2002: Equipment Update - For Callaway, White Hot putter lives up to its name

How popular is the new Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter from Callaway Golf?

So popular that retail shops can’t get enough of them and that Callaway already has doubled its annual sales forecast for the putter. So popular that golfers are placing their names on waiting lists to pay at least $169.95 each for them. So popular that a new line of Odyssey putters, to appear next year and in succeeding years, also will be based on the 2-Ball concept.

“These putters are the hottest hard goods product of the year,” said Ken Morton Jr., director of retail at the Haggin Oaks Super Shop in Sacramento, Calif. “We’ve sold every piece we can get our hands on. Currently, it is making up nearly 70 percent of our Odyssey sales. Customers who try it out on the putting green find that lining up the putter is very, very easy. It is highly visible on all tours right now, and that helps.

“Delivery has been tough, but luckily for us, we were aggressive with prebooks back at the Orlando PGA Show (in January).”

More praise came from Scott Solem, owner of three Sun Golf stores in the Jacksonville, Fla., area.

“We’ve sold everything that has been allotted to us, and people do not bring it back,” Solem said. “You can tell whether something will be a great seller by whether or not it comes back.

“We were fortunate. We saw them early because we have a lot of tour guys around here in the winter. These guys starting showing up, using them as practice putters. Then they started playing with them. We saw the 2-Ball as a great training product that goes right to the golf course, and we jumped on it pretty hot and heavy. Everybody says how easy it is to line up the ball. That’s the one thing I always hear.”

Regardless, said Dick Helmstetter, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development, the 2-Ball putter is more than just another pretty, easy-to-align face.

“It has to do with the center of inertia,” Helmstetter said, pointing to the putter’s lightweight face, hollowed-out middle section and heavyweight end section. “This putter is built around its most stable axis. That’s why it performs so well. Nobody ever designed a putter exactly like this before. Some had come close, but we don’t believe with an understanding of what we’re talking about.”

Helmstetter said that 2-Ball belly and long putters will appear later this year. Furthermore, he confirmed that a family of Odyssey putters is being developed to take advantage of the 2-Ball’s inertia concept.

“We are working on several other versions of this putter,” he said.

Although he would not divulge any sales projections, Helmstetter admitted that the 2-Ball sales forecast recently was doubled for the year. Sources outside the company said the new number is 80,000 putters worldwide.

Callaway made a lump-sum payment to Dave Pelz to acquire the patented design concept originally introduced in the Pelz 3-Ball putter. That putter appeared on the PGA Tour in 1985, although one version subsequently was outlawed by the U.S. Golf Association. To make sure its putter conformed to the rules, Callaway submitted several versions of the 2-Ball to the USGA. Early models were rejected, but alterations made it conforming.

Helmstetter credits Paul Azinger for helping to inspire the 2-Ball putter. In 1994, when Azinger was recovering from cancer treatment, he told Callaway officials he could putt better with a bladed sand wedge than a putter.

“He swore he could putt better with his sand wedge,” Helmstetter related, “and it was damn near true. Later we found out that almost everybody would aim the round edge better than a flat line.”

So Callaway designers produced a “dead round” prototype with a flat face. That was followed by the 2-Ball, with two white circles on top that are the exact same size as a golf ball. What’s more, the putter will fit precisely into a USGA-spec golf hole.

“Absolutely the size is intentional,” Helmstetter said. “We were searching for a naturalness. These round circles really work. If you’re looking at the hole, something with the same size and dimensions may make that a little easier.”

Pete Line, general manager of Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had a more simple analysis.

“All I know,” Line said, “is that we can’t get enough of them. The pop has been sustained since February. . . . Word of mouth has been incredible. Golfers know there’s something different with white circles on top, and they all want to try it."

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