Odyssey’s red-hot Jailbird putter has created a gear conundrum | Wall-to-Wall
Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the Monday morning gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.
Equipment success on the PGA Tour can be a double-edged sword. In one vein, Keegan Bradley’s win on Sunday at the Travelers Championship secured back-to-back wins for Odyssey’s Versa Jailbird putter. That’s the good news. The not-so-great news is Jailbird was initially released a decade ago when Versa’s black-and-white alignment system burst onto the scene.
In “equipment years,” a decade can sometimes feel like a century, depending on technological advancements. Thankfully, with a big assist from world-renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon, Versa made a return to the gear space earlier this year — but the Jailbird head shape didn’t make the cut.
While Bradley kept the head shape relevant on Tour, the popularity of the Seven and Twelve mallets made Jailbird a lineup casualty.
It’s common practice for equipment reps to keep old product on board for certain pros, but with limited space on the truck to house the goods, there’s usually a point where even past putter models — like Jailbird — get the hook.
It almost happened back in January when Joe Toulon, Callaway’s PGA Tour manager and a former Odyssey rep, was sifting through putters drawers on the truck and happened upon a single Versa Jailbird head.
“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 Rickie Fowler with a request to have an Odyssey Versa Jailbird built to match caddie Ricky Romano’s wand — all the way down to the 17-inch SuperStroke grip and slab of lead tape on the sole that helped it achieve a distinctive 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.
“It was just fate how [Fowler’s putter request] happens randomly like that,” Toulon said. “The requests have been coming since then at an incredible pace. If you add up all the requests we’ve gotten for this putter, it’s at least 100.”
To put the number into perspective, Toulon asked Barry Lyda, Johnny Thompson and Steve Mata, three of Callaway’s longest-tenured Tour reps, to recall the last time the company received so many requests for a specific putter build. The general consensus was Rocco Mediate’s Odyssey’s White Hot XG Sabertooth following an incredible showdown with Tiger Woods during the 2008 U.S. Open.
The difference is Mediate’s putter was part of Odyssey’s current lineup at the time — and Jailbird is most certainly not. Which brings us to the conundrum Odyssey is currently dealing with following Bradley’s win in Connecticut: Supply and demand.
“The tough thing is we don’t have heads right now,” Toulon said. “There are a few examples where we were able to highlight the benefits of our Versa technology and get a player into a different head shape. But for players who want an exact copy of the putter, it’s been tricky. I think we only have one left on the truck after Travelers.”
In addition to the head, the Microhinge insert found in the Jailbird used by Fowler and Clark isn’t nearly as common as the Jailbird with Odyssey’s popular White Hot insert. In other words, the putter everyone wants is a certified unicorn.
To meet demand, Toulon confirmed Odyssey is actively working with its suppliers to have additional Versa Jailbirds built, but when you’re dealing with players who need something now, creativity is key.
“For the moment, we’re trying to redirect them to something different from our Versa line or another counterbalanced option. It’s a copycat business and Tour. When players see something that’s successful, they’re going to ask questions as to why it’s working — and request it.”
While the putter build has been red-hot on Tour, it’s also having a moment on the secondary market where a used Jailbird putter recently sold for over $3k with the same 17-inch SuperStroke grip that plays a role in producing the counterbalanced feel players are gravitating towards.
The good news for weekend golfers is Odyssey has an answer for the dearth of Jailbird putters. A tweet from their social media account confirmed pre-orders are coming this week — a sign that Toulon and crew might not have to deal with the supply headache for too much longer.
When you possess arguably the hottest club in golf, it’s important to give the people what they want.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at True Spec Golf.