News & Opinion

 On balance, Bloodline putter lines up

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

By Steve Elling

Every year at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., a handful of products catch the eye, pique the interest of attendees or stand apart from the thousands of golf items.

The new Bloodline putter line checks all three of those boxes. Particularly the last one.

Stand-up, stand-alone putters have been trotted into the golf marketplace in the past, in the form of balky, alignment-friendly clubs for those willing to put up with the indignity of the jeers from playing partners and friends. For good reason, too. In order for a stand-up-type putter to remain upright when a golfer removed his hands from the grip, the clubs looked like bricks on a stick, because of their heavy, oversized heads.

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COURTESY OF BLOODLINE GOLF
Ernie Els proves to be more than merely a celebrity endorser of the Bloodline putter. He also has got ‘some skin in the game.’

COURTESY OF BLOODLINE GOLF
Ernie Els proves to be more than merely a celebrity endorser of the Bloodline putter. He also has got ‘some skin in the game.’

That certainly is not the case with the space-age design of the Bloodline series, which looks as sleek and aerodynamic as any top-shelf putter on the market, thanks to a complete overhaul of a traditional putter’s weight distribution.

“The earlier versions from other companies either had a really big footprint, or were very heavy, or both,” said Bloodline co-founder Larry Bischmann, a former TaylorMade marketing whiz who owns an engineering degree. “So we took almost all of the weight out of the grip and shaft.”

There is one heavyweight involved, however. Ernie Els became involved in the Bloodline series two years ago after meeting with Bischmann and partner Brad Adams, whose father, Gary, founded TaylorMade and is widely credited with inventing the metalwood.

Els isn’t just the celebrity frontman of Bloodline’s marketing campaign. He’s also an investor in the company’s future. That’s right, a World Golf Hall of Famer and former world No. 1-ranked player who, for decades, has received millions to serve as a club endorser instead plunked down his own capital as seed money.

“Yeah, I’ve got some cash in there, some skin in the game,” Els said, smiling. “There are a couple of zeroes in there. But it’s a product I really believe in and really like. I think it can improve everybody’s game. I mean, last year, I hit it like crap, but I think I was top 10 in putting.”

Actually, he was fourth in total putting, 31st in putts per round and 44th in strokes-gained on the greens in 2017. For those who recall Els’ infamous six-putt episode on the first green at the 2016 Masters, which painfully underscored his putting issues at the time, that’s quite an improvement. He put the Bloodline in his bag at the U.S. Open last year, he said.

With Bloodline, the oversized heads of the past are history. The weight distribution is focused on the clubhead, which is made of milled aluminum, with stainless steel in the sole. The weight in the shaft and grip have been trimmed to one-third of what a traditional putter weighs, to approximately 50 grams.

The ultralight, carbon-fiber shaft does not sacrifice flex or playing characteristics, and an oversized, round grip is integrated into the shaft design, keeping weight concentrated in the clubhead.

For those who haven’t figured out why the Bloodline putter is a boon to players even at the game’s highest levels, a golfer can stand over a putt, walk away from the club and calibrate alignment accordingly. Standing behind the clubface, golfers can see the club, ball, target line and hole in a glance, without relying on peripheral vision, which is the case with traditional putters. Beyond the purely technical elements, knowing that a putt is more likely to roll on line is crucial to a player’s confidence, too.

The Bloodline series already has chalked up victories on the Web.com and Champions tours: Adam Svensson, at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on the developmental circuit; and Vijay Singh, a three-time major champion and former world No. 1, at the 50-and-older circuit’s Toshiba Classic.

The Bloodline series, which was listed as a conforming club by the U.S. Golf Association last year, comes in mallet and blade styles, multiple lengths and shaft angles. Although the $500 price isn’t cheap, a stamp of approval from one of six players in history to twice win the U.S. and British opens ought to be worth plenty.

Els, a 2019 Presidents Cup captain, doesn’t leave the Bloodline putter standing upright and alone during alignment in competitive rounds. He relies on it as an alignment aid during practice, when he often places a series of balls around the cup, at intervals of 3-8 feet.

“It has really changed my outlook on the game,” Els said. “My eyes and everything involved with alignment have completely regrouped. It recalibrated the whole system, the whole computer, so to speak.”

Which isn’t to say he hasn’t generated some second glances when using the stand-alone feature in practice.

“Guys are kind of smiling and kind of chuckling, but I am telling you, this is an unbelievable piece of equipment, an unbelievable piece of science,” Els said. “Your setup will be the same every single time. Get it set up to your specs, and you are good to go.”

Steve Elling has covered golf for the Orlando Sentinel, CBSSports.com and numerous other global print and online outlets. He has attended the PGA Merchandise Show more times than he can count. Email: ellingink@gmail.com; Twitter: @EllingYelling