(Written by Golfspy Dave)
What do you do when you are at the top of your game? Do you relax, or do you keep at your craft to make yourself even more elite? I thought about this while watching a Michael Jordan retrospective in honor of him turning 50 years old. Jordan was an amazing basketball player, that can’t be debated. People can speculate as to why he was so dominant though.
In my opinion, what made Michael Jordan a champion on the court was not just his physical prowess, but also his ultra competitive attitude and drive to be the best. I am sure that there were days that he didn’t want to go to practice, but I can’t remember any Iverson-esq tirades about practice. It was Michael Jordan’s competitive spirit and solid work ethic that made him the dominant player year after year. I hear that that competitive spirit has not lessened much now that it has moved to the golf course. Champions Tour MJ?
To Rest on One’s Laurels: To be satisfied with one's past success and to consider further effort unnecessary.
In the golf business, not resting on one’s laurels means improving on an already high quality product. While the occasional clunker may slide into the market, 99+% of the gear out there is excellent. Putters are no exception. All of the best puttersmiths take design risks to find the next "it" flatstick. You need to come up with new designs, or you run the risk of being dismissed as "so last year" in the marketplace. In my view, no putter maker better exemplifies this spirit of innovation-from-the-top than Robert Bettinardi.
I have not met one person, ever, who has said that Bettinardi putters are not outstanding. Truly, I think that arguing against the quality and craftsmanship of his putters could only be successful using the Chewbacca Defense. We all agree. Bettinardi putters are amazing. What would you do if you heard that kind of praise all day long? What if you were the top of the heap? The best in show. What if few others in the world could repair an artery, or wrap a burger with your amazing precision? Do you stop there, comfortable in your competence? Or do you strive to innovate and improve?
Bettinardi Golf probably has enough of a loyal following that he could take a year off. You can call it a two year product cycle if that makes you feel better, but it still comes down to new models every two years rather than every year. And yet, each December-ish, the photos of the next year’s Bettinardi’s come out. New heads, finishes, and sometimes even new lines (Queen B). A few of your favorite models may linger from the previous year, but often times the models are one-year-and-done to make way for his new creations. It's a new Bettinardi creation that I have for you today; the 2013 Bettinardi BB37
Bettinardi BB37 Features:
- Material: 100% Milled Carbon Steel
- Weight: 353g
- Toe Hang: ½ (about 4:30)
- Length Tested: 34″
- Finish: Pewter PVD
- Grip: Blue Lamkin Midsized
- Hyper Honeycomb Face
- Low Profile and Narrow Face
- Increased Perimeter Weighting
BALL USED: Wilson FG Tour
The feel of the BB-37 is actually a bit crisper than I expected. Don’t go crazy, it’s still carbon steel soft, but it just has a bit more firm than I expected. I guess that this opens the discussion of the role of metal vs. architecture in determining a putter’s feel. The BB-37 has the classic Bettinardi honeycomb face milling taken to a new hyper-honeycomb level.
This next-level honeycomb may be the source of the new pop. Here is point one about not resting on one’s laurels. Honeycomb milling is a signature feature of Bettinardi putters, and yet they sought to improve it as their milling technology improved. The key aspect though is that they changed the milling to make it a better product, not just for the sake of change. If you are going to change a core feature of your product, it better be for the better. Just look at Netflix. Bottom line, the feel does differ a bit from the 2012 BB line, but the new feel is still soft, just bringing a bit more pop to impact.
Every year I think that there is no way that the next year’s Bettinardi line, either BB or Studio Stock, can look better than this year’s. I love the looks of both of the lines from last year, with the BB-35 (The Boxcar Badass) still being one of the nicest looking (and rolling) putters I own. Once again though, the 2013 lines look better than the 2012’s. The finish, the stamping/engraving, the paint, the headcovers of the new BB line are all a step up from last year. Don’t even get me started on the looks of the Studio Stocks. That Corona Black finish on the SS-15 is unreal. And I thought that the finish on my 2011 SS7 would never be topped. Year after year...
Finish aside, lets look at some of the elements of the BB-37. My first thought was mashed BB1. If you tamped down the BB1, you would get the general architecture of the BB-37. The face is lower and narrower, providing some of the metal that has been repositioned in the back flange. That back flange gets a touch of the Bettinardi half-moon treatment, moving material from the center to the edges to boost that whole MOI thing. Is it a blade or a mallet? The answer is really both. Bettinardi calls it a hybrid of the two. The large cavity and the way that the bumpers sweep up toward the edges really speak mallet, but from address, this putter shows a lot of blade. I can live with hybrid, that’s better than combining blade and mallet into the word blallet. Although saying blallet is really fun. Feel free to incorporate blallet into your work conversations today.
The thing that I love about Mr. Bettinardi’s putters is the fact that the importance of aesthetics is never lost in the design. Many of the performance-driven design elements, like the new hyper-honeycomb, also boost aesthetics. However some of the features on the BB-37 are just there for looks. While the cool slant neck definitely effects play, the lines milled into it do not. But they do make the neck look cool. The double-painted Hex B logo in the face and the extra hex in the cavity are branding marks, of course, but they are done keeping aesthetics in mind. Looks are important to the Bettinardi camp. If you have ever drooled over the putters that they offer each summer at the Bettinardi Social, you know that looks play a huge role in their putters. Golfspy Matt was there last summer in Chicago, he’ll tell you. Look at this one in the Bettinardi Registry: BB28 Abstract DASS. Tell me that looks don’t matter to Bettinardi. By the way, whoever has that BB28, I hate you a lot, and you need to send it to me right now. Don't make me reach for my blallet!
SET-UP & ALIGNMENT
Most golfers will appreciate the BB-37’s single sight line. It actually works nicely as a third line with the two lines created at the edge of the cavity. One unexpected alignment feature was the influence of the bit of half moon on the back edge. It seems like that little concavity draws your eye back to the center of the putter's rear edge. I don’t have any straight edge vs. curved edge accuracy data though. That’s why I used the word that screams confidence: seems.
One little set-up thing worth mentioning though is that the putter will rotate open a bit, depending upon how you place it on the ground. If you ground the putter, and then take your grip, you may be aimed a bit to the right of the hole. Depending on your putting process, you may not even notice this. We all get set differently. Golfspy Tim and I recently played with a guy who squared his putter to the inside of his left foot before gripping. Never saw that before.
Not much learning curve with the BB-37. It really is a nice blend between blade and mallet. (BLALLET!!!) Though the BB-37 is billed as a blallet, it really seemed to play more like a blade. Again I use the powerful word seemed. I would definitely describe the play more like a BB-1 blade than the BB-54 mallet. The weighting is excellent, providing a very comfortable, mallet-like, swing. A swing free of unexpected twisting. Maybe that is the mallet side of the putter working in the background. Mallet guts with blade looks, I suppose.
The midsized Lamkin grip on the BB-37 is definitely not the same as last years grip. It’s much firmer than previous grips, and it has a bunch of new angles and textures. One of the shop pros said that it reminded him of the Ping Finger Lock grip. I can see some similarity between the two. The grip is very comfortable, and all of the flat parts on it line up with your hands. I like it, but I’m not sure that I prefer it to the softer grips of years past. Bettinardi has lots of grip options though. They even are offering Salty Grips in their online store. Salty Grips has not even been in existence a year. Talk about keeping the Bettinardi line-up current.
After playing more than a few rounds with the BB-37, the my only lingering question was how this putter would perform with a bit less toe hang. Although the neck is a cool feature, I think that this head could also work with a stub neck and a double bend shaft, combining to make it face-balanced. The neck weight could be put into the head, maybe increasing MOI even more. Just my speculation, I'll leave the design to Mr. Bettinardi. Maybe I’m just trying to figure out how to make it into that BB-28 from the social. Seriously, can whoever has that putter just drop it in the mail to me already. I'll let you see my amazing horse.
- Distance Control = 9.3
- Accuracy = 9.1
- Sound & Feel = 9.4
- Appearance = 9.7
- Alignment = 9.1
OVERALL = 93.2
FIT FOR STROKE™
Don’t change your stroke. Change your putter.
The (FIT FOR STROKE™) concept was developed by PING, yet another genius fitting system they have developed for golfers. It works hand-in-hand with the iPING Putter App which is highly suggest everyone getting (IT’S FREE!). You might be surprised to find out that the stroke you think you have isn’t the stroke you actually have.
This addition to the MGS reviews will allow you to become a more consistent putter by matching you with models that better fit your stroke type. They will be broken down into three categories: (1) Straight – for face balance putters (2) Slight Arc – for mid toe hang putters (3) Strong Arc – for toe down putters
“Results from hundreds of player and robot tests at PING offer overwhelming scientific support for the effectiveness of fitting for stroke. In recent years more diagnostic tools and testing equipment have become available, and the results prove that a golfer’s consistency improves when their putter balance matches their stroke type. It was interesting to observe that golfers putt more consistently with stroke-appropriate models, but they also show a personal preference for these models, too. Prior to putting with them, golfers are drawn to models that fit their eye, even before they fit their stroke.” says PING.
The Bettinardi BB-37 is a: Slight Arc
Well another year and another great line-up from Bettinardi Golf. The BB-37 definitely stands out as something different. It’s definitely a Bettinardi though; great aesthetics, innovative design, and the highest quality construction. I think that it’s great that they continue to produce different models, like the BB-37, when they could still be making money by selling the same models year after year. Not that any companies do that, right? I am sure that there is a laurel wreath somewhere on a wall in the Bettinardi offices, but I think that it hangs there to be a reminder of the great putters they have made in the past, and a motivating tool for Bettinardi to make even better ones in the future. I’ll enjoy rolling the 2013’s this year, but I am already anticipating the first look at the 2014’s in December.