Callaway Golf’s putter division – Odyssey Golf – has been making putters for some time. They have gained a huge following with amateurs and professionals all over the world with their popular putting instruments. As the modern golf ball has evolved from a wound construction to a 2 piece, 3 piece and 4 piece design, they have also become harder and harder. To counteract this trend, Odyssey started making putters with inserts in the face to provide a softer feel. While they were not the only manufacturer to make insert putters, Odyssey’s inserts were the best feeling, and they quickly rose to the top of the very competitive putter market.
The design of putters hasn’t changed much over the years, and despite the new and funky designs we see every year, most people still use the more traditional shapes and styles. Having said that, Odyssey has thrown caution to the wind with the introduction of the new BackStryke series of putters. Let’s take a look at these interesting new putters and see if they live up to the hype. As we first talked about in our First Look at the BackStryke, their are 3 main design features on these putters – Visible Face Alignment, Forward Press Stabilization and Stroke Balance. The video below gives us a brief overview of these features.
Technology & Features
With the BackStryke, Odyssey has moved the point at which the shaft enters the head to the back of the club, rather than the traditional position near the face. The result is a putter that affords the player an unobstructed view of the leading edge of the putter, making alignment easier. Combine this look with the very popular 2-ball alignment feature and you have a putter that is very easy to square up to the target line. The other two models feature alignment lines that give a different look, but still make it easy to line up your putts.
2. Forward Press Stabilization
The forward press has always been a textbook key to good putting. A forward press putting stroke is one in which the hands are pressed forward of the ball before making a stroke, promoting solid contact and truer roll. Recently the forward press has been reborn, with putting legend and teacher Dave Stockton working with Phil Mickelson before the masters and re-emphasizing Phil’s forward press move. The position and angle of the shaft with the BackStryke putters helps promote a forward press hand position.
3. Stroke Balance
Most putters on the market are of the “toe hang” variety, which means that when held from the shaft, the balance of the head makes it hang with the toe down. Some putters are face balanced, which when held from the shaft results in the face of the putter remaining parallel with the ground. This helps make the putter more stable on off center hits. With the BackStryke putters from Odyssey, the putter is balanced along the stroke path. In practice, this results in a putter that doesn’t like to open or close during the putting stroke.
Odyssey has always pushed the envelope when it comes to design, so it’s not surprising that they’ve come up with some odd looking putters over the years. The BackStryke putters are no exception. Because the shaft goes into the back of the head rather than near the face, this creates an unconventional look. Many people will be familiar with the 2-Ball model, as it looks a lot like the other 2-ball models. The Marxsman and Blade models are different, with black and white alignment lines. If you are one of those players out there that doesn’t like center shafted putters because the shaft distracts you and makes it harder to line up, you may like the BackStryke line. The putters feature Odyssey’s new White Ice insert, which to me is a step back in time to the feel and responsiveness of the original White Hot insert from several years back. The finish is slightly darker than the standard White Ice putters, which creates more contrast between the white insert and alignment features and the rest of the putter. The grip is the familiar Winn pistol style.
Performance & Feel
I’ll be honest, my thoughts on this putter (my test unit was the 2-Ball model) has been like a stormy relationship. It’s been up and down. When I first saw them at the 2010 PGA Merchandise show, I thought they looked cool and seemed to roll the ball well. When I first got my demo unit from the folks at Callaway/Odyssey, I was a little skeptical. After rolling about 50 putts in my living room over several days, it didn’t impress me.
To be fair and thorough with my review I had to play with it for at least 18 holes, so I took it out to Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, FL. Again, after rolling a few on the practice green, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to game it right away. The look and feel when making a putting stroke was just awkward to me. After playing 7 holes I was 3 over par and struggling with my regular putter, so with nothing to lose I pulled out the BackStryke and put it in the game for the rest of the day. I told myself to just trust it, and the results were stunning. With the BackStryke coming off the bench, I proceeded to make seven birdies on the remaining 11 holes, including a 45 foot snake on the 15th hole. I just missed a five footer on 18 for birdie that would have made it 8 for 11.
When it comes to this putter, it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The look and setup takes time to get familiar with for sure. It’s been 36 holes and I’m just now becoming comfortable with the BackStryke. I’m used to the face of a putter opening as the putter swings back, returning to square at impact, and closing slightly on the through swing in a traditional arc shape. With the stroke balance feature of this putter, it tends to want to remain square to the line as I make my back swing, making me believe my stroke is off. It took me several putts to realize this and determine that it is actually what is supposed to happen. I also have a tendency to have my hands slightly behind the ball at address with this type of putter, but once I committed to make a slight forward press my results improved dramatically. If you can see the face insert at address, make a slight forward press until it disappears. This is the ideal position to get the best roll from this putter.
The feel is very much like the original White Hot inserts, with the ball popping off the face with some energy. The previous White Hot XG insert was much too mushy for my taste. The new White Ice insert has added more resilience for that extra pop, but retained a soft, controlled feel. The 2-Ball model I had also makes a slight pinging noise at impact, which many players like for auditory feedback. While it is heavy and has a large head for forgiveness, the sound and feel of the putter provide great feedback, and the player can tell right away if a solid putt was hit.
Specs & Pricing
The Three models available in the BackStryke series (2-Ball, Marxman and Blade) all come standard with 3 degrees of loft, 69 degree lie and 355g head weight. I have noticed that Odyssey’s putters tend to sit flatter than most. 70 degrees is usually a putter’s standard lie angle. The putters are available in 33″, 34″ and 35″ lengths. For the lefties out there, the only model available for you currently is the Marxman. Street price so far is around $199.
The Odyssey Backstryke putters are a bit like a late night infomercial. You want to look away, but somehow you are draw to it like a moth to a flame. At first glance, I didn’t want to put it in play and didn’t really trust it when I did, but after I got past the odd setup and unfamiliar way it swings, I started making putts in bunches. This putter is heavy, solid and likes to swing square to square. The key to the BackStryke is to just use it the way it was designed. If you use a forward press style, you should try this baby. If you fight it, you’ll have trouble getting any confidence with it.
The design of the BackStryke putters is new, innovative and it certainly won’t be for everyone. Traditionalists and players with a hands-back setup like Zach Johnson probably won’t like it. However, I think Odyssey really has something with this putter, and I’m certainly a believer!
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