Saturday, 29 April 2017

Product Review - Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter

Odyssey have been producing tour quality putters for many years and there latest release, the O-Works continues that legacy but also in their own words, introduces "a new way to roll" with micro hinge technology.

In the UK there are numerous models split between bladed and mallet models. In the blades there is their #1, #1 Tank, #1 Wide, #2 and #9. In the mallet section they have #7, #7 Tank, R-Line, R-Line CS, V-Line Fang CH, and the famous 2 ball.

So what is this micro hinge technology? In essence they are tiny hinges on an insert moulded onto an elastomer face that Odyssey claim spring back when they make contact with the ball to impart top spin which they claim leads to the ball rolling better on the green with less skidding. Apparently the handicap golfer tends to impart too much back spin on their putts whereas the top players are able to get their putts running with more top spin. This is a link to what Odyssey have to say and why they are so excited about micro hinge technology (Odyssey Micro Hinge Technology)

If you saw my last review on the Ping Sigma Wolverine putter (Ping Wolverine Putter Review) you'll know I prefer a larger mallet type putter so I was excited to be able to test their V-Line Fang CH. Now the Fang style of putter has been around for many years now and this latest version has the Odyssey Versa colour scheme and a distinctive red line on the top to really ensure the putter is correctly lined up.

I've done a video to show the putter in action on my Youtube channel running in conjunction with this blog. I've attached a link to it here (Youtube Review). While you'll there, make sure you subscribe to the channel to get ongoing reviews, updates on "The Quest For Single Figures" and on course video logs. Don't forget to thumbs up the video as well. If you have any thoughts on this video please feel free to leave them in the comments box and I'll read each one and respond.

The Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter featuring Odyssey's Versa Alignment

As a mid-handicap golfer, and without access to technology like SAM Lab to measure the quality of my strike and more importantly the spin characteristics I impart, it's difficult to give a definitive tell for certain how much the micro hinge technology actually helped. What I do know is that there was no discernible difference between the premium ball I used (Srixon Z Star XV) and the firmer model, the Srixon AD333 Tour and both felt equally soft off the face.

As I said in the video, as a mid-handicapper I am not overly convinced micro hinge isn't a little gimmicky. I've been a fan of Odyssey putters for many years and have had both milled and insert faces. Odyssey have always produced decent inserts, although some have felt firmer than others, but in my mind, why change a winning formula?

All of the O-Works putters come with their new Superstroke Counter Core Grips (featuring a weight in the grip) and my putter came with their Pistol GT Tour model that has a lovely flat front and is rear stitched. It's lovely to hold and sits beautifully in the hand.

I putted from two feet, five feet and fifteen feet and it did perform really well. I really enjoyed it and although not overly sold on the new micro hinges, there is no doubt it produces a really soft feel off the face and I did find distance control easy to manage. Since the video, it has been out on the course with me for several rounds and I recorded 33 and 30 putts and holed a number of decent length putts. On the shorter ones, the Versa colour scheme really did make it easy to line up and it certainly inspired confidence.

The face of the O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter and one of the most funky head covers I've seen
As per my last putter review, let me break the Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter (note to Odyssey, it's not a catchy title) into a number of sections.

Looks - It's not as big as some mallet putters, but it's not a shrinking violet either. The Versa colour scheme is subtle but the red line on the top stands out perfectly and really promotes confidence behind the ball 9/10

Grip - As mentioned I had the Pistol GT Tour grip. Despite it having a weight inserted (and which isn't removable) it doesn't make the grip feel heavy or uncomfortable and didn't really seem to influence my stroke or made a difference. I have to say that the Superstoke grip really does sit in the hands well and it's easy to make a solid, firm and meaningful grip without ever feeling like you need to grip it tightly 8/10

Alignment This is one of the O-Works strongest suits throughout the range. In the Fang CH I had the colour scheme worked exceptionally well and the ball was easy to aim correctly at the hole. This is the first Odyssey putter I've had with the Versa colouring and I really like it. I have an old White Ice #9 in an old back and it's rather plain metallic finish and white insert look rather plain in comparison to the bold Versa colouring. That said it's distinctive without being intrusive 9/10

Feel - As mentioned while not sold on the micro hinge technology completely it undoubtedly provide a soft feel but never pudding like or overly so and there was never any fear that the ball coming off the face would lack sufficient pace (subject to my strike). It was impossible for me to distinguish between the premium and firmer ball but neither felt they would fly off the putter 8/10

Stability - Although not a massive head in the world of mallet putters it's still a very, very stable putter. Whether there is any correlation between the weight in the grip and those on the sole, I can't say but I'm sure that has to have been in Odyssey's design plans. On long or short putts, it felt very solid and my relatively back and through stroke seemed at home with the design and there was no feeling of twisting 8/10

Price - The V-Line Fang I tried appears to come in around the £169 mark for most of the models in the range although the two-ball versions are retailing for an additional £20 and come out at £189 (in the UK). These are still relatively new to the market and while there will no doubt be the odd bargain to be had here and there, this RRP is not dissimilar to many of Odyssey's competitors for similar putters 7/10

Overall - Lets put this to be once and for all, the micro hinge technology should be exactly what I need to improve the quality of my putting. However without being able to prove this technology works and how well it does compared to something like the "Tru Roll" insert on the Ping putter I featured in my last review, I still remain unconvinced. If somebody reading this in the South East of England or even from Odyssey themselves has access to the SAM Lab technology and wants to show my the data compared to the Ping Sigma Wolverine I reviewed, and even my Protype Tour milled #9 I am more than happy to be educated and proved wrong

Leaving aside my feelings on this, it should not in any way take away from what is an exceptionally good putter and the O-Works range certainly continues Odyssey's proud tradition of producing innovative and well constructed putters. I am very happy with how this performed both on the putting green in the review video, but also since I've taken it onto the course. In fact dear reader, I am so happy I am pleased to say it now has residence in my bag and has become my putter of choice 9/10

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Product Review - Ping Sigma G Wolverine

Welcome to another product review and this one looks at the Ping Sigma Wolverine putter. This is one of the new Sigma range of sixteen putters (in the UK) and has been available in the shops for the last few months. Unlike the previous release, "Vault" which had a milled face, with the Sigma G range Ping has gone back to an insert.

However, both the milled face and the insert on the Sigma range still has their "Tru Roll" face pattern which varies in depth and dispersion. This is less deep and wider at the sweet spot and then becomes deeper and spaced tighter for off centre hits which Ping claim speeds up off centre strikes and leads to less three putts. Now as a fourteen handicapper, the chances of me finding the sweet spot every time is unlikely so it's interesting to see how this plays out

Ping Sigma putter overview

Another new feature, much overdue in my personal opinion is the introduction of a new pistol type grip. I had one of the Cadence Anser's from a few year back and these came with a blue midsize grip (on the standard weighted putters) which I didn't feel comfortable with and I found became very slippery in the wet. This new Sigma G Wolverine comes with a PP60 midsize pistol grip which has a tacky but ribbed feel and sits nicely in the hand.

Ping Sigma G Wolverine
The Wolverine is designed for a straight back and through type of stroke. It's a large mallet type putter and on first sight, there are definite comparisons with the Odyssey Fang putter (below) or the Taylormade Spider (also below)

Odyssey Versa 2 Ball Fang Putter

Taylormade Spider
I've done a video to show the putter in action on my Youtube channel running in conjunction with this blog. I've attached a link to it here (Ping Sigma G Wolverine review). While you'll over there make sure you subscribe to the channel to get ongoing reviews, updates and on course logs and don't forget to thumbs up the video as well. If you have any comments please feel free to leave them under the video and I'll read each one and respond.

In action, it's very stable as you'll see and visually the big head and the distinctive white line makes it very to line the ball up, especially on the crucial short putts. One this you may not be able to pick up from the video sound is that it has a distinctive "ping" off the face. In the test I used both a premium ball (Srixon Z Star xv) and a firmer all (Srixon AD333 tour) and the noise was noticeable /with both balls. While I didn't mind this, clearly this may not be to every players taste.

The putts were from around two feet, five feet and out towards fifteen feet. As I've already mentioned, the putter has this "Tru Roll" polymer insert and while I was happy with the quality of the strike I made on each putt, I can't verify how many came off the centre as I don't have access to SAM Lab technology or similar. I can only describe it as I feel and see it.

Since the video was filmed it's been in my bag and I was pleased with the way it performed (31 putts with a distinctly flaky short game which meant there were very few tap i/n putts for up and down scrambles). Speed control was consistent which I guess you could argue vindicates Ping's claims about this insert and "Tru Roll". Of course I'd argue it was my smooth putting stroke but the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle somewhere/.

As I've done with all my other recent reviews I've broken it down into a couple of key sections

Looks - Visually it's definitely big, but I don't feel it's "in your face" big and no different to most other mallets on the market of similar design. It's clear, single white sight line is very simple but works well. The grey finish works well in the sun and glare is minimised 8/10

Grip - The mid size PP60 pistol grip definitely enhances a soft and light grip pressure and sits nicely in the hand which should promote a smooth action. It fits nicely in the contour of the hand 9/10

Alignment - As well as the vivid white line, the top of the putter does also contain other lines in the grey head which are of varying length. To be honest, I tended to focus solely on the white line and didn't really notice these other alignment aids. That said, the shape and the white line made it very easy to line up. I felt confident the putter was aligned correctly especially on the 2-3 footers on the course and it did provide an element of confidence boosting 7/10

Feel - The insert (and "Tru Roll" design) does give a pleasant, and perhaps more importantly a consistent feel off the face with both a soft and harder ball. As said, I can't vouch for the validity of the "Tru Roll" design but distance control was good. There is a distinct sound off the face that some golfers will find annoying 8/10

Stability - As with most mallets, it's very, very stable. Designed for a golfer with a distinct back and through, straight putting style, it has a large MOI for added accuracy. The shape definitely maximises the perimeter weighting Ping have put on the extremes of the Wolverine

Down behind the ball it sat very nicely and squarely. I've had putters before that will feel as though they are sitting distinctly open or closed and I've always had an inclination to then try and manipulate the face to sit squarer. With the Wolverine, it sits solidly behind the ball and begs to stroke the ball to the hole 9/10

Price - This (and I believe most of the other Sigma range) retail in the region (in the UK) of £169 although I'm sure as the range is now a few months old, deals will start to appear online and in shops. It's comparable in price to some of the similar putters from Ping's main competitors in the putter market and certainly much cheaper than the predecessor, the milled Vault range. 7/10

Overall - The Ping Sigma G Wolverine is a no frills putter. It's decor is plain but efficient and relies on the technology and consistent quality of build that Ping are synonymous for and is a reputation garnished from over 50 years of building top class putters used not only on tours around the world but which have been in the bags of the weekend golfer too.

That said, I couldn't verify the claims of "Tru Roll" as I didn't have a SAM Putting unit (GASP - Sam System to dissect my stroke and show where I struck the ball, However it was a stable, functional putter with a distinct sound, and from a variety of distances performed well. It's definitely one I like and I've a feeling it could be finding it's way into my bag and usurping the current incumbent soon. If you like a bigger mallet style putter then this one is definitely worth trying out 8/10

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Quest For Single Figures Video Update

Welcome back to the Three Off The Tee blog and there's a new video blog for you to enjoy on the Youtube channel running parallel to the blog The "Quest" April update). It's here to update you on "The Quest For Single Figures" and discusses my progress and has some updates over and above my last post on here with details of the first honours board event at Royal Ascot Golf Club played over the Easter weekend.

This was a bogey event. a tough format that's essentially match play against the course. Keep tuned as there's some good news in there. On top of that it'll update you on some other videos that are coming to the channel soon. I hope you enjoy the update, and don't forget to click on the subscribe button. If you have any comments or ideas on how to progress "The Quest" please put them in the comments box below the video. I'll look at them all and reply.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Quest For Single Figures - Update (5th April 2017)

Welcome back to my slightly revamped blog site. I hope you like it and have had a chance to check out the Three Off The Tee youtube channel that now runs in conjunction with the blog. There's now a link on the front page or you can go to it here (My youtube channel). Please check it out, subscribe and thumbs up the videos. There's a lot to come soon including a couple of putter reviews (Ping Sigma vs Odyssey "O" works) and an Aimpoint video

With all of that out of the way, it's time to update you on my "Quest For Single Figures". Once again, there have been issues, primarily on the health front and so tuition, practice and playing time have been impacted and I've not moved forward as quickly as I'd hoped. That said, I'm now back out and playing regularly again and now the clocks have changed will begin to work on my game, especially the short game with renewed vigour. That's the one area, perhaps bunkers aside, that's still woeful and is causing issues. I had hoped the linear method for pitching and chipping would have resolved this but having not invested any time into this method or indeed what you may consider a more conventional method, both are failing on the course and testing patience and resolve.

Since my last update, there has only been one competitive round, a medal (Royal Ascot Cup qualifier) played in breezy, damp conditions. I have to say, in my defence, I had come back from the latest illness with no time to work on the changes I was still bleeding in from the last lesson I'd had (Live Lesson). I actually started reasonably well and then hit the buffers at our 5th, having been in a green side bunker for three on the par five and walked off with an eight. Don't ask!

I frittered a few more shots away on the front nine to go out in 45 (+10 gross or three over handicap) and was back in a familiar scenario of not trusting what I'd worked on in the lesson, over thinking as a consequence, and getting myself into a world of hurt.

My back nine started with an ugly double bogey which led to a mental meltdown and a string of car crash holes, going double, triple, double from the 12th to the 14th. I managed a couple of pars over the closing few holes, chucked another almost obligatory double bogey in on the 16th for good measure and walked away dazed and confused with a net 79 (+9) which was still good enough for a mid-table 13th place finish in division 2 but of course led to an inevitable 0.1 handicap increase. My statistics for the round (such as they were) are here to peruse.

March 2017 Medal Statistics

Since this medal on the 18th March, I've had another lesson. I spoke in depth with my teaching professional about the video from the previous lesson and in particular how steep the shaft appears to be on the down swing and how trapped it seemed to make me. I had tinkered, as is my way, at the range at trying to lay the club flatter behind me at the start of the transition and down swing to come on a flatter plane and pass more in front of me at impact with a degree of success. My professional looked at the footage and could see the issues (cupped left wrist, high right elbow, and taking the club away outside the line) and we had a productive time sorting this out. Unfortunately, despite having the camera set up and working, the file corrupted and I wasn't able to download it to review at a later date and compare this lesson alongside the previous one as I hoped.

The positive note was the quality of strike which was better. Tempo was, and no doubt will remain an issue, but when I was in a decent rhythm I had so much more time to make a compact swing with the right elbow in particular in a far better position and not "flying". So of course I diligently worked on it on the range and rocked up for the usual Sunday morning roll up, feeling good and seeing some positive returns in practice and ready to compete. What transpired was my lowest point to date on this rocky road to single figures. I walked off after eleven holes. I was crap. Not even that good in all honesty and despite trying to have fun, swing slower and all the things you're suppose to do on an off day, everything went to pot. I was getting more and more wound up to the point where I was aware it was impacting on my playing partners. I didn't want to be there and as the tag line on all the betting adverts on TV says, "When the fun stops, STOP" so I did. I wasn't proud walking off but my head was a mess and I would rather have been anywhere else than enduring another two hours on the course and another seven holes of abject misery.

You would think that after 0.1 back in the medal and then this disaster the "Quest" would be over and I'd come to my senses and admit it's never going to happen. Not on your life dear reader. This stubborn old goat is made of sterner stuff and still has a deep ingrained desire to get to single figures and enjoy proving so many naysayers wrong. It's going to happen.

Of course you have to get back on the horse. I did so with a solo practice round the following week and some structured practice. The solo round was patchy at best, but I then took advantage of playing the back nine last week after work as soon as the clocks changed and that was far more like it. It felt like the old me. I was fortunate to have been invited back to Kingswood (where the Jolly Boys "Play Golf trio of videos on the youtube channel were shot) last Friday and it was a chance for a relaxed social round with no pressures on the swing. I was looking forward to it.

I then made the cardinal golfing error. I only went and boomed a drive down the first, only a foot into the semi rough, hit a pitch from 106 yards to three feet and holed the putt for birdie. It's well known that a round starting in such fine fashion can only go one way and that's down. To be honest I actually held it together reasonably well going out and had 21 points at the turn. That in itself was amazing but add in the condition of the greens, which frankly were a disgrace and it's even more amazing. They were like a ploughed field having been hollow tined but the holes hadn't been filled in properly and some of the grass was allowed to grow in patches. It was a lottery and if I hadn't been on a freebie would have been asking for a refund.

I let things slide on the back nine although these holes run across the top of a valley and played into a stiffening wind. A lost ball didn't help the cause but my last six holes were disappointing and my 33 points could have been so much better. There was some good stuff in there especially off the tee (bar two very wild drives) but the irons again felt off point and out of kilter. The greens were a nightmare and it was a job to two putt, let alone thinking of holing anything of meaning but all in all it did what I wanted from the day and got my game back on something of an even keel

And so to the weekend just gone. I was selected to play in a club match away at Maidenhead Golf Club. This isn't a course I have particularly fond memories of and have always struggled to play well there. The format was pairs, better ball and so I had a wing man in Gordon Barr, a Scotsman off 7 who I've inflicted my recent form on several times in recent months in both roll ups and competitions. I'm not sure what he'd done to deserve another dose but he accepted his fate with a stoic resignation. Maidenhead is one of those course that I simply can't find a way to score on and it somehow doesn't suit my eye and there are very few holes I stand on the tee and feel comfortable.

In the end, my form although again patchy, was enough with Gordon's rugged play, to ensure we got a half having been one down with three to go. I came in a few times with the odd win or a solid putt for a half although I left the course with a slightly bitter taste having saved my best drive until the last and was left with a simple eight iron into the green. With the match all square and the opposition not on the green in two, a decent approach would have given us a good chance to nick a win. As with the round the day before at Kingswood, it was the iron play that had been lacking and my approach came up short into the right hand bunker. I escaped well to about twelve feet and had a putt to win, but it missed left. To be honest the match had been played in good spirits on both sides and a half was perhaps the correct outcome. In the end, it wasn't pivotal as Royal Ascot came out 4-2 winners.

That dear reader brings you fully up to date (are you still with me?). As you can tell, the "Quest" is still stuck in first gear and my game shows no real sign of catching fire soon. I'm taking a more relaxed approach to it all and not forcing it. I'm going to scale down my long game practice, and that will focus on iron play. The remainder is going to be all about putting and the short game which is the real problem areas. With a medal to come this weekend, I'm wholly convinced it will bring anything but another 0.1 (and getting dangerously close to 15) but I live in hope and remain optimistic in my own ability. It's somewhat annoying that the work and time I've invested in my practice and lessons has failed to reap any reward yet but there have been signs over the last two rounds of some good stuff loitering somewhere near the surface. I just have to find a way, much as I did when I filmed the Jolly Boys "Play Golf" (Jolly Boys Round) and simply find a way to get it round. That was my first game after my stay in hospital and while the golf wasn't pretty I got it round enough to score close to handicap. That has to be the focus going forward. If I have to score ugly then I'll do that.

Despite it all, I remain in a golfing happy place. I'm still enjoying the process of trying to get better, enjoying the challenge of playing with card and pencil in hand and enjoying the robust banter of the social games. There is a vast amount of room to improve but I'm taking a far more chilled approach to it all. Meltdowns will be avoided and we'll take the good with the bad. The season is only just starting and so I've a whole summer and many, many more competitions to get the "Quest" back on track and get the handicap heading south back to where it should be. Hopefully by the time I post the next update, everything will be far rosier and I'll have good news to report. Keep your eyes out on here and my youtube channel for the next instalments.