Choosing putters is quite a personal decision for most amateurs, so I wondered if this was the same for Tour pro's. Who better to ask then Seamus Sweeney who works for Odyssey putters for Callaway on the European Tour.
We know that Odyssey do a lot of insert putters, but what is the general preference for inserts versus metal faces on Tour?
This year we are offering our White Hot RX insert insert and it's been going well. A few guys use the metal faces and do so because traditionally they have used these in their careers. However I would say the majority of our Odyssey players use either a White Hot or a White Hot RX since we introduced them and certainly most of the guys that have won have used these two inserts.
I’ve tried the White Hot RX and it seems to be a much softer insert than the White Hot for feel and also for sound?
Well it should be very similar, but now with an enhanced face surface to improve roll. Sometimes it depends upon which model you use.
So is that really a sound thing?
Yes and I think it is very personal, when you dealing with elite players it is the kind of thing that they can pick up on. Sound and feel are so interrelated it could even be the way the putter swings, so if they middle the ball more with one than another model they therefore get a better feel from one than the other and that would then be suited to them.
I presume most of the Callaway players are playing the Chrome Soft ball now, so with that being a softer ball has that had any impact on the choice of inserts that players are selecting?
I think the benchmark feel for putting is softer than what it was 20 years ago, so they are still pairing the softer ball with a soft insert.
And what do you think has led to that?
A combination of a number of factors. Environmental changes with the greens having got quicker and firmer; I think there are more products available for players to choose from now so perhaps they have become more tuned into the feel with their putting strokes.
Callaway has installed a putting performance centre at Chessington. Is that significantly different to the one you had before?
The new one has an updated version of SAM and it combines that with Quintic ball analysis. By getting the two systems aligned it gives you the best of both worlds.
The Quintic is a camera system that watches the head hit the ball and SAM tracks what the shaft is doing during the stroke and therefore how the putter head rotates and the head path, among other things. By marrying those two things together it gives you a stronger platform for analysis.
I have experienced the Callaway SAM putting lab myself so do all of your players chose a putter through that process or do some do it by look and feel through taking a selection to the putting green?
There are still a few guys who use the more old school method. When I started there were more guys who would do it by their skill level and just judging by the look and the feel to them by hitting a few putts and going through their drills.
Now it seems to be more analytical with systems available such as the facility at Callaway headquarters that can give players data on their strokes to look at and then moving on from there in the choice of putter. I know quite a lot of our guys see putting coaches Phil Kenyon or Harold Swash who you see at a lot of events.
Phil is independent and actually an Odyssey ambassador now and he will look at what the player does with the putter and we look at it from a product perspective and try and get the best possible fit between the style of the putter and the characteristics of the player’s stroke.
With a lot of the players being more analytical in their choice of the putter, how many stick with their choice for a good period of time and how many change fairly often?
Well as you know there are normally 156 guys on Tour in a given week, so you have the full spectrum of the guy at one end who will be quite frequent in changing and trying to find the latest thing for their game. At the other end you’ve got the guys who have used the same style of putter their whole careers to the extent where we change the insert out of the body of an old head because they want to keep the exact putter they have been using.
How often do players change the inserts?
In terms of changing inserts a lot of the guys do that to vary feel and there are a number of them who will have two matched putters, one with a firmer insert and one with a softer insert.
Another thing that has developed in the years that I’ve been working on Tour is that when I started the only long haul events were in the Middle East, but now you have Africa and the Far East which had brought in more variety of green surfaces for European Tour players to play on. So with that the players are questioning whether a different feel of putter could be more effective on a different type of green.
The majority of guys will still stick with the same putter, but a few will have a loft adjustment if they play on grainy greens in Africa, Thailand or Malaysia. They will either have a matched putter that has more loft on it or we can do it on site and they might play a practice round on Monday and then come in as they hadn’t really been getting the ball up to the hole, or they are seeing that the ball is not rolling as they expect it to, so they want a loft change.
As a rule of thumb if you are playing on grainy greens you would add loft to create better launch conditions from the putter face to help the ball elevate from the grass. It varies from player to player, but in those conditions you may put the loft up to three or three and half degrees.
This year it was very breezy and windy in Qatar and the greens were running around 9.5 to 10 on the Stimpmeter. Then the players moved on to Dubai where they were about 12 to 13 and you are trying to perform the same task on the green in two very different sets of conditions, so you may need to adapt your putter to help.
Of the Odyssey players, which ones change most often and which ones stick with the same models?
I would say Alex Noren is one that once he has decided on a putter he will with that putter and keep it in the bag for a long time. David Horsey is also very consistent. And I don’t really want to say who changes the most!
For those players who change a lot do they do it weekly or bi-weekly?
They can do. Really what you are trying to achieve is consistency so if they do swap they then find a putter that works for them and they get settled pretty quickly. If someone comes to Callaway or Odyssey we can have a help them try out new models and once they pick one they tend to settle on that choice fairly quickly.
When you introduce something new, like when we introduced Versa alignment which was a whole new way of aligning a putter, you start a process of introducing that to the players and receiving feedback on the new technology.
Does the type and size of grip affect performance or is that really just a personal preference thing? For example if you are rotating the head too much during your stroke does putting a thicker grip help prevent that?
I have actually heard arguments for and against that. I think it is actually very much a personal preference. On Tour I have a broad spectrum of players from guys who have been out there for 20 years to a 19 year old playing in his first event who may have totally different approaches to putting.
So I fit with the comprehensive product line up we’ve got and I try to fit based on what they are feeling and what they want to achieve. Therefore you would really put the different research and analysis into say, grip size, to one side and go with what each individual player feels comfortable with. Size and weight of grips can definitely affect guys' feel when putting by altering the balance point of the putters.
Are the SuperStroke grips you offer lighter than rubber grips?
When they first came in they were a grip that were a similar midsize and weight to regular grips, but now they offer the Counter Core series of grips where you can put weights in the butt of the grips meaning you can vary it from 10g to 100g.
I’ve noticed that Mallet style putters are becoming more popular in the market and there are more of them compared to the traditional blade or Odyssey #1 style. What do you think is the reason for that – is it because they are more forgiving?
Just by the nature of their design there MOI is higher so they are more forgiving, they offer a bigger footprint to look at to help alignment and they create more consistency of face angle, even on off centre hits. You are right that there are more guys than ever before using an alignment feature on their putter and they are using a slightly bigger head.
If you look at Branden Grace who uses the Versa 90 V-Line putter he has an alignment aid with a linear fashion, whereas if you look at somebody like Danny Willett he uses a slightly smaller #1 Wide head, but it is still a mallet. It is not a blade, it is a simple rectangular shape with a White/Black/ White alignment pattern. So there is no traditional line on it, but it has an alignment aid feature.
People get familiar with new things very quickly so the newer styles are now accepted. There are now things like interchangeable weights in putter heads and in the shaft and grip manufacturers are making many different styles with counter balance weight options. There also longer grips that some of the guys like using which is another interesting development. If you extend the length of the putter grip you can sometimes vary the perception of length for the player so they can grip it where it feels natural to them rather than being restricted by the normal grip.
The advantage of things moving on is that you get more choice and options to help you improve your game.
Is there anything you think may be a trend in putters in the next couple of years?
I think alignment has been a big improvement in the last couple of years and I think that will continue. The new putter we brought in this year called the Odyssey Toe Up is an interesting product being stroke balanced like the original Backstryke, but in something that looks a bit more like a bladed putter.
I’m getting lots of interesting feedback on that with lots of guys trying them out so we are creating awareness about maintaining face angle to the target on the players putter path.
What’s the strangest technical request you have had for a putter?
That was from Swedish player who wanted to try putting on his knees! He wanted the lie angle to be much flatter to facilitate that, but I think one of the governing bodies ruled against putting from your knees, so that was the end of that.
What is the best putting tip that you have given or you have received?
I wish I had written more down over the years! I’ve been lucky enough to be in an environment with some of the best putters ever. One that sticks with me and I like is that the head of the putter will only do what the hands tell it to do. So a very small movement of the hand can result in quite a large movement of the head so getting the grip right is important.
When you are talking about the putter head I quite like the theory of aligning the putter face at right angles to your target and having the mental process of keeping that putter face square for a little bit longer once you have hit the ball. It is something that Thomas Bjorn does where it looks like the face is pushed towards the target instead of rotated. However it’s hard to say because I have seen so many different styles that have all worked over the years!
Who’s the best putter you have seen on your time working on Tour?
Some of the legends obviously like Olazabal and Seve. Also players like Thomas Bjorn and Soren Kjeldsen who has used the left below right method for so long. When Gary Evans was on Tour he often led the putting stats.
There are some guys when you show them a new putter and they take it off your hands and they just drain 3 or 4 balls straight away from 15 feet. You just think that they are simply just good at putting and the ball seems to go into the hole differently as it ducks into the hole.
Somebody like Pierre Fulke, you wouldn’t teach his method of putting, it is very rotational, quite flat with his feet close together, but on long putts especially he was phenomenal, regularly holing from 40 to 50 feet.
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