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GEL Ruby Putter Review

Sep. 28, 2007     By     Comments (12)

Grooves on a putter face are intended to help get the ball rolling as quickly as possible. Here with another take on grooves is a new company called GEL.

Gel Ruby Putter AngleGrooved putter faces have emerged in the last few years to open up yet another option when choosing a putter.

Yes! Golf was perhaps the first to use grooves on a putter face and were quickly followed by the likes of Guerin Rife and the TaylorMade Rossa line. Proponents say the grooves get the ball rolling much more quickly off the putter face thus reducing skidding and hopping that can cause the ball to wobble off line.

GEL (Groove Equipment Ltd.) entered the U.S. market at the 2007 PGA Merchandise Show with a line of six putters all featuring a grooved aluminum insert and named for precious stones. For our review, we chose the Ruby model. It's an Anser-like head with a plumber's neck. Here's what we think after using it awhile…

About Roll
If you've ever closely watched a really, really good putter - say, Tiger Woods - you'll notice that he gets the ball tracking on a very tight end-over-end roll that makes it look like the ball is hunting the hole. The quality of the roll you can achieve is key to helping the ball hold its intended line even over irregularities in the green.

My PGA pro friend Marty Strumpf was amazed when he saw a super slow motion close-up of Tiger striking a 90-foot putt on TV. Even stroking the ball as hard as he had to at that distance, the ball came off the face with no hop and began rolling almost immediately.

Given Tiger's enormous talent and a lifetime perfecting his stroke, it's easy to understand why he may not need groove technology to achieve optimum performance. In his case, technique trumps technology.

It's also worth pointing out that noted putter designers like Scotty Cameron, Bob Bettinardi, and Bobby Grace have so far steered clear of grooves. Cameron has even bluntly asserted they make no difference in roll.

But I think for some of us, grooves may make a difference. And, as I'll explain later, it's sometimes more than just the grooves in grooved putters that can improve the quality of the roll you achieve.

About GEL
Alec Pettigrew is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur who, at one time, was the CEO of Yes! Golf Asia Pacific that handled distribution of Yes! putters in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. He sold the company to Yes! last year and immediately formed GEL. While with Yes! he came up with the idea for their distinctive black, white, and yellow grips. Based on what I've seen in the Ruby putter, he brought a lot of the same concepts with him to his new venture.

Construction
All of GEL's putter heads are cast in 431 stainless steel and feature what's called a black nickel finish. It's a rather dark metallic look. The top surfaces are somewhat of a matte finish while the sole and edges are quite shiny. It's a thoughtful design, I think, because it avoids reflections in the playing position.

Gel Ruby Putter Face
Here's a good view of the aluminum insert with the milled grooves. The edges on the grooves are relatively sharp; better, I guess, to grab the cover of the ball at impact.

The grooved insert is milled of aluminum. Unlike some other inserts I've seen, it doesn't appear to be embedded in any sort of polymer, even though there is a white border around it.

The Ruby model we tested has 10 grooves milled into the aluminum. They're cut at something of an angle. Running my thumb down the face, I can feel more ridges than when I do it in the opposite direction. Unlike the patented Yes! semicircle grooves, the GEL grooves run horizontally.

The shaft is a step-less steel and the grip is a Winn AVS model. I think Winn putter grips are OK, but I can't help but scratch my head over the way they seem to show up in so many putter lines these days.

Esthetics
Before I go into the craziness, let me say a few words about the shape of the head. Virtually every major putter maker has produced this style in countless variations over the years. In this iteration, GEL has done a particularly excellent job in design.

Gel Ruby Putter Back
The GEL Ruby is a classic rendition of an Anser-style putter. The curves and proportions all look just right.

The head is somewhat blocky in comparison to some others of its ilk and that contributes to a very solid, square look with a nice thick top line with an assistive sight line. The curves are all nicely proportioned. While it doesn't have the jewel-like quality of a milled Cameron or Bettinardi, it's a very good-looking Anser-like head.

Now for the colors and graphics. I think they're awful. Then again, I wouldn't wear Ian Poulter's or Jesper Parnevik's clothes. Playing off the black/white/yellow scheme he devised for Yes! putter grips, Mr. Pettigrew has chosen something of an aqua and goldenrod yellow motif for his GEL putters.

I'm sure he's trying to make them instantly recognizable on the course or should they ever find their way onto television coverage of the tours, but in my opinion the net effect is to cheapen the look.

I will say he was thorough and consistent with the theme. The grip is yellow and aqua, the insert is aqua, and the headcover is yellow with aqua stitching. He also found it necessary to adorn the head with no less than three GEL logos plus a "roll" logo he's also using on his web site and promotional materials.

Gel Ruby Putter Sole
Not even the sole of the GEL Ruby could escape the logo and color combination. The overall effect cheapens the look.

The pictures say it all. Of course I must report that every time I used the putter when playing with someone new, they invariably asked about the "ugly" putter. So maybe Mr. Pettigrew's strategy is working. I just know that if I were to ever put this in my bag, it would be with a different grip and the paint stripped off.

One short note on the headcover: instead Velcro, it has a silent magnetic closure that's very nice. Unless, of course, gamesmanship is part of your repertoire and you time your rips for appropriate moments.

Specifications
Buried in the specifications is where I think you'll find what truly makes this putter different beyond its grooves. In short, it's a very heavy head with very little loft.

Gel Ruby Putter HeadcoverThe head weighs 360 grams, which is definitely on the heavy side. At 35 inches, this results in a swing weight somewhere around E3. That's heavy. By comparison, a 35-inch Cameron putter head usually weighs 330 grams. It's only in a 33-inch Cameron you'll find so heavy a head (and even then they top out at 350g).

Looking at the entire line, all the GEL putters have heavy heads, including two that top out at a hefty 390 grams.

What these weights accomplish, though, is to give the putter a lot of head feel. Some will like that sensation; others will prefer a more one-piece feel.

The loft is also interesting in that there's so little of it. All the GEL putters come with 2° of loft. Again, for comparison, Camerons are standard at 4°.

Still, I've seen low lofts before in the Yes! line. Their standard loft is 3°. I'm guessing that the low loft in grooved putters is because the grooves help lift the ball on impact so building in more loft isn't necessary. But that's just my guess.

The lie, by the way, is a very standard 71°.

Performance
The GEL Ruby has tremendous feel. The grooved aluminum insert delivers a very pleasing sound and feels very solid. It's a softer feel than Cameron carbon steel putters but a little firmer than the Odyssey putters deliver. I quite liked it.

Gel Ruby Putter Address
While the edges of the putter head are polished and shiny, the top surfaces that you can see at address are a matte finish. Apart from the aqua sight line, it's a very good looking head.

In the address position, the bold graphics got in my way a touch. Even with so little loft, the bright aqua insert was a bit distracting even seeing just a sliver of it. And the aqua sight line? Well, I think a Sharpie could take care of that in short order.

The Ruby's performance on the course was very good. The head is a little too heavy for my taste, but the excellent feel of the putter at impact more than made that up for that.

Do the grooves work? Well, in my experience, the Ruby does put a very good roll on the ball. I've used a Yes! putter in the past and I would say the roll is comparable. But right now I'm using a groove-less Cameron that seems to be putting just as good a roll on the ball.

How can that be when the loft and face design are so different? I really think it has to do with technique. The dynamics of your stroke dictate your effective loft and face angle at impact. Storied putters like Ben Crenshaw, Dave Stockton, and Andy North all succeeded in achieving a very tight-rolling putt with widely different styles and putters.

Like Yes!, Rife, and TaylorMade before them, GEL presents independent testing to show the superior roll achieved with their particular technology. I think tests like this are all well and good, but are a long way from proving a particular putter superior for a particular golfer.

So are grooved putters just a bunch of hooey? I don't think so. I think the lower loft and grooves represent another option in putter choice that could be perfect for some players' strokes. For instance, if the dynamics of your stroke result in the putter coming to the ball at too much of an upswing for an ideal impact, a 2° putter with grooves may help keep the ball from being launched into the air.

Gel Ruby Putter Grip
Here's a grip that makes a statement. Whether that statement is one you want to live with is obviously up to you. Just know replacement putter grips are cheap.

Furthermore, grooves impart a very unique feel. Even Yes! putters without an insert have a softer feel due to the grooves. The feel of the GEL Ruby was very, very satisfying to me. So much so that I wouldn't care if the grooves were giving me a better roll or not. Interesting in this regard is that Bob Bettinardi is introducing a putter line for Mizuno that, while not grooved, has a sort of slotted/perforated face to enhance feel.

Price and Availability
The entire line of GEL putters has a manufacturers suggested retail price of $165. They're being distributed in the U.S. by Jack Jolly & Sons in Moorestown, NJ, but I had some trouble finding even an online source via a quick Google search. Plus I've yet to see an example in a pro shop or golf store. Thus, I presume they're still in the process of building a dealer network.

Conclusions
Once you get past the loud colors and graphics, this is a very solid putter. It has very good feel and the touch with the grooved aluminum insert is superb. At a MSRP of $165 it is moderately priced. If you can find one to try, I definitely recommend you see if GEL grooves improve your roll. In the end, the only way to know is to try it yourself.

Posted in: Clubs, Review Comments (12)

Discussion

  1. That is one fantastic looking putter! I like that grip.

  2. JP Bouffard says:

    I have heard that there is independent testing out there that refutes the manufacturers' various claims that these putters actually start the roll earlier.

    The video on the infomercial for the Guerin Rife, for example, makes you think that there is undoubtedly an earlier roll imparted by their putter compared to the non-grooved/textured putter face (I think they were comparing to an Odyssey 2-ball in the first infomercial). Anyway, I have heard that in unbiased testing, possibly using putting robots to ensure the same stroke with all types of putters, the amount of benefit from these putters is pretty small.

    Putting is so important that it always strikes me as odd that people aren't more excited about technological features in putters. But I guess no matter how important, a ball rolling 20 feet will never seem as important and dramatic to someone as a 280 yard drive.

  3. Jack: Excellent review, as always. Agree with you completely on the nice shape of the Ruby model head, and the garish colors!

    JP: According to golf design engineers I know and trust, grooves of the face of a putter don't do anything to help/hurt roll. Your swing speed on a putt is so slow that there's simple not enough energy at impact to cause the grooves to change launch angle. Grooves, like inserts, can change feel and sound. But how well the ball gets rolling has everything to do with the loft of the putter, the stroke itself, and the relationship between the two. I wouldn't NOT buy a putter because it has grooves – I have a Rife Barbados mallet that I quite like – but I don't for a minute think the grooves are grabbing the ball on a 10-foot putt.

  4. Opa says:

    Looks like they've made a putter of their own for the Swedish :grin:

  5. I have heard that there is independent testing out there that refutes the manufacturers' various claims that these putters actually start the roll earlier.

    I've seen such testing and know enough about the methods used to believe it. My own experience putting and watching good putters backs it up - it's more about the stroke you put on the ball than what type of surface strikes the ball. Heck, I putt nearly as well with the blade of my sand wedge as my (smooth-faced) putter… but I'm not about to add a fourth wedge just for putting, either. :-)

    Buyers should beware because manufacturers of such, for lack of a better word, "interesting" technologies like grooved putter faces can come out with their own scientifically "valid" research which "proves" that their putters provide an edge. They'll often hire an "independent testing" company to do the "research" as well in an attempt to lead credence to their claims.

    By tweaking things like the speed at which a ball is struck, the kind of golf ball (cover) used, the direction of impact (Level strike? Ascending? How much?), the type of grass or surface, etc. you can probably get balls to roll differently. Find the one combination that works best with your particular putter face and you too can claim that your putter is capable of "rolling the ball better than anyone else!"

    I think the key thing to learn here is this: you can't necessarily buy a good roll, but you can practice a stroke that matches as closely as possible the putter you like to use to achieve a good roll.

    Putting is so important that it always strikes me as odd that people aren't more excited about technological features in putters. But I guess no matter how important, a ball rolling 20 feet will never seem as important and dramatic to someone as a 280 yard drive.

    Which is weird, too, when you consider the fact that you can hit a drive nearly 3° offline and still find the fairway, but if you mis-hit a 20-foot putt by more than 0.51° you'll miss 100% of the time (as noted in our very own Angles of Error article).

  6. eld says:

    That putter looks like it was made by an 8th grader. Colors by a Crayola. Grip by a circus clown, head by TM Rossa, and mfg by a chinese factory.

    I can't believe this thing is actually for sale.

    I can't believe I'm the only one who feels this way!

  7. Matthew says:

    Yeah- this looks like crap... :!:

    Ball roll may not be a huge issue for most professionals as many have stated, but for the non-pro player (us people) it is an aid. Just watching the YES! video at demo days between peoples regular putter roll and then switching to a YES! putter is a visually convincing proof that they do make a difference.

    I wonder also if the GEL grooves are a copy of other putters in technology- there has to be some problems there. I wouldn't be seen dead with a cheapie like that.

  8. Rick Carpenter says:

    Maybe grooved putters help grab the ball for a better launch for golfers with a less than perfect impact?

  9. RexWrx says:

    My personal theory is that grooves reduce the sidespin effect on imperfectly struck putts. There is an element of friction between the face and ball if the path is not bang on. Thus, grooves reduce the contact patch and result in truer putts, more often.

  10. Bill says:

    Golf Ball $3.75 Putter $ 199.00

    "Grooved Putter Swing" Priceless

  11. Gary Drago says:

    I purchased a Opal Gel Putter on Ebay as I was looking for a Heavy Putter after watching the Italian Open on Golf Channel.

    The Gel is also a heavy putter too and I liked the look of Gel better than the heavy putter.

    The roll it puts on the ball is unbelievable and on short putts 6ft and in it is automatic as it is so heavy it impossible to take back off line.

  12. Ken Luthy says:

    I purchased a Gel putter and called the company after 6-8 weeks of use. It appeared to me that the grooves were breaking down in the hitting area. I returned the putter, as instructed, and have not gotten a putter back or resolution. :sad:

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