Info - New trends (that really are not new) in Wedges and Putters

Recently, I saw a commercial for a new golf product that was aimed at helping those amateurs that struggle with their short wedge shots around the green and from bunkers. Yes, it is the newest, best ever “technologically advanced” wedge. In reality, it is simply one of the latest, best examples of how not many things in golf are new. They may be re-packaged, they may even have subtle changes from some original or earlier technology, but the basic principle of the technology existed before. In this case, if we consider from the 1960’s to the present as the modern era for golf equipment, there was a popular wedge with the same basic technology introduced in 1964. Others, with similar characteristics, can be seen going back to the early 1930’s. Models with even more similarity have been introduced over the last few decades, specifically in 2002 with the introduction of the Maltby Sand and Lob Sliders, which re-introduced a new era of golfers to a game improvement design specifically designed for players that had difficulties around the green and in the sand. A few years later the sole technology on these designs were designed into a more traditional face profile (Sand and Lob Slider PRO) and continued to have great success in the marketplace. Today you can see the same design in the Maltby Design Series Glider Grind series of wedges.

On the putter side, recently a young PGA Tour professional was seen using a new “High” MOI putter that is definitely larger and more noticeable than any other putter on the tour. There have been numerous unique designs over the last 30+ years. All promised improved putting, which I guess is the point of any new design. However, true innovation in the dynamics of what a putter can do has been rare. The Ping Anser was the first modern Heel/Toe balanced putter that advanced putter design from the era of blades like the Bullseye by Acushnet and the 8802 flange by Wilson. At the time, the Ping Anser nearly doubled the Moment of Inertia (resistance to twisting) of the putter head over the blade designs like the Bullseye and the 8802. The importance of this comes from the fact that Moment of Inertia (MOI) is the most important aspect of a putters design. The higher the MOI, the more the ball will roll its intended distance and on its intended line when struck off center. For most golfers, the area they strike putts on the face can vary significantly. If they can strike the face of a putter dead on center every time, then the MOI does not make much difference. But if they don’t, and most don’t, the MOI can mean the difference in making a putt from 20 feet, or at least getting it in gimme range, or having to mark it and putt a nasty 3 footer. The higher the MOI of the putter, the closer you will come to making the putt when the ball is not struck perfectly.

In the 1980’s there were some variations on putter designs, with several designs that targeted alignment and material technology. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that truly higher MOI designs started to come into the market. The interesting thing is that the USGA parameters on the dimension limits on putters (width, depth) really do lend themselves to designs that would yield very high MOI’s, but designers generally did not even come close to designing to the USGA limit on width (7”). The majority of the most popular, and best selling designs were 4 to 5 inches in width. Also, the standard head weight for most standard length putters was 325 grams, which today we would consider too light. 350 to 360 grams is now what we would consider a “standard” putter head weight. It is not unusual to see head weights even heavier (380 – 400 grams) today, which are needed if you embrace the counterbalancing trend that is very prominent today. Even without counterbalancing, the heavier heads yield a higher MOI.

In 1999 Ralph Maltby and The Golfworks team introduced a line of carbon and brass putters that had much higher MOI’s than others on the market. Ralph recognized, through his research, that the key for improving the average players putting was to give them stability and forgiveness through a high Moment of Inertia. As more players were willing to use unconventional looking putters, the restrictions of history and perception faded and more putters were designed with wider and deeper profiles. This raised the collective MOI, but not to the extent that was needed because overall head weights remained in that 325 gram range. The exception was when belly and long putters became main stream and heavier putter heads were needed to offset the heavy, long shafts and heavy grips that were required on the belly and long type of putters. In the early 2000’s several manufacturers began producing larger mallets with weights in the 350-360 gram range. In 2004 Ping came out with the Ping Doc, which was for the time the largest putter with the highest MOI on the market. In 2005 Ralph Maltby designed The Xtreme 07 putter, which to this day has the highest MOI and is the largest legal putter that has ever been designed. In 2007 Ralph Maltby designed a complete line of Xtreme putters that all had high MOI’s, but at a more reasonable and acceptable size than the Doc or the Xtreme 07 model from a few years earlier. Since then, you can see the influence, in our opinion, that these designs have had on the market. Be aware, however, that just because a profile is large, it does not mean it has a high MOI. The design must have very specific weight and dimensional characteristics to yield a true High Moment of Inertia.

The point of all this is two fold. First, realize that very rarely is something really new and innovative. Some form of it probably existed before and modern technology has allowed designers to take previous generations discoveries and successes and enhance them to create “new” old technology. Secondly, be sure to dive into the claims and at least verify through your own research and testing that any particular design will work for you or the player you are fitting. There are immutable laws of design to create a wedge that is truly forgiving for the challenged golfer, and the same holds true for putters and what aspects of their design create a truly High MOI, a MOI that actually provides the benefit of more consistent putting.

For more information on this subject, please see the links below. The most detail can be found in Ralph’s book “ The Complete Book of Design, Fitting and Performance / The Principles, Procedures and Playability Factors”. The other links provide additional information on the complete line of Maltby Wedges and additional information on the importance of MOI in putter design and fitting.

Britt Lindsey