“Drive for show, putt for dough” as the adage goes. And whether in professional or amateur circles, the search for a great and reliable putter has been like the Holy Grail of golf. We have witnessed the birth (and death) of a remarkable number of at-the-time revolutionary putters, a journey that changed direction with the arrival of the first gutta percha ball with a rubbery surface. It was St Andrew’s own Willie Wilson who produced the hickory shafted putter with a simple thin single blade, and then in the 1960’s John Letters’ ‘Golden Goose’ putter with its shaft connected to the putter head one third the way along the top that took the world by storm.
From then on the doors were opened to a dazzling array of putters that seemed designed more for their visual and marketing appeal than actual practicality and proven results. Meanwhile, simmering in the background were the likes of Phil Rodgers winning on the PGA Tour in the 1960’s with the ‘belly’ putter and Sam Snead experimenting with a croquet-style putting technique. While January 2016 will sound the death knell for ‘belly’, or long-handled putters, all eyes will once again focus on the short-handled putter and many a professional golfer who had extolled the virtues of the belly putter, including USPGA winner Keegan Bradley, and Matt Kuchar, is now searching for an alternative they can be confident in using.
Yet while so many manufacturers of putters have been trying to optimize a combination of weight, balance, and style, one scientist has been working on something far more important and ultimately effective, and that is alignment technology based on what we see, or rather what we think we see.
Welcome to Dr. Lennart Högman, PhD and the world of MLA, or Multiple Line-detector Activation as it is known – the result of over twenty years spent analyzing our processes of perception. So what does that have to do with golf? Well put simply, Dr Högman has been learning to understand the connection between our perceptions and our motor skills and applying it to putting. As he puts it: “An alignment system that acts upon multiple line detectors is a key to obtain veridical motion perception and a perfect in-line stroke surface.” We translate that to mean you can put greater trust in what your eyes see, and in turn your putting stroke will be more accurate.
His research has revealed we have over 100,000 receptors, in groups, which allow us to decide whether what we see is straight. The more the number of groups of receptors used, the better the accuracy, up to a point. Beyond that the brain goes into overload, and that is when confusion and uncertainty step in and the reason optical illusions exist. MLA is the result of his discovery as to the optimum number of sensor groups that are required to perfectly see what is in front of us in terms of lines and contours, and this alignment technology has now been successfully patented.
So what is the result? The result is a range of MLA precision-milled putters engineered in Sweden, the home of such golfing greats as Jesper Parnevik, Niclas Fasth, Annika Sörenstam and Robert Karlsson. MLA also recognize that while the technology works, there is still the ‘human factor’ to take into consideration - the look and feel of a putter is still critical to each individual. As a consequence, they have created an extremely impressive range of eight putters, each of a unique but still recognizable style, ensuring that virtually every taste and preference is catered for.
And just how good are these putters? Well those testing them, both amateurs and pros, have confirmed they very quickly achieved noticeable results and continue to do so, backing up Dr Högman’s beliefs.
How many putters can boast about their design coming from 20 years of scientific research form a PhD graduate professor in the field of visual perception?
If MLA were to have a slogan, it wouldn’t be a marketing catchphrase like “Looks good, feels good….” Instead would be far simpler and to the point – “Trust your eyes”.
Enjoy your game!