually looks forced. It may be effective for controlling MOI and balance, but a big lump of stainless on the back edge just proved distracting for me.

Not so with the BB56. This time, the marriage of stainless and aluminum is visually pleasing and balanced. The stainless still draws in your eye, but rather than being a distraction, the placement of the stainless bar down the spine of the putter now draws the eye to the target line.

What you may not realize about the BB56 is that the top-of-the-putter placement of the heavier stainless steel also promotes better ball roll. This elevated weighting scheme is similar to what Bettinardi incorporated into their Antidote line. Those of you who were not fans of the none-more-square looks of the Antidote mallet should be more pleased with the aesthetics of the BB56. This one too will hopefully make its way into Most Wanted testing. If performance data can be coupled with improved looks, the BB56 may dispel some of my haunting BB50s memories.

Bettinardi iNOVAi 5.0

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Thanks to the success of its predecessors, the iNOVAi 5.0 looks to remain at the capstone example of Bettinardi craftsmanship and ingenuity. Classic features that remain from previous iterations are the bi-metal construction, black anodized finish, and F.I.T. (Feel-Impact-Technology) Face. The most noticeable new design characteristic is the hand polished 303 stainless steel weight which now creates a rounded mallet appearance, only adding to the steady strike attributes while increasing MOI numbers that this family of putters is known for. The iNOVAi is available in both heel shafted, and center-shafted options and all iNOVAi models come with a special MOI headcover and matching deep-etch Lamkin grip in standard or jumbo sizes.

To my eye, the first Bettinardi iNOVAi was not the greatest looking putter. I liked that you could turn it sideways and see a face, but the big “mouth” of stainless always looked strange, much like the older BB50s I suppose. The iNOVAi 3.0 looked way better but was not my friend when it came to actual hole hitting. I needed looks and performance.

After a few weeks of testing, the new iNOVAi 5.0 is proving to be pure Goldilocks. Yep, it’s just right.

The iNOVAi 5.0 sets up nicely at address, with the top line and cavity lines facilitating easy targeting. Those of you rolling Odyssey #7 putters should feel immediately comfortable with the iNOVAi 5.0’s alignment scheme, even though it is decidedly un-fanglike.

Bettinardi iNOVAi 5.0 Center Shaft

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What has kept the iNOVAi 5.0 in my bag though is the wonderfully balanced feel during the stroke. I trust this putter to not go AWOL on its way back to the ball. I mentioned above that the FIT face feels softer than the Super Fly milled face, and for me, this translates to better distance control. Those of you who have followed my putting foibles through my years here at MGS know that distance control (aka eighteen inches short) is my primary putting issue. The more I use the iNOVAi 5.0, the better my touch is developing. Soon I’ll only be missing short by nine inches!

My tester has the large version of the Lamkin deep etched grip, and I found it an easy and comfortable transition from my SuperStroke 2.0. The non-cord version of the grip on the iNOVAi is much softer than the cord version found on the BB series. Both versions are comfortable, but I prefer the softer version.

And no, you’ll likely not be able to scoop the ball off the green with the iNOVAi 5.0. The stainless flange is just too tall. However, the ball will stay in the putter’s hole if you lower the iNOVAi on to it, allowing for easy pickup. No scooping, but no bending either.

More Than Wall Hangers?

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A few weeks back, MGS owner (and my boss) Adam posted a video about no-tech putters not helping golfers make more putts. With this in mind I asked Sam Bettinardi the following question:

What technology is present in the Bettinardi putters that will actually help golfers make more putts?

We are similar to smaller companies out there in the fact that we don't pay big contracts to have players using our product, they use it #1 because of look, #2 feel, and #3 service and trusting in our process (making everything in-house, on our own machines).

As far as new technology in the production line our BB56 offers a COG story that no one is talking about in putting. We raised the center of gravity on this putter by placing the Stainless steel weight above the equator of the golf ball, and increased the size of the putter head for higher MOI numbers.

The iNOVAi 5.0 has higher MOI numbers than the 3.0 because of the connected Stainless steel rear piece which moves more weight to the back of the putter, promoting a more smooth and stable stroke, less resistant to twisting or turning.

-Sam Bettinardi

As I mentioned above, I was impressed enough with the iNOVAi 5.0 to put it in my bag almost immediately. Having rolled the other two versions of the iNOVAi, I can tell that this one does swing differently.

As for the BB56, Bettinardi may be on to something there as well. This may be the Antidote weighting technology that golfers are able to swallow visually. It’s easy to align, and the roll on the ball is vigorous. Hopefully, both of these putters will be in the 2018 Most Wanted mallet competition. I can’t wait to see how they perform.

But Wait, There’s More

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So there you have all of the info, and then some, about the new for 2018 Bettinardi BB and iNOVAi putters lines. You have the classic Bettinardi designs, like the BB1, and the fresh off the design table models like the iNOVAi 5.0 and the BB56.

Speaking of the BB56, Bettinardi is so excited about this putter that they want one of you to have one. That’s right; we have one to give away. Just leave a comment below telling us about your current gamer and which of the new Bettinardi models is your favorite, and you’ll be entered to win.

Random winner. Only one entry per person. You know the drill.

You can find out more about the 2018 putters, and about other Bettinardi’s Made in the USA metal creations at Bettinardi.com.

Congratulations Larry D! You are the Bettinardi BB56 random winner!