Putter, ball help Bridgestone make splash

Bridgestone True Balance putter

Bridgestone True Balance putter

— Among the golf-equipment manufacturers attracting the most attention at the PGA Merchandise Show was Bridgestone Golf, a company known for slow, steady, quiet growth.

There was nothing quiet about Bridgestone’s presence at the recent PGA Show at the Orange County Convention Center. The Bridgestone booth remained jam-packed, thanks to a revolutionary putter named True Balance and a new golf-ball formulation called Hydro Core technology.

“We are very happy,” said Dan Murphy, Bridgestone Golf’s vice president of marketing.

The buzz surrounding the new putter started Tuesday, Jan. 21 at Demo Day and continued for three days at the PGA Show. Here’s the inside story:

Most golfers know about counter-balanced putters, which generally are longer and heavier than traditional putters. For stability, these putters have extra weight in the butt end of the shaft or grip.

The True Balance concept is just the opposite. The oversized foam-type grip is exceptionally light (20 grams) and so is the graphite shaft (35 grams). Overall, the putter weighs 125 to 130 grams less than most putters.

The idea here is to increase clubhead feel. This, in turn, should lead to better distance control, according to Bridgestone.

“It is practically impossible to decelerate with this putter,” said Josh Kinchen, Bridgestone’s golf club and accessories marketing manager. That’s because most of the weight is in the head, and the standard swingweight is F1. That’s right, F1. Most putters are in the C8 to D4 range.

The putter is a product of independent designers Steve Sacks and Richard Parente. I have known Sacks for 20 years, and he is an inquisitive guy who dreams of unconventional putters in his sleep. Parente, a veteran golf-industry figure, was president of Callaway Golf in the 1980s.

“With so much of the weight in the putter head, it’s easy to feel exactly what the head is doing,” Sacks said. “With this putter, we believe most golfers will improve their putting on long putts. And they probably won’t miss short putts because they tap the ball rather than stroke it. The putter almost swings itself.”

Bridgestone liked the True Balance philosophy so much that it obtained exclusive rights for making and selling the putter. Initially there will be two versions – one a mallet and the other a heel-and-toe-weighted blade. The mallet is face-balanced, and the blade has a toe-hang that points almost to the ground.

Sacks said his creation is protected by a patent that prohibits any other company from making a putter with a balance point within 5 inches of the sole. True Balance has a balance point so low that it is located near the top of the hosel.

For now, the only putter length is 34 inches. The loft is 4 degrees, and the lie angle is 70 degrees. True Balance is scheduled to be available to consumers on March 1 with a retail price of $199.

Another advantage of the putter – for practice, if not for play – is that the putter stands by itself. A golfer can walk behind the ball, check the alignment, then return to the address position.

Under development is a smaller 10-gram grip. At this point, all of the grips are bright yellow.

Meanwhile, the B330 golf-ball family from Bridgestone has a hydro upgrade for 2014. All B330 balls – B330, B330-S, B330-RX and B330-RXS – feature water that is added to the chemical mix used for activating the core.

It was purely an accident that water got in there in the first place, but the result, Bridgestone has said, is as much as 6 extra yards with a driver.

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