Odyssey's Two-Ball Putter is the world's best-selling putter model over the last five years. While the unusual-looking putter has spawned scores of imitators and ignited the high-MOI, alignment-based putter craze, it takes an equipment nut with a sense of history to remember that it is a descendant of Dave Pelz's 3-Ball putter from the 1980s.
Pelz couldn't get the USGA to approve his odd-looking device (not "plain in shape" as the Rules of Golf require), but Odyssey was able to adapt his design into the more palatable Two-Ball. Flatstick fans who are looking to add the ball that fell off Pelz's design in the Two-Ball evolution can now rejoice in the release of the Odyssey White Steel Tri-Ball SRT Putter. Is the Tri-Ball thrice as nice? Read on to find out what we discovered.
The Odyssey White Hot Tri-Ball SRT Putter was first spied on tour last fall in the bag of Charles Howell III, and it hit retail shops in full force two months ago. While many will see it as an extension (literally) of the best-selling Two-Ball line, the Tri-Ball has significant design and esthetic differences. I've had the chance to play several rounds with a 34" model, and here are my impressions of Odyssey's latest massive mallet.
Design and Technology
The basic idea behind the Two-Ball - placing ball-sized white discs behind the sweet spot of the putter face as an alignment aid - is central to the Tri-Ball SRT Putter as well. The concept that Pelz created and Odyssey perfected is that seeing a series of same-sized objects helps the human eye to align those objects more effectively. In the case of the Two-Ball and Tri-Ball putters, this is meant to help you both start your putts on the intended line with more accuracy, as well as keep your stroke on line for better contact and control.
Obviously, the big difference between the now-familiar Two-Ball design and the new Tri-Ball design is the presence of a third ball-sized alignment disc atop the putter's head. As a result, the "weighting wing" behind the impact area of the head is even longer than it is on the Two-Ball. To satisfy the rule that requires a club to be no deeper from front to back than it is from heel to toe, the face Tri-Ball also has been lengthened considerably. That makes the Tri-Ball one XXL-sized putter, on the order of Ping's DOC putters. If you thought putters like the Two-Ball, Scotty Cameron's Futura or Bobby Grace's GT putters looked like potato mashers or branding irons, you'll think they were classic blades compared to the Tri-Ball.
Previous Two-Ball models have had bodies made from cast stainless steel. But an all-steel body would have made the Tri-Ball extremely heavy. So Odyssey's designers turned to aircraft-grade aluminum for the CNC-milled body. Holes are milled out of the center of the putter's wing, beneath the alignment discs, to transfer more weight to the back of the putter.
Speaking of weight distribution, that's another major upgrade for the Tri-Ball. Though the Two-Ball sparked the MOI putter trend, it didn't have nearly as high an MOI (moment of inertia, or resistance to twisting) as some other more recently designed competitors. Odyssey remedied that by implementing what it calls SRT: Saturn Ring Technology. Two heavy zinc-alloy bars are attached to the face of the putter and the back of the wing section. These bars work together to give the Tri-Ball a half-circle look and to move weight to the extreme edges of the putter - the heel, toe and rear. This makes the Tri-Ball SRT a truly forgiving putter. The double-bend shaft and face-balanced design work to keep the clubhead square through impact. If you're more of a "swinging gate" putter, this sort of putter may not be for you. But if you prefer a square-to-square, straight back and through stroke, you'll find the Tri-Ball SRT to be exceptionally stable no matter where on the putter face you strike the ball.
Assuming you strike the ball near the center of the face, you'll make full use of Odyssey's White Steel technology. This utilizes a large urethane insert with a smaller milled steel insert in the center of the face. This is meant to provide the smooth feel of an insert with the consistency of steel. The face of the Tri-Ball is noticeably more shallow than the Two-Ball, which may put off players who prefer a deeper-face putter or who like to forward press a great deal. It didn't have any effect on my putting.
The Tri-Ball SRT is a very modern-looking, esthetically clean putter. The body of the putter is CNC-milled for a very precise look - the cool, industrial counterpart to Scotty Cameron's hand-milled motif. A series of small furrows are milled into the sole, though they are mainly cosmetic. The aluminum is a dark gray, except for a slightly lighter band that runs from the front of the back of the putter between the white discs for a further alignment cue. The dark color of the aluminum makes the white alignment discs really stand out, heightening the effect of the Tri-Ball design. The red swirl Odyssey logo makes a couple appearances for a splash of color on the face and sole of the putter.
The Tri-Ball SRT stock grip is a soft, Winn-style paddle grip with a pebbled pattern in red and black. It was very soft and tacky, and held up well to repeated use and regular wear and tear. The headcover is well-designed, if almost comical for its shear size. The black suede-like cover has a large red Odyssey swirl and an sturdy Velcro closure, and appears to be large enough to house a Belgian waffle. I advise using the cover. While my test with the Tri-Ball didn't turn up any scratches or dings, aluminum is a soft material.
Feel and Sound
As noted above, Odyssey's White Steel design is meant to give you the best of both a soft insert and a firm metal. I didn't really see much benefit from this design in the steel-bodied putters of the White Steel line that tried in the past, but the technology works better for me in the aluminum-bodied Tri-Ball design. Aluminum putters tend to have somewhat dead feel and feedback. By using a steel insert, Odyssey has created a putter with firmer, more responsive feedback. The sound at impact is a solid "click," low-pitched and substantial.
Meanwhile, the urethane insert and aluminum body do work to provide a smooth feel at impact, even with hard-covered distance ball. And the feel with a urethane-covered ball is downright buttery. It seems it took the use of aluminum to get the full benefit of the White Steel insert concept.
One surprising element of the Tri-Ball SRT is how heavy it feels. Or rather, how heavy it doesn't feel. Given the size of the putter head, you expect the putter to be quite hefty. Instead, it feels very light during the stroke. I think this is more perception than reality, but Odyssey putters have always had a light feeling. This comes in handy on fast greens, where it is easy to make a smooth stroke.
The Tri-Ball SRT was a solid performer for me. As you would expect, it was money on short putts. And surprisingly, it was easy for me to dial in the distance on long putts - I drained two 25-footers in the first 9 holes I played with the putter. The only trouble I had was on intermediate-length putts with considerable break. As with other alignment-style putters, including the Two-Ball, I have trouble playing the right amount of break on 7- to 12-foot putts that have a fair amount of movement. My tendency is to hammer the ball through the break on such putts, a problem I don't have with blade-style putters. The more I used the Tri-Ball SRT, however, the comfortable I got with breakers.
But let's face it, you don't buy a putter like the Tri-Ball to make 10-foot sliders. You buy it to take the stress out of those 4-footers, and the Tri-Ball is an absolute winner on such putts. The high MOI and large size of the putter inspire a great deal of confidence, and work to make you take a smooth stroke. Confidence is a huge part of putting, and the Tri-Ball SRT is a putter that can make a real difference.
The Odyssey White Steel Tri-Hot SRT Putter is a worthy addition to the Two-Ball in the Odyssey product lineup. If you didn't like the Two-Ball and its progeny, you're not likely to gravitate to the Tri-Hot. But you're also probably in the minority, given how many Two-Ball putters are in play on tour and at your course of choice. The Tri-Ball SRT is my new mallet putter of choice, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to have an (extra) ball on the greens.
The Odyssey White Steel Tri-Hot SRT Putter is available in lengths of 33"-37" in right and left handed models. Street price is $199 at most golf retailers. And if you're looking for a little less of a good thing, the Odyssey White Steel Two-Ball SRT Putter has recently become available at retail as well.