This was the biggest golf equipment story of 2023

odyssey versa jailbird putter

Fowler's Odyssey Versa Jailbird set in motion one of the most popular gear trends in the industry.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

With all due respect to golf’s governing bodies and their attempt to shake up the game with an earth-shattering ball rollback proposal for all — the biggest equipment story of the year was finalized months ago. Up until this year, long putters appeared to be destined for obscurity after the USGA and R&A proposed changes to Rule 14-1 of the Rules of Golf, in the spring of 2013, that effectively killed the long putter.

Shortly thereafter, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau and Will Zalatoris put the arm-lock method on the map and watched as it received pushback from fellow pros who claimed it should be banned. From that point forward, the method eventually lost steam and slowly faded into the background.

While we might never see a return to the glory days of long putters, Rickie Fowler set in motion a putter trend that took the golf world by storm this year — and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

To understand how we got here, it’s best to start at the beginning when Fowler put an old Odyssey Versa Jailbird mallet in play at the American Express Championship.

A bit of inside baseball on Fowler’s putter: The build almost never happened. Back in January when Joe Toulon, Callaway’s PGA Tour manager and a former Odyssey rep, was sifting through putter drawers during a truck cleanup, he happened upon a single Versa Jailbird head. It’s important to remember Jailbird was discontinued after its release in 2013, so the putter had no business being in the drawer.

odyssey versa jailbird
Fowler put Odyssey’s Versa Jailbird mallet back on the map earlier this year. Jonathan Wall/GOLF

“The trip through the truck was more to see what we needed and didn’t need to start the year [at the American Express],” Toulon told GOLF.com. “I remember finding the Jailbird head and thinking to myself, man, this hasn’t been that popular of a head, especially lately. But with Versa coming back, I just decided to leave it on the truck.”

One week later in La Quinta, California, Toulon received a text from Fowler with a request to have a Versa Jailbird built to match caddie Ricky Romano’s wand — down to the 17-inch SuperStroke grip and slab of lead tape on the sole that helped it achieve a distinctive counterbalance feel.

Fowler quickly found his stroke on the greens and the requests started coming from other pros for the “Rickie Fowler putter.” One of those build requests came from Wyndham Clark, who rolled putts with Fowler’s Jailbird just months before besting his friend with almost the exact same putter build at the U.S. Open.

If Fowler’s success set things in motion for a Jailbird resurgence, Clark’s maiden major win broke the dam.

With more requests than heads available, Odyssey had to get selective at first. Then came the retail demand from recreational players clamoring to get their hands on a special build that would eventually be called the “Jailbird 380 White Hot” — an identical replica of Fowler’s 380-gram putter, sans the slab of lead tape. As expected, the limited-edition putter sold out in a matter of minutes and even crashed Odyssey’s website.

L.A.B. Golf MEZZ.1

$449
Zero Torque. Zero Compromise. MEZZ.1 Stock makes it easy for any golfer to benefit from Lie Angle Balance. It looks pretty much like a normal putter. But it actually helps you make putts.  MEZZ.1 Stock is our mid-mallet putter that’s fully CNC machined from a billet of 6061 aircraft aluminum (body) and 303 stainless steel (midsection). It includes 10 weights (eight on the bottom, two on the sides) that allow us to individually build each putter to a golfer’s exact specifications. Finish: Anodized 6061 Aircraft Aluminum (Black) and Brushed 303 Stainless Steel. Length: 33, 34, or 35 inches. Lie Angles: 67, 69, or 71 degrees. Loft: 2.5 degrees static loft (1-degree of effective loft with Press II 1.5º).
View Product

When a putter starts to generate incredible interest on Tour and in the retail market, other manufacturers find a way to ride the wave of success. In this case, that turned out to be L.A.B. Golf, which saw Lucas Glover put the company’s Mezz.1 Max broomstick in the spotlight late in the season.

Unable to get anything going with the wand, Glover decided to give the broomstick method a shot before the Memorial Tournament after seeing fellow pro Adam Scott have success with the build.

“I just ordered one and asked for Adam Scott specs from the putter rep,” Glover said. “I said we’re about the same height, I don’t want to know anything else and I’ll teach myself how to do this.”

The “Adam Scott specs” is code for a 45-inch broomstick build — better known as the long putter Scott used to win the 2013 Masters. Unlike a conventional putter where the hands are placed one directly above the other on the grip, Glover’s broomstick build required him to get comfortable with a different stance and split grip — meaning two separate grips on the shaft — that positioned his hands well apart from each other. Glover admitted there was an acclimation period, but it didn’t take him long to see a noticeable improvement in his stroke.

Glover would go on to win back-to-back PGA Tour events — Wyndham and the FedEx St. Jude Championship — to set in motion a run on broomstick putters that’s likely to continue into next year. (L.A.B. also saw Camilo Villegas win using a L.A.B. wand featuring, you guessed it, Fowler’s same 17-inch SuperStroke Tour 3.0 grip.)

The anchored broomstick might be dead in the water, but with Fowler, Clark, Glover and Villegas leading the charge, longer counterbalance and brookstick builds are making a major comeback. Only this time around, it doesn’t feel like a fleeting trend.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at True Spec Golf.

JWall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.