By Dave Wolfe
Why Are There So Many Different Putters?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the number of putters available at your local shop? My shop has a large putter corral. By the time you add up all of the Camerons, Odysseys, TaylorMades, and Pings, there are more than a hundred different putter models that the yipping golf consumer can choose from. The excess begs this simple question:
Why do companies produce so many putters?
The golf industry cynic will tell you that having more models in the putter corral is all about grabbing the eye of the consumer. We have all seen how a long line of the same putter grip side by side by side makes an impression. A bunch of the white Ghost-something Taylormade grips together stand out; as do the runs of Versa or Select Pistolero grips. Each one of those grips is a little billboard for the company, making golfers more aware of the brand, and awareness, leads to sales.
But can that be the only reason? I truly hope not. In my putter palace of happiness, I believe that putter manufacturers make so many models because they know that the putter preference swath for golfers is wide and deep. The golf companies want us to use their clubs, I have no doubt about that. Ideally, the multiple models really should speak to the demands of the golf consumer, not the company plan.
From the company standpoint, it would be a whole lot more cost effective to only bring one putter model to market. But to say "here's one putter for all" would go over like saying "here's one driver for all". We are all unique golfing snowflakes and we want the clubs that match our individual specifications, be they performance or aesthetic.
We can go back and forth about the reasons, but there is no denying that there are a ton of putters out there. And remember, we are on the precipice of getting a whole bunch more once 2014 stock rolls into play.
et tu Ping?
We all know who the new gear every week companies are in golf. I don't view Ping as one of those companies. We know that their new stuff is coming, but we also know that they work on a two-year product cycle. If you buy the i25 irons that are coming next year (I'm speculating, no spoiler, sorry 'bout that, I want to hit them too!), you know that the i30 irons won't replace them in three months. Ping lets us save some of our gear money to actually pay for playing golf. They are not soaking us over and over with new and improved-ier sticks.
Then we get an announcement that there are three more putter models joining the Scottsdale TR line, bringing the total to fifteen different putters. If you include the Nome TR (and do, it's excellent) we are at sixteen. Then, if you include the different shaft options with the mallets, the number of different putters jumps again. Whatever the final count it, it's a lot of putters. I did a little digging, and the previous Scottsdale line also had in the neighborhood of fifteen models. So they are repeat offenders in the lots of putter story.
But is Ping trying to maneuver visual majority in the putter corral, or are the multitudes of models there to meet the needs of the consumer. Let's take a look at the three new models and see if we can get a feel for Ping's motive.
Scottsdale TR Putter Line Rehash
Before we look at the new models, let's revisit the important aspects of the Ping Scottsdale TR line.
The concept behind the insert is all about helping the average golfer hit the hole. Do pro's really need this corrective insert? OK maybe some do. There are some great ball strikers on tour with questionable putting. Really though, this insert is for you and me. I hit the heel and toe on occasion, maybe not even on purpose. If the insert salvages some performance from my flub, I'm for it.
The fact that you can order a mallet from Ping with a straight, slight-arc, or strong-arc fitting shaft is significant. This opened up mallet play for golfers whose stroke previously dictated deep hanging blades. Offering three shaft options makes no sense if Ping is trying to maximize profit. More shafts = more cost, and I am not sure that more sales will even offset this.
Most of Ping's 2013 putters could be purchased with the adjustable shaft option that first showed up in the 2012 belly Nome. Again, the consumer benefits by being able to fine tune length to spec. It's a bit squirrely to get it back square after adjusting, but not prohibitively so with some practice. Shops benefit too by not having to stock all lengths in all heads. Fifteen putters in a line rapidly turns to forty-five putters if you stock the standard 33", 34", and 35" lengths. If you want to slap a SuperStroke grip on there, just go standard style shaft.
Overall, the Scottsdale TR line was a huge improvement on the previous Scottsdale line. Gone is the dull insert and garish colors. As I said back in the original Scottsdale TR Club Report:
Now that I have taken a certain joy in quoting myself, let's see if the three new models bring something to the line, or are just more corral filler.
Scottsdale TR Craz-E
The real question about including the Craz-E in the Scottsdale TR line should be how was this model not included in the original line up? Has there been a more successful Ping mallet head in recent years? How much money has Webb made with this head while under contract with Titleist? Kenny Perry's mythological story and success using the perfect G2i Craz-E is only rivaled by Jim Furyk pulling a Yes! Sophia from a stone to win the 2010 PGA Championship. This model should be in all PING putter lines. Golfers are crazy for the Craz-E! Sorry about that, I'm such a hack...
Scottsdale Senita B
We saw the Senita B previously in the counterbalanced article I wrote back in October. We will see a ton of counterbalanced putters in 2014. Why, you ask? Counterbalance is the new belly. With anchoring out the window, our belly-skewering-brethern need another option. Many companies, including Ping, see the counterbalanced long putter as the answer.
So is Ping producing the Senita B to follow the market, or is there something different in their version? There are actually two things: shaft fitting and adjustable length. The benefit of shaft fitting is obvious, and previously mentioned. The adjustable length was listed as an advantage previously as well, but it merits more exploration in the counterbalanced context.
Counterbalancing is really all about the relationship between the weight of the head and weight of the grip. If you change the distance between these two weighted ends, you change the balance relationship. How? Who cares? Explaining it may require math, perhaps physics. No one has time to read (or write) that detailed of an explanation.
What it means to you is that you can change the length of the Senita B's shaft, change the balance relationship, and in doing so, change its feel as you swing it. It is due to physics, but we can ignore that. How many golfers buy putters because they like "how it feels" when they swing it? Lots do. Not you Mr. All-Of-My-Specs-Are-SAM-Lab-Generated, but a large number of golfers buy a putter in a big box store without ever rolling a ball on grass. They like how it feels. That's the advantage of the adjustable shaft, the Senita B can be feel tuned.
So while expanding the Scottsdale TR line by adding the other two models made immediate sense to me, the Anser T was a bit of a mystery. I'm not too proud to admit that I didn't get the design. I have also learned over the years, to ask questions. So I called Ping. After they graciously took my call, I learned something that blew my mind.
See, told you. BOOOOOM. Smoke leaking out the ears. Mid-mallet. Didn't see that coming did ya'? OK so I should probably clarify. The head is still a blade, calm down, I know this. The mid-mallet part actually is referring to the alignment scheme for the Anser T. The designers at Ping added the little loop of metal to the cavity so that the alignment line would extend to the face of the putter, along a single plane. This is visually different than having a topline line that syncs with a line in the cavity.
This type of alignment line makes the alignment scheme of the Anser T resemble that of the Grayhawk mallet, where the sight line extends to the edge of the face. So, if you like the look of the Anser head, but want a little more alignment help like you find in mallets, the Anser T is your bridge the gap putter. It has mid-mallet alignment.
Substance, Not Superfluous
The addition of the Craz-E, Senita B, and Anser T putters enhances the already excellent Ping Scottsdale TR putter line. Does it make for a whole bunch of putter models? Yep, there are a lot of models to choose from. But that's good for the consumer who wants choices. Maybe for the putter-transitional Ping pro as well. I think that Ping also includes so many putters in their lines just so Lee Westwood doesn't run out of models to play over the course of the season. Seriously Lee, pick a putter, stay with it, and see if you don't bag that major.
Anyway, these are solid additions to the line and I have no doubt that they will show up in the bags of many golfers next season. It will be fun to see if counterbalancing does take hold in the pro ranks, and to see if the Senita B is the putter that gets it done. Regardless, the Scottsdale TR line is very model diverse, and is only one model away from completion. It's the missing model that brings me to my final question:
When will we see a plain Anser model? It's time to give the line-less some love too.