Review: Bettinardi BB1 Putter 2011
Reinventing the wheel never looked so good.
Oh no, another review of an Anser style putter! What could possibly make this one any different than the others? How can I justify this purchase? Will it make a lick of a difference in the way I putt? Questions of this order came to mind wondering just what I was going to write about Robert Bettinardi’s BB1 putter offering for 2011. The Anser was, and still is, a classic, and for a reason. However, the attention to detail and the performance of the finished product make this classic style flatstick more than provide the superlatives to describe it.
When viewing the Bettinardi BB1, there is a subtle, understated quality about it. The finish, called “Metallic Fog,” is a maintenance-free finish, which I appreciate, as I have never been one to want to do “putter maintenance” after a round. It is a PVD type finish, and the glare mitigation is good to excellent. The entire putter head is finished in this metallic PVD coating that is three microns thick for maximum durability while still giving a great feel to the player at impact. Overall it is very much like a bronze color in appearance. The stampings and overall branding are minimal, and do not clutter the look in any way. A Winn grip with a very tacky surface is offered in standard and midsize sizes. It is much like those offered by “custom shops” by other manufacturers. I opted for the standard size and found it to be easy to maintain a loose grip given the tackiness, and the very flat area on the front of the grip aided with consistent gripping.
I always like it when you can customize at least to some extent with golf manufacturers. I noticed the head weight for 34 inch putters was listed at 355 grams on the Bettinardi site, which happens to be the same as what I have used for a while. Bettinardi was more than happy to pair the heavier head weight at 35 inch finished length I requested. The only other change I requested was just a slightly more upright lie angle at 72 degrees versus the standard 71 degrees. When the putter arrived, it was encased in a black Bettinardi box that you just know something special awaits you inside when you see it. Rounding out the package is a AM&E style American made headcover which features an elastic gusset to expand and allow the head to squeeze in and out, eliminating the wearing out of Velcro that can occur with this style head. A nice touch!
The true story of Bettinardis, at least my BB1, is the honeycomb face technology. I call it “technology” as this goes well beyond ordinary milling. The Honeycomb finish measures flatness by a geometric pattern produced by Bettinardi’s patented process and also measuring across the high point of each individual milled circle. Bettinardi holds a flatness tolerance of one-millionth of an inch across the entire face of the putter. The average number of passes in the milling process is over 300 passes. I was confused at first that this is the flattest surface possible, as you can run your fingers over it and feel the surface patterns. However, it was explained that the ball radius actually prevents the ball from ever coming in contact with these “low areas” of the milling, and the high, flat areas are numerous and each is milled to within their seriously high tolerances and the part that actually touches the ball. The resulting roll this imparts on the ball has been true time after time, and this “purity” of roll manifested itself in an easily tangible way for me: fewer putts coming up short. More of my putts are at least having a look at the hole and ending up in easy tap in ranges if I miss. The confidence this has given me really shows in the many par saves from 5 to 6 feet I have rolled in so far this season (thanks to bad chipping and not poor lag putts.)
Feel is always tough to convey in a review. While I am not a metallurgist, the material Bettinardi starts with is 12 L 14 chemistry controlled carbon steel. Sound is usually what we “feel” at impact, or at least what we interpret as feel. The pocket behind the face and the flange on the BB1 are thin enough to elicit a crisp metallic “clink.” Years ago, I used to watch pro golf and wonder why their putts sounded so different at impact than my own. If you’ve ever heard that audible “clink” when the pros putt it, this is the experience with the BB1. It elicits this sound most notably when struck squarely at impact. Often, you’ll know right away if you hit a good putt by the sound with this flatstick. Ultimately, the vibrations I am feeling in my hands, along with the sound at impact, make me perceive the BB1 to be soft but highly responsive. Distance control has been good, with few three putts, and mostly easy tap-ins after lagging. From off the fringe, on the green, or even “Texas wedges,” figuring out the distance control has been intuitive and has given me a confidence when putting.
Alignment comes by way of a single white sight line in the flange. Also, the very precise manufacturing and milling of the Bettinardi has all lines and features pointing toward the target or in parallel with the other lines. Even the sightline itself seems to be more precise than some other putters I have tried in that it looks in alignment with the rest of the head. Nothing is out of place or details overlooked with the BB1. While it is a little more than some putters at $275 MSRP, it is still less than others which I have tried and not found to be superior to the Bettinardi in any way, shape, or form. This is a well made putter, devoid of flash, and a piece you could, with reasonable care, use for a lifetime. It will certainly never fall out of fashion.
On a final note, I must say, it’s nice to review a product milled in America. I enquired as to whether Bettinardi would ever consider using all American made components in order to have a true, “Made in the U.S.A.” product. They are always on the lookout, but nothing at this time. (The Winn grip is made in China.) Mr. Bettinardi’s background in precision milling medical device components and the like is interesting, and it’s easy to see how such a precise putter would result from precision millings of medical components. As such, we have one fine “Milled in the U.S.A.” putter in the BB1. Other styles are available in this lineup to suit your preference should a different neck or head style be to your liking.
No adjustable weights. No funky paint jobs. No UFO-inspired lines or design. No gimmicks. The Bettinardi BB1 is clean, precise, feels great, and is positioned squarely to take on the perceived “top dog” of putters. While it may look like some others, the manufacturing process and resulting performance set Bettinardi ahead of the competition with lasting value and beautiful lines.
For more information on the Bettinardi lineup of putters, belt buckles, and other precision milled golf products, visit:http://bettinardi.com/Michael White
Independent Equipment Reviewer