Last fall, I switched from an old Ray Cook M1-X to a Scotty Cameron Red X. My review of the Red X reveals my findings: that it's is a solid mallet putter that replaced my favorite club of a decade and earned a spot in my bag.
Quite frankly, I figured it would remain there for a decade itself.
Oh how things can change. And change they did when I putted with the Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura Phantom Mallet.
I've never been a fan of those "funky" mallets, like the original Futura or the recently reviewed V-FOIL GT by Bobby Grace. The Ping Doc, the Ben Hogan Baby Ben - they all just look too weird. The Futura Phantom Mallet, however, blends the performance of the Futura with the more classic looks of a mallet.
The Futura of 2004 was born during an "MOI" craze - clubs with a high "moment of inertia" resist twisting on off-center impact. The original Futura - a silver version of this year's black model - featured a large, rounded backweight that deepened the center of gravity. The further back the CG is, the less twisting the club suffers on putts struck towards the toe or heel.
By pushing the semi-circlular backweight forward until it met the face, Scotty Cameron was able to achieve a traditional mallet appearance with some of the benefits of the Futura-bred high MOI. The T-shaped frame - combined with the five silver sight lines - is intended to make alignment a breeze, and the black finish prevents glare on sunny days.
The face and frame are comprised of milled aluminum, stamped and painted on the underside. It's an attractive, unique design that will get looks on the course and on the practice green. If you're not one who likes loaning your clubs to others to try, perhaps the Futura Phantom Mallet is not for you - you'll get plenty of requests.
Looks and Setup
I said that the Red X was "a serious looking putter." in its review. The Futura Phantom Mallet blurs the line - it's serious because of its dark demeanor, but it has a little flair with its silver lines and back-weight. Let's just call it a "modern" putter.
Like the Red X, the black "serious" side and the visible back-weight inspires confidence. The five alignment lines really give you a good indication that you're lined up properly. All Scotty Cameron mallets have what they call a "high toe" which helps set the putter square to the ground, and the high toe also assists with alignment.
The Phantom mallet sets up nicely. The gently rounded sole rests solidly on the ground and continues to help with alignment. The singly-bent shaft is positioned in such a way that your eyes line up over the ball, allowing for the smoothest pendulum stroke.
The face of the putter is smoothly milled with curved lines that are attractive. I've struck a few thousand putts with the Phantom already, and no signs of wear are evident.
Feel and Sound
Ever since golf balls went away from balata or even the composite material used in the Titleist Professional a decade or so ago, I've gotten used to the ball feeling relatively "hard" off of the putter face. GSS inserts (as found on the Red X) as well as aluminum faces like on the Phantom have helped "soften" the feel a bit. Other companies have gone with plastic-like inserts - the White Hot 2-Ball is such an example - but I've always found those inserts to be too soft, almost "mushy" and muted in sound.
The phantom mallet felt very much like my GSS-insert Red X, albeit a little harder. That's a welcome trait. I feel as though the ball rolls quickly off the putter face with minimal skid, and the sound is solid, not muted and not "tinky."
The putter, like my blade irons, lets you know when you've missed a putt towards the toe or heel, but it does all it can to correct it. Distance and accuracy on "misses" was astounding, and given the similar characteristics the Phantom shares with the Red X, the forgiving nature of the Phantom may be the reason it replaced the Red X in my bag.
The putter has a consistent feel and balance on putts of all distances. The Baby T grip, which is both skinny and deep, encourages less hand action than other grips. It is also rather small which encourages you to grip the club in the fingers to increase feel.
I said this about the Red X, and my experience with the Futura Phantom mallet is nearly identical:
Of course, there's also the very simple matter of how the Red X putts. In a word: superb. The ball jumps off the clubface on putts, but in a controllable fashion. Distance control is quite easy, and I could concentrate on making a smoother stroke. Long putts, even with the shorter shaft (33"), are consistently easy to judge. In practice rounds, I felt as though I'd left a few short, but the ball rolled smoothly all the way to the hole. Finally, this club has very little "skid" to it - the ball starts rolling within a few inches and on-line.
The Futura Phantom ships with a an adequate headcover. The one you see here is actually the headcover for the non-mallet Futura Phantom, and as such it has room to spare. I later replaced the oversided headcover with a smaller one - simply imagine removing two inches from the left side of the left-hand headcover.
The stitching is good and the cover material is a shiny checkered black with the yellow/red/blue Futura branding and a place, as seen on all Cameron headcovers, for Scotty's "pivot" divot repair tool.
The Futura Phantom Mallet ships with 4° loft, a lie of 71°, and is available in 35" or 34" for righties and 35" for lefties. Want a slightly shorter putter? Grip down a little.
The putter face and frame is built from milled aluminum. The backweight is stainless steel. The grip? A black Baby T, just like on the Red X but in a different color.
I've seen quite a few mallets in my day, and I've always been a fan. The Futura Phantom succeeds in every way that the Olivia from Yes! Golf does not. It's solid, it sounds good, it feels good, and it looks good.
I did find one flaw with the mallet, however. The holes you see between the T frame and the steel back-weight make it a little more difficult to properly fix a ball mark. You've got to aim more precisely when flattening out your repair, and this is one area in which the putter could stand to be more forgiving!
Sarcasm and silly jokes aside, the Futura Phantom mallet has replaced my Red X, and that may be the highest compliments I can pay this putter. After seeing the non-mallet Futura of 2004, I never thought I'd play a putter from this line. I'm happy to admit that my speculation was wrong.