Bridgestone Golf is one of the more conservative companies in golf. They seem to know what they are good at, and they stick with it. By and large they release solid products, but don’t make waves around the golf world. Their most recent irons came out a few years ago without much fanfare. The J40 Cavity Back and J40 Dual Pocket Cavity irons combine classic lines with modern cavity back technology to result in one of the best irons on the market, in my opinion. But Bridgestone is a golf ball company. That’s their sweet spot. The B330 and E series golf balls are some of the more popular in golf. I think the E6 is probably the best overall golf ball for “average Joe” golfers out there, and the new B330 is every bit as good as some of its competitors like the Titleist Pro V1 and Srixon Z-Star. When we showed up at the PGA Demo Day last January in Orlando, the last thing we expected from this quiet, conservative company is a radical new putter.
The Bridgestone True Balance putters are something unique, and an unexpected move for Bridgestone. With the current industry trend moving away from belly and long putters into a counter-balanced design, the Bridgestone True Balance putter goes in the other direction altogether, looking at the competition and saying “Talk to the hand!” Where many manufacturers are adding weight to the grip end of putters to counter-balance them, Bridgestone took as much weight away from the grip and shaft as they could to come up with a very interesting flat stick.
They achieved the weight savings by using an extremely light 35 gram graphite shaft and using a grip made of 100% EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) which is a chemist’s fancy way of saying “waterproof foam”. The standard size grip weights only 10 grams and the oversize version goes up to 20 grams. Compared to a standard rubber grip that weighs about 80-85 grams and steel putter shafts that weight over 100 grams, this putter has lost a lot of weight. Mated with a putter head that is 360 grams, the extremely head-heavy design leads to a balance point that is less than five inches from the sole.
With such a low balance point, the feel of the putter changes dramatically. You immediately get a better sense of the putter swinging like a pendulum as you stroke a putt. A grooved insert provides better feel and a true roll off the face, and the ball pops off the face with a solid clicking sound. This is a stainless steel putter, so the fell will be firmer than more expensive carbon steel putters, but the insert does a good job at dampening impact and the important thing here is that the ball comes off the face consistently and predictably every time. The other nice thing about this putter is because all the weight is at the bottom of the swing arc, it seems to want to square itself up at impact with greater ease than a standard putter.
My testing model was the TD-03 model, which is the classic heel-toe cavity back model. The putter resembles the classic Ping Anser and Scotty Cameron Newport designs that have become the standard for modern putters. The TD-01 model is a half-mallet design with a long neck to achieve a face-balanced putter. As mentioned above, there are two sizes of grip available. The standard grip is a 3cm x 2cm taper, and the oversize grip is 4cm x 3cm taper design. My tester had the oversize grip, but I prefer the standard size personally. Standard length is 34 inches, but it can be ordered anywhere from 32 to 36 inches online. Street price is $199.
I own a lot of putters, but very few have earned a regular spot in my bag. Many end up collecting dust in the garage, and some are given away to friends in need. I like this putter a lot, but there are a few things that can be improved upon to make this putter worthy of a spot in my bag on a regular basis. First is the price. I can understand someone paying $300+ for a limited run carbon steel putter from a boutique manufacturer like Bettinardi, Bobby Grace or Piretti, but $199 for a mass-produced stainless steel putter from a large company is a hard sell in my opinion. I predict we’ll see this putter do best in the $139-$159 range, but we’ll see.
The second minor complaint I have with the Bridgestone True Balance putters is the grip. While it certainly is very light, it isn’t very tacky. The oversize grip especially could be a little tougher to hold secure in smaller hands. I could see people using a tennis wrap over the EVA grip for a tackier feel without adding too much weight. You don’t want to regrip this putter with a rubber grip, as this would defeat the purpose. Even a tennis overwrap would dramatically alter the balance point, so beware. I think for most hands the standard size grip is much better.
Overall, the Bridgestone True Balance putter is a winner. Fitted with a standard size grip and a slightly longer 34.5” length, this putter will certainly find a spot in my putter rotation. I’m that guy that likes to tinker with clubs (especially putters), so it’s not uncommon for my regular playing partners to ask, “So, what putter are you using today?” I have two or three putters that I rotate into play, based on course conditions and (more importantly) my mental condition. The Bridgestone True Balance putter has now further complicated my decision…