Odyssey Returns To The Stroke Lab
While the phrase Returning to the Stroke Lab could be referencing a college freshman heading back to a dorm room, it’s actually all about Odyssey extending their successful 2019 Stroke Lab putter line. The company has just announced two new models with upgraded inserts.
Before we look at these new Stroke Lab Black models, let’s take a beat to refresh what the original Stroke Lab line was all about: The Stroke Lab Shaft
While the sweet black PVD finish and improved-feel (now with even more White Hotness) Microhinge Star insert will enter some conversations, most of the Stroke Lab discussions will focus on the multi-material shaft. By using a combination of graphite and steel, Odyssey putter engineers were able to reposition the weight of the putter more to the grip and the head. Sure, this has been a manufacturing strategy for counter-balanced putters from their inception, but with the Stroke Lab shaft, Odyssey was able to gain the stability benefits of counter-balancing while keeping the putters at traditional lengths.
Does the design work? Well, during 2019, a whole bunch of players won tournaments on all tours using the Odyssey Stroke Lab shafted putters. Remember when Phil the Thrill used one to win $9,000,000? I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it’s a safe bet that Phil’s winnings represent just a small fraction of Stroke Lab’s total and a smaller still fraction of Stroke Lab sales.
This putter shaft was a win for Odyssey.
Since quite a few tour players are already dropping the Stroke Lab Black Bird of Prey and Number Ten into their bags, we should probably take a closer look.
Stroke Lab Black Bird of Prey
Our new Bird of Prey, featuring one of the most distinct head shapes we’ve ever made; and that’s saying a lot. It provides the Stroke Lab weighting you want for more consistency, and we’ve enhanced the forgiveness, alignment, and insert technology like never before.
When I first saw this putter, I couldn’t accept that I hadn’t seen the head shape from Odyssey before, so I went scrolling through the stacks of Odyssey putter photos to find a match. I couldn’t find one.
It doesn’t look like anything else. It has a little Marxman, a smidgen of White Hot Pro Havok, and the boldness of the Teron, but all-in-all, it’s a new design for Odyssey. Historically, Odyssey isn’t afraid of trying the occasional odd shape. Sure there are a bunch of 2-Balls and #7 variants in their putter archives, but there are also D.A.R.T.S. and Sabertooths. I appreciate that they take some design risks, and now want them to make a Stroke Lab Sabertooth…
Sure, it’s frustrating that the Bird of Prey doesn’t really look like a Romulan Bird of Prey, or that the small gaps on the edges of the putter allow you to cock it like a shotgun, but once you move past those downers, what you are left with is a as close to a point and shoot putter as you’ll likely find.
The Bird of Prey continues Odyssey’s all-about-MOI mallet design theme. Like their other recent mallets, the designs push the weight to the edges, use multiple materials, and cut mass from the interior, thus further increasing the impact of the perimeter weighting. Odyssey reports the MOI of the Bird of Prey to be 5712, placing it above competitors by 1000-1500.
Odyssey’s use of materials and design allows this to happen without making the putter huge either. The footprint of the Bird of Prey seems a little smaller than the EXO 2-Ball.
I bet that many will like the gigantic Marxman-like line on the top as well. If you can’t point that toward the target, it may be time for a new prescription.
Stroke Lab Black Ten
Our new Stroke Lab Ten provides the balanced weighting you want for more consistency, and we’ve enhanced the forgiveness, alignment, and insert technology in a shape that’s inspired by our popular #7 and Indianapolis models.
But… That’s a Spider!
Let me see if I can preemptively quell some of your copycat rage. I agree that the Odyssey Ten and the TaylorMade Spider share a bit, maybe even a significant amount of bone structure. However, I’d argue against it being a straight copy, much like I’d argue against the idea that spiders have bones and not exoskeletons. Though we frequently find similarities in the putter corral, I’d argue that most putters these days are evolutionary homologs of previous putters as opposed to pure clones.
For those of you lacking a degree in biology, let me explain homologous structures. Basically, you have an ancestral form that, because it works, is maintained through the generations. Typically though, that initial form becomes modified slightly from the original, allowing it to be used for different purposes. The classic biological example is the bones in the forelimbs of mammals. While a bat, a cat, and a whale may share the same basic arm bone structure (humerus, radius, and ulna), there have been modifications to the bones over time so that they will be to be better suited for flight, climbing, and swimming. The original form was the same, and you can definitely still see the original in the modern arms, but the design tweaks make the new versions unique to the individual animal.
For anyone who has ever claimed that a putter is a copy of a PING Anser, they must not have been looking very carefully, because they are definitely not identical copies. While most heel-toe-weighted blades do share some morphology with the original Anser, not even the latest Anser from PING is an identical copy of the original design. Over 50 years, the design changed to meet the needs of the modern putting environment. Lots of putters show homology to the Anser, but none are copies.
With that in mind, questions of “Did Odyssey copy the TaylorMade Spider?” or “Did TaylorMade copy the Odyssey 7?” are mostly irrelevant as no single putter is an exact copy. I wouldn’t argue against the idea that most designs are cousins of others, but an identical cousin is a genetic impossibility unless identical twins are involved, but that’s a lesson for a different day.
The guys at Odyssey will admit that the Ten looks like the Spider, a putter that former TaylorMade VP turned Callaway guy, Sean Toulon, may know something about. Odyssey feels that their version is an improvement on the original. Their cousin includes a plastic sole that modulates the tone at impact, improves weight distribution and overall balance, and allows the Ten to sit completely flat and square to target at address. That’s no small thing either as some putter designs will force you to take a certain grip to get it to sit flat. No manipulations should lead to fewer misses, right?
For now, the Stroke Lab Black will be available in an S-neck configuration.
Sure, it may still have eight legs and spins webs, but the Odyssey Ten is more than just a copycat. If that’s not a good enough explanation, call it payback for the Hi-Toe wedge.
Two More Models for The Stroke Lab.
Will there be more coming in 2020? While I can’t be sure if the Stroke Lab shaft will continuing in other yet-to-be-released 2020 putters, I’d be shocked if Odyssey moved away from a winning design so quickly. The fact that they are releasing two new models in October makes me think that the Bird of Prey and Number Ten are teasers for what is to come in January when Odyssey makes their big release announcement for the year.
Ultimately, I believe that the Stroke Lab will stick around. Odyssey knows that they have a marketable technology in the shaft. It has been well received both on tour, and by the putter purchasing public. Why would you abandon that after one season? If we use their Versa alignment system as a historical model, we should see Stroke Lab permutations for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Odyssey will never again return to the days of the all-steel shaft. When I know more, I’ll tell you. For now, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below.
You should find these Odyssey Stroke Lab Black models at a shop near you on November 1, 2019. MSRP is $299.99.