If you look back at any golf footage from the 20th century, you'll be hard-pressed to find a couple of things. The first is a driver head that is any bigger than our modern-day fairway woods. The second is the mallet putter.
Whilst there are a few examples of its use by professional golfers, such as Billy Casper in the 1960s and Nick Faldo in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the vast majority still used a blade putter.
Fast forward to 2019 and, like most of the golf equipment market, there has been a huge shift in putter design and preference, with the majority of golfers now preferring the greater forgiveness of the bigger mallet shape.
Odyssey's iconic 2-Ball putter, first introduced at the start of the 21st Century, was one of the first modern-day mallets to really make it big. Almost twenty years later they are still continuing to innovate, thanks to the release of their Stroke Lab multi-material shaft concept.
We have got our hands on the new Stroke Lab Black Putters prior to their 2020 release, so let's see whether all that tech really makes the difference on the greens...
What's It All About?
The new Stroke Lab Black models are all about providing super-high MOI, which is said to give golfers that extra helping hand on those off-centre strikes which we're all capable of - especially on the longer putts where your putting stroke is obviously lengthened. The higher MOI means you're still going to get a good roll across the face and therefore will tighten your putt dispersion.
Of course, there's also the Stroke Lab technology included too, whereby a multi-material shaft is used to redistribute weight into both the clubhead and grip of the putter to act as a counterbalance, improving tempo and consistency. You can find out more about this by reading Martin's review of the full Stroke Lab range, released earlier this year.
The face of the putter also features a new Microhinge star insert, which gives off a much firmer feel than on Microhinge faces seen in the Stroke Lab putters released earlier in the year.
To help you decide whether the new Stroke Lab Black range is worth trying out, and to give you some context on what each of the models can do for you, myself and George have combined our thoughts into one handy review. You're welcome...
Our new Stroke Lab Black Ten and Stroke Lab Black Bird of Prey Putters are truly remarkable with all of the premium technologies and performance that they offer.
Stroke Lab has revolutionised the putter category by fundamentally improving the rhythm and consistency in a golfer's stroke. And we're combining it with all the forgiveness from these super high MOI head shapes with one goal in mind: to help every golfer make more putts.
Sean Toulon, Odyssey General Manager
If these putters can perform well on greens in Manchester in the height of the British winter, after freezing weather and plenty of rain, then they should do the job just about anywhere.
George took on the Stroke Lab Black Ten, and I was using the Stroke Lab Black Bird of Prey (catchy name, I know). Let's see how they fared.
Odyssey Stroke Lab Black Ten Putter Review
By George Stead
I'm told by Callaway that Phil Mickelson absolutely loves this putter. He's put it straight in the bag, which is pretty good 'tour validation' to start with.
The looks of this putter will suit a large amount of modern golfers who are used to modern and 'tech-heavy' premium looking putters. This really is the height of putter technology, and when you look closely at the putter, that doesn't change.
A lot of golfers will have already noticed that the looks of this putter are very similar to the TaylorMade Spider and Spider X putters reviewed previously by Martin, with the Spider X even making it into our Best Putters of 2019.
The main difference is the colour - as you can probably guess by the name, this putter is black as opposed to the gold of the Spider X, and I actually prefer that. It keeps it a little more classy in my opinion.
I'd also be much more comfortable turning up to the golf club with a black putter as opposed to a gold one. Again this is personal preference, but I assume most club golfers would agree.
The reason that the Stroke Lab Black Ten putter looks so similar to TaylorMade's Spider range is simple really. Sean Toulon, as in Toulon Design and the mastermind behind the Toulon Atlanta I have been using all season, also used to work for TaylorMade and produced plenty of their putters too.
At address, the look is undoubtedly confidence-inspiring. The white high-definition alignment line stands out very well against the matte black finish, as it features what can only be described as a glittery finish on the white paint. This makes aligning putts fairly straightforward despite the pretty busy-looking overall head design.
It's very clear to see with the design on this putter that the high MOI levels have been achieved through putting a huge amount of weight as far away from the face as possible. Again, this is all to reduce twisting and jarring of the head and club face if you don't strike the ball out of the middle.
I have to say that this technology does seem to work. It's simple and effective, and when combined with Stroke Lab technology, you do feel as if you're getting all the help you need on the greens.
My stroke felt a little more consistent and it eliminates any shaky feeling over shorter putts - even if this is more of a mental thing, I think it will help golfers.
I really liked the firmer feel of the Microhinge Star insert, as having been used to using a bladed putter without an insert for most of my life I prefer a firmer feel off the face, as it gives me that extra bit of feedback that I like. I felt as if I didn't have to hit the putts as hard as I may on a softer-feeling insert.
The sound was solid and sounded hard too, which again I liked. It was a very traditional sound, which was surprising for an untraditional looking putter.
Because of the Microhinges in the face, you still get the optimised roll benefits of the insert, but the firm feeling means that the putter sits nicely in the middle.
Odyssey Stroke Lab Black Ten Putter Verdict
This is no doubt a good performing putter. We love Stroke Lab at Golfalot and I like the combination of the hard feeling face, stroke lab shaft and standout sight line.
Be warned, however, that Odyssey has been very clever with the design and the MOI story behind this putter. Higher MOI on a putter combined with such a large head will make you think you're getting a tonne of extra support, but in putters - we're talking such fine margins it's very hard to see and judge straight away whether you're getting the benefits.
The only way you would really be able to see difference is if you were to test your putting results over a very long period of a time, such as a whole season.
Even then I still think the margins would be hard to discern over something more traditional like an Anser-style putter. Then again, golf is a game of fine margins so why give up a potentially small gain? Especially if you like the looks of this putter, and most of all, if you can afford it.
Odyssey Stroke Lab Black Bird Of Prey Review
By Dan Box
Odyssey aren't afraid to go bold with their putter design, and the Bird of Prey certainly lives up to that reputation. The black, white and yellow finish with a weight port at the back and pistons on either side looks like a cross between some kind of futuristic spacecraft and one of the old Thunderbird machines.
Down by the ball, the Bird of Prey has a slightly bigger footprint than the Ten, and the face itself was a little longer. However, the insert and the grooves were quite concentrated towards the centre of the putter face, which is a clever little bit of design because it helps you focus on really striking the ball out of the middle.
I know it sounds a little silly to say that when it's just a putter but it really does make a difference. Even if you start the ball a couple of milimetres out from where you were aiming, by the time that reaches the hole on a 10 foot putt, for example, that could be the difference between it dropping in or just sliding by the side.
As George comments, it's definitely a firmer feel which I preferred to the insert Odyssey had been using earlier in the year. Usually I don't like the big mallets because it's almost like you're numb to the feel with a combination of the big head and soft insert.
But the firmer star face means that you can feel exactly how you've struck the ball, which definitely helped with distance control on the longer putts. One of the things I dislike about soft faces is that there's virtually no feedback at impact as to your strike, so it's harder to learn as you practice/play and, as a result, harder to rectify.
I loved the new High Def alignment, as I prefer a straight line that sits right on top of the topline up to the face, and the fact that this then extended back all the way through the head was a bonus. It helped with both alignment and path too, as I felt it showed me where I should be taking the putter back during my stroke.
Just as on the EXO Marxman that I tested earlier this year, I really enjoyed using the Stroke Lab grip, which is a little thicker than I would typically go for but can see it being hugely popular with most golfers.
The putter also seems to sit a little more upright than the Ten, so if you like to stand quite tall during your stroke it may suit you and help you to get your eyes over the ball.
The Bird of Prey was probably at its weakest on the shorter putts, as the bigger head meant that it was harder to be really precise in my opinion. It was almost as if it made the hole seem smaller!
The medium-length putts are where you get the great combination of the firmer face, providing better feel, with the Stroke Lab shaft providing a nice consistent tempo to my putting stroke. By the end of the review I had gained more and more confidence with the putter, so that I was focusing solely on my starting line rather than worrying about the correct pace, which is a nice feeling to have.
During some more extensive testing on the putting green, I was also impressed with the performance of a couple of putts which I caught out of the toe. Whilst they didn't always reach the hole, thankfully there were none of those pesky 3-footers which could turn a birdie putt into a bogey out on the course.
I always find it difficult to judge long putts in just one testing session because there are plenty of other variables at play, but the overall consistency of the results was impressive.
Anyone who had lessons from an early age will probably have been taught about the old 'bin-lid' target on long putts, and with a big, high-MOI putter it feels like this is easier to achieve.
You'd probably have to keep using this putter over the course of a full season, as George suggests, to know for sure whether it really can make a difference on those longer putts, but upon initial inspection it seemed to do a good job.
Odyssey Stroke Lab Black Bird of Prey Putter Verdict
I went in to this review expecting not to like the bigger head, but I actually have to admit I putted well with it. I know that some golfers may be immediately put off by a mallet putter due to the size but if it keeps holing putts then you'd either have to be pretty silly, or really not bothered about your score, not to try using one.
On the medium and long range putts, I really do think that the 'super-high MOI' and Stroke Lab technology makes a real difference. It doesn't feel like you're losing your stroke or overhitting the ball, and I think they produce a consistent roll.
I tested the Bird of Prey on some longer range putts up against my own Odyssey blade putter, which is a few years old now, and the overall distance control was much better with the newer model.
- Excellent, premium feel
- Microhinge insert continues to improve
- Great feeling grips
- Distance control was good throughout
- Stroke Lab technology works well, especially on longer putts
- People typically don't spend as much on putters as they do on drivers and irons, and these aren't cheap
- Not easy to instantly see the benefits of the high-MOI technology
- The size of the heads will immediately put some golfers off