Odyssey Gets The Shaft in 2019
2019 is going to be a big year for Odyssey.
Now I know that I’m not really going out on a limb with that prediction. Odyssey had a pretty big 2018. Odyssey putters were the most played, and most winning putters on the professional tours, and their sales were somewhere in the ninety million dollar range.
Think about that number for a second. If a putter costs about $200, ninety million dollars means that they sold around 450,000 putters! That’s a lot of putters moved, and as I said above, 2019 is going to be an even bigger year for Odyssey.
This is not a prediction that I’m just flippantly tossing out there. Odyssey has something different for us this year. Like every year, Odyssey will be releasing new putters in 2019, but perhaps more than any other year, these putters are being released with a unified plan geared toward making you a more consistent putter.
I think that the only other time that I’ve experienced this strong of a paradigm shift at Odyssey, or any other putter company, was when Odyssey launched their Versa line, truly committing to their BWB or WBW alignment-improving color schemes. Versa was present on all of their putters when it launched, and it is technology that Odyssey has stuck with through subsequent years.
This year, Odyssey is launching a new design element that I believe will have Versa-like longevity, potentially changing the putter business even beyond the walls of Odyssey. We are not talking about a new head shape, or paint scheme this time. Instead, it’s something historically overlooked in putter design.
This is the year that Odyssey finally gets the shaft.
The Stroke Lab Shaft is a Game Changer
I’ve got a bunch of information on the various models that Odyssey will be releasing in 2019, but I think that it makes sense to start with the big news item first: The Stroke Lab Shaft. This is the thing that could likely make you switch to an Odyssey putter this year, or perhaps upgrade your old Odyssey. This shaft is the piece of technology that is designed to help you putt better. I wasn’t flippant when I said that this is a Game Changer. This shaft doesn’t hide your swing flaws; it changes your game by helping you to fix those flaws.
Take a look at this chart for a second and let the data sink in for a bit.
What you are looking at there is a comparison of a traditional steel-shafted putter versus one featuring the new Stroke Lab shaft. This new shaft improves putting metrics across the board, which should make you a more consistent putter.
Though I don’t have it to share, during my visit to Odyssey HQ, I saw a video comparing the length of the backswing with a standard steel shaft, and same person’s backswing with the Stroke Lab shaft. With the steel, there was definitely variation in position when the putter head reached the end of the backswing. With the Stroke Lab shaft, the head went to almost the same position each time. It was a stunning comparison.
Think about your putting for a second to see the implications of this. How many times have you left a putt short, or long, when you felt like you put a good stroke on the ball? How many times on the practice green have you practiced putts from a fixed distance, only to have some go in the hole, others go long, and others end up short? You’d likely swear that you put the same swing on the ball each time, but odds are that there was a bit of unnoticed variation each time. If this shaft allows you to minimize that swing variation, you should also minimize variation in your output. We all want to feel dialed in when putting. This shaft will actually help dial you in.
Stroke Lab Shaft: Weight Distribution
Now before you rush to the comments section to educate me about multi-material shaft history, I am aware that there are other shafts out there that combine steel and graphite. The Stability Shaft made a bit of a splash with its launch last year, and UST has offered their Frequency Filtered putter shaft for years. The Stroke Lab shaft design differs from the others. Just because something is made of the same materials doesn’t mean that it does the same thing.
The main story of the Stroke Lab shaft is weight distribution. The Odyssey design crew started this process by looking at putter build trends over the past few decades. The overall build trend was toward heavier heads, with conventional wisdom saying that this helps the head remain more stable in the stroke and addresses changing putting green agronomy. The unintended consequence though was that the overall weights of putters, as well as their swing weights, just kept increasing. Some companies like Tour Lock and even Super Stroke have offered grip-weighting systems to address the swing weight side of the equation, but adding these weights increased the overall weight of the club even more.
That’s the problem that the Stroke Lab is set to fix. Can the putter shaft weight be redistributed so that a putter can be more stable, without being heavier?
The Stroke Lab shaft is a full 40 grams lighter, made possible by an innovative new multi-material shaft design that combines a graphite body with a steel tip to net out at just 75g, with most of the mass concentrated in the tip. We’ve redistributed that saved weight by adding 10g to the head in the form of two sole weights, and adding 30g to the grip-end via a 10g-lighter grip and 40g end-weight.
What Odyssey has done with the Stroke Lab shaft is to remove weight from the middle portion of the shaft, and then reposition that mass it in the head and grip.
Now, this may remind you of the standard counterbalancing of putters where the heavier head is married to a heavier grip. It does have its parallels, but the removal of the mid-shaft weight is a totally new design, and I think that it’s the part of the design that will make the Stroke Lab shafted putters more universal in their appeal than the traditional counterbalanced designs. Why do I think that? Because these putters don’t feel like counterbalanced putters. They just feel balanced.
As soon as these hit your local pro shop and you get a chance to swing any of the Stroke Lab shafted putters, you’ll see that they just feel different. I’ve had friends putt with my Stroke Lab shafted Toulon Atlanta, and they all describe the feel as smooth, stable, balanced, or something along those lines. All of them could feel the difference, and not a single person had a negative response to the feeling. It may be the first time that a piece of new golf equipment has not been received with a polarized response.
It’s a game changer. That’s why Odyssey is putting the Stroke Lab shaft in all of its 2019 putters. That’s why the entire Odyssey design team is using Stroke Lab shafts in their putters. Phil made $9,000,000 with his Stroke Lab putter, and Danny Willet won in Dubai with one.
Best Performing and Highest Quality at All Price Points
That’s the other Odyssey theme for 2019, making all lines more premium. Now before you immediately translate that into more expensive (which they are), understand that the goal was to boost the quality of product across the lines. Odyssey wants to be the best putter choice at all pricing categories in the shop.
To do this, they needed to retool some manufacturing plans, rework supply chains, and take a hard look at the quality of putters that they have produced in the past. Ultimately these improvements did result in a higher price for the consumer, but Odyssey feels that what you will be getting this year are the highest quality putters that they have ever produced.
Sean Toulon, Luke Williams, and Austie Rollinson have been making putters for a long time. Meeting with them a few weeks back really gave me a feel for just how excited they are for this year’s putters, and how strongly they believe that no other putters will touch Odyssey this year. Sure, they were also excited about the 2018 releases when I met with them last year, but not like this. They believe that this shaft is truly special.
Now that we have some of the 2019 generalities out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the specific Odyssey releases.
Stroke Lab Putters
Though this line could be what one would classify as the entry-level Odyssey putters for 2019, remember that these putters are designed with the same intention as the others; to be the best performing and highest quality putters at their price point.
While the big story with these is the Stroke Lab shaft, there are some other noteworthy features about the Stroke Lab line as well.
Lots of Choices
I gave the Odyssey team a bit of grief about releasing just under six thousand different putter models last year. While having a bunch of models is rough on the retailer, it’s great for the consumer. Who doesn’t like having choices?
The Stroke Lab line will include ten head shapes, consisting of six mallets and four blades, but once again Odyssey is fudging the math there a bit as the mallets will also be available in S-neck variants. My counting says that once we include neck variations, that there are really eighteen head options. Funny how that largish number now seems very reasonable in comparison to the red and black O-Works deluge of 2018.
I previously mentioned Odyssey’s Versa alignment system as one of Odyssey’s lasting innovations, and it will be continuing to stick around in 2019. Though perhaps not quite as bold as the original BWB and WBW Versa schemes, the black and silver colorations on the Stroke Lab putters definitely share that Versa DNA.
Like the three-layer Versa schemes, the two-tone silver and black coloration will help you to align the putter perpendicular to the target line.
White Hot Microhinge Insert
The Stroke Lab putters will all feature the White Hot Microhinge insert that debuted in the EXO line last year. Though the insert proved to be very popular last year, it is another solid example of how Odyssey is trying to do everything even better this year.
The 2019 White Hot Microhinge insert is not the same as the 2018 insert due to tweaks to the materials used, and also to the manufacturing process. These changes helped Odyssey to increase the production efficiency, as well as the performance of the insert. One of the performance goals was to fine-tune the sound profile of the insert. This is actually one of Odyssey’s universal putter design goals as well. The sound of impact should relate to output. Imagine the discord of a loud impact sound coupled to a slow rolling putt. The two aspects need to match.
They had a good, marketable WHMH insert last year, but they still worked on it to make it better. That’s really the whole Odyssey theme this season.
Odyssey Stroke Lab Key Features
- Stroke Lab Shafts
- White Hot Microhinge Insert
- Ten Models (4 blades and 6 mallets)
- Versa Inspired Alignment Coloration
- Two Grip Size Options
- At Retail: 2/8/2019
- MSRP: $249.00
2019 Odyssey EXO Putters
Odyssey is continuing and expanding the EXO line in 2019. As a refresher, the main goal of the EXO line is to improve putting performance by increasing MOI. Conventional wisdom says that increasing MOI will increase a putter’s forgiveness. This is true, but not the whole story, as the term forgiveness is a bit nebulous. Increasing MOI does help make the putter more forgiving, but how that happens is something that we will come back to on in its own in a few months. It’s a topic that warrants more depth than we can get into today.
Rather than boosting MOI by making the putter huge, the Odyssey EXO line achieves high MOI values through multi-material construction. Across the line, you will see that the center of the putter is made of red colored, lightweight aluminum, while the outer black region is constructed of heavier stainless steel. Overall, this redistributes the weight to the perimeter of the head, boosting MOI.
The EXO line grows from three to six models this year, with the new models being the Marxman, Seven Mini, and 2-Ball. As with the 2018 EXO putters, each head will also be available in the S-neck configuration, fitting players with more of an arcing stroke.
Last year, Odyssey released the copper and black special edition EXO 2-Ball. At the time, I thought that putter would likely live as the nicest 2-Ball ever. Well, that opinion lasted a year. This new EXO 2-Ball is stunning, and it really shows, along with the other EXO putters, how Odyssey is committed to making the highest quality putters that they have ever made.
At its core, the EXO line is about performance, but there are just so many cool design elements that elevate these putters beyond pure performance. Just look at the ridges that adorn the perimeter rings of the Marxman. In the past, these outer surfaces have been somewhat ignored, leaving them in some cases looking unfinished or rough. With the reassessment of manufacturing, Odyssey can now primp and polish all parts of the putter. This EXO Marxman is approaching wall hanger status, but it still has the guts to perform on the green. It’s quite a package.
Some of you are also likely salivating over the Seven Mini. This high MOI, yet compact version of the fan-favorite #7 is definitely a looker, but it also holds an interesting story about how putters are designed. During my visit, I asked about the purpose of the bar that connects the “fangs” on the Seven Mini. I assumed that it was an alignment feature, but what it actually addressed was an issue with sound. Before the addition of that rear crossbar, the prototype Seven Mini would vibrate like a tuning fork after impact, eliciting a sound that was none too pleasing. Adding the crossbar removed that vibration, and also added an added aiming feature. These putters definitely go through design phases and changes before they end up in your local golf shop.
Remember too that all of the new EXO putters, and the models continuing from 2018 will also feature the Stroke Lab shaft, and the improved White Hot Microhinge insert.
Odyssey EXO Key Features
- Stroke Lab Shafts
- White Hot Microhinge Insert
- Ten Models (4 blades and 6 mallets)
- Multi-Material Construction to Boost MOI
- Two Grip Size Options
- At Retail: 3/29/2019
- MSRP: $349.00
Odyssey Toulon Design
Odyssey is setting up its Toulon Design line to be the Cameron killer. Now I don’t know if anyone will ever dethrone King Cameron as the magistrate of milled metal, but the Odyssey crew believes that this latest incarnation of the Toulon Design line surpasses Cameron in terms of both craftsmanship and performance.
As you look at the photos, you’ll see that the branding of the new Toulon Design putters now predominantly features the Odyssey name and logo, with the Toulon logo only showing up on the sole. To the putter lover who recognizes the Toulon name, this may seem like a strange move, but remember that not everyone knows everything about putters. Some potential customers likely hit their golf shop and didn’t recognize the Toulon name, whereas they would have recognized Odyssey. Again, this rebranding may seem strange to those who are already Toulon familiar, but I think that this simple move will help expand the customer base into the larger Odyssey-familiar pool.
As for the putters, once you get up close and personal with them, you can quickly see just how precisely that they are milled. It’s a bit trite to classify them as clean, but damn, that milling is clean. When you look at these putters, they look expensive, which is good, because at $449, they are expensive. We’ve all seen putters that are expensive, but look cheap. How many of those have your purchased?
I also applaud the decision to extend the Deep Diamond milling across the entire face. I hope that I never actually hit a putt in the newly DDM’d heel and toe areas, but I love the look.
The model availability for the Odyssey Toulon Design line is expansive, and likely has something for everyone. The San Diego and Austin will meet the needs of the traditional blade player, with the new Azalea blade filling both the strong arc and Sergio-loving niches. Before we move on from the blades, some of you really need to take a second look at the Austin, especially if you harbor fantasies of Cameron 009s. That Austin has been tweaked to be all Dale Head all the time. The rounded bumpers and offset plumbers neck are downright delicious.
On the mallet side, you’ll find five options. The tour-favorite Memphis, Portland, and Atlanta heads are joined in 2019 by the new Palm Beach and Las Vegas heads. Yes, that Las Vegas is the Toulon Design version of the #7. I’ll wait while your heart rate returns to resting.
As you peruse the available models, remember that the mallets will also be available with the H4/slant neck configuration.
Like all of the other Odyssey putters these Odyssey Toulon Design putters will also come equipped with the Stroke Lab shaft, elevating these beyond nice looking, expensive putters toward nice looking, expensive putters that perform.
Odyssey Toulon Design Key Features
- Precision Milled from 303 Stainless
- Stroke Lab Shafts
- Full Face Deep Diamond Milling
- Eight Models (3 blades and 6 mallets)
- Charcoal Smoke Finish
- New Odyssey Toulon Design Branding
- Two Grip Size Options
- At Retail: 3/1/2019
- MSRP: $449.00
Odyssey is all Set to Really Stroke it in 2019
How about that? I almost made it to the end without a sophomoric comment about the Stroke Lab name. Not once did I say that it could be the name of a fourteen-year-old’s sock drawer, or the R&D facility at the KY jelly factory. Sometimes one just needs to take the high road.
Really though, Odyssey is all in on the Stroke Lab shaft, and with good reason. As I mentioned above, I’ve had a Stroke Lab shafted Atlanta in the bag for a couple of rounds now, and I’m a firm believer that there is something to this shaft. I am sure that we will follow up with more objective lab testing at MyGolfSpy HQ, and also during Most Wanted putter testing, but if you are looking for a one-guy testimonial, I’d give this shaft nothing but positive strokes. My putting stroke has never felt more balanced and consistent. FWIW, this is coming from someone who typically can’t stand counterbalanced putters.
The Stroke Lab shaft is something special, and I believe it’s going to be the “it” thing in the 2019 putter corral.