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LAB Golf Putters: A Putt on the Wild Facet

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You can say many things about LAB Golf putters, and we have no doubt you will. But you certainly can’t say they’re boring. Or conventional. Or even unoriginal.

Heck, you can’t even say they’re a copy of this or the same as that. If a LAB Golf putter bears any resemblance whatsoever to an Anser, Spider or any other putter living or dead, I certainly can’t see it.

Hell, even the owner of the company calls his putters “absurd.”

But these absurd, unconventional putters have a cult following as hardcore as any in golf. And as absurd and unconventional as these putters are, the story of how the company started, almost folded and was reborn is equally absurd.

And unconventional.

Not to mention accidental.

So with apologies to Lou Reed, let’s take a putt on the wild side.

LAB Golf: The Accidental Putter Company

“I’m just a nerd, man. I love putting and I love thinking about this stuff,” says LAB Golf owner Sam Hahn.

Hahn started LAB Golf in 2018 after acquiring the skeleton of the nearly bankrupt Directed Force company. A self-diagnosed putter psycho, Hahn spent 20 years in the nightclub and entertainment industry. Working nights left him with plenty of time during the day to indulge his passion for golf.

“I was a strong player but an inconsistent putter. I had a garbage can filled with putters in my basement. It got to the point where I’d intentionally switch putters every round just to inspire a honeymoon period, even if I putted well the round before.”

Hahn’s instructor ultimately asked him to try the Reno 2.1 putter by a company called Directed Force. Even for a self-admitted putter psycho, the Reno 2.1 seemed like a bridge too far.

LAB Golf putters

“So he shows me this Starship Enterprise-looking thing and I thought it was absurd,” admits Hahn. “I rolled a couple of putts and was intrigued. But I was already taking crap for being putter crazy. I wasn’t about to spend $450 on something that looked like that.”

It took some begging and cajoling but Hahn eventually relented and gave the Reno 2.1 a nine-hole trial.

“I actually only made it through seven holes and I sunk something like 150 feet worth of putts,” says Hahn. “It absolutely blew my mind.”

Within six weeks, Hahn went from a 1-handicap to a plus-3.5.

The Case of the Missing Head

At this point in his life, Hahn had never even considered getting into the golf industry. He was happy working nights and playing golf days. That’s when fate chose to lend a hand.

Or in this case, a head.

“The head of my putter fell off so I had to send it back,” says Hahn. “Bill Presse, the inventor and CEO of Directed Force, called me personally to apologize. He and I hit it off instantly. We talked for hours on the phone and learned we were kindred golf spirits.”

Presse is a golf lifer. He’s played professionally, worked in pro shops, was a master club builder by the age of 25 and remains an accomplished instructor. Despite all that, his company was foundering and he was ready to close the doors. The entrepreneur in Hahn sensed an opportunity.

LAB Golf putters

“The Lie Angle Balancing concept was there but nothing else really was,” he says. “The marketing wasn’t there, the manufacturing wasn’t there, the infrastructure, the branding, the general vibe. There simply wasn’t a company there. But there was a concept.”

So Hahn put together a group and partnered with Presse in early 2018. The new company was branded LAB Golf, for Lie Angle Balancing.

“I spent a lot of time making sure I wasn’t just believing my own bullshit about this putter. The results are instantaneously profound for most golfers. You’re a better putter than you think you are. Lie Angle Balancing is a tool that helps golfers unlock their putting skills.

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What Is Lie Angle Balancing?

Karsten Solheim figured out that perimeter weighting keeps a putter from twisting during off-center impacts. According to LAB, Lie Angle Balancing keeps the putter from twisting during the backswing and downstroke as well. The putter head intentionally seeks to stay square to whatever lie angle the putter is built.

“The lie angle is going to dictate the path of your stroke,” says Hahn. “And each putter is designed to stay square to that path in both setup and in motion.”

Don’t confuse Lie Angle Balancing with face-balanced, toe-up or straight back-straight through putters. LAB Golf putters don’t stay square to the target throughout the stroke. They stay square to the arc of your stroke without you holding it in place.

Bill Presse built Lie Angle Balancing into the original Reno 2.1. That putter was the love child of his original invention, the Revealer, a frame-like device that holds a putter in place while revealing how it will twist during a stroke if you don’t hold on to it.

“Bill didn’t set out to design a self-squaring putter,” says Hahn. “He set out to find out what the hell was wrong with the putters he had. He figured out Lie Angle Balancing because he invented the Revealer before he invented the putter.”

Put any putter—face balanced, toe-up, toe-hang, heel- or center-shafted—into the Revealer and make a stroke. You’ll see the putter spinning and torqueing like crazy. LAB Golf putters, remarkably, stay square with zero twisting or torqueing. Propaganda aside, this LAB video on YouTube gives you the visual.

“The putter is still going to arc,” says Hahn, “but the face will remain square through the entirety of the arc at that lie angle. And it will be square to the arc, not the target.”

Taking Stroke Type Out of the Fitting Equation

The prevailing theory in putter fitting is to fit your putter to your stroke: lots of toe hang if you have a strong arc; a little toe hang for a slight arc and face-balanced for straight back-straight through.

Prepare to be outraged, Torch and Pitchfork Nation. LAB says that’s bollocks.

“The results of other putters in our Revealer suggest there’s not nearly as much merit to the narrative of matching a stroke type to a specific torque profile,” says Hahn. “When you see a toe-hang putter or a face-balanced putter in the Revealer, it’s obvious those putters don’t do what they’re advertised to do.”

Whoa.

LAB Golf putters

“There’s an infinite number of articles out there about how you’re supposed to have this kind of putter for this kind of stroke,” says Hahn, “but I can’t find the study that shows why. I don’t know who decided it was law but somebody did. No one’s really scrutinized it. But when you see these putters flop around in our Revealer, it’s worth asking whether this narrative really holds water.”

The whole point behind LAB Golf putters and Lie Angle Balancing, according to Hahn, is to remove all that twisting from the equation. You can grip the putter ever so lightly because you don’t have to control any torque and you can trust the putter to swing the way it wants to because it’s not twisting.

“The DF 2.1 is the most technologically advanced putter in the world, period,” insists Hahn. “It’s the most forgiving and the most stable. You feel it the second you pick it up. You’ll have to work hard to ignore that you’re noticing something.”

Even if the thing you’re noticing is the size of that head.

LAB Golf Putters and the DF 2.1

The DF 2.1 is LAB Golf’s flagship and a direct descendant of the Reno 2.1. It’s been called everything from a pretzel on a stick to The Putter Formerly Known as Prince.

“Some of our investors, when we first started, said, ‘Can’t you make it any smaller, like a PING Anser?’” laughs Hahn. “And I’m telling them, ‘You don’t want us to.’”

Since taking over the company, Hahn has added two more models to the LAB Golf putter stable: a much more compact mallet called the MEZZ.1 and a minimalist blade called the B.2. Both feature Lie Angle Balancing.

The B.2 is a low MOI, center-shafted blade that’s oddly reminiscent of the putter Karsten built for himself in the early ’50s that eventually led to the creation of PING. The MEZZ.1 is a fang-ish-looking mallet for players who simply can’t tolerate the look of the DF 2.1.

“Guys on Tour aren’t any different from you or me,” says Hahn. “They don’t like taking crap from their friends. If they’re out there missing a couple of four-footers with this giant-ass, satellite-dish putter, they’re going to hear about it.”

If you want to compare the three, Hahn says to think of the DF 2.1 as a fully automatic, the MEZZ.1 as semi-automatic and the B.2 blade as user-operated.

You can find LAB Golf putters at the PGA TOUR SuperStore as well as at other retailers and at a couple of hundred green-grass facilities. Stores will keep stock models on the shelves but Hahn recommends custom fitting, either in person or remotely. All he needs to see is a video of you putting in front of a vertical plane, like a door frame, to determine the length and lie you’ll need.

LAB Golf putters

Do These Things Work?

Three LAB Golf putters competed in this year’s Most Wanted Blade and Mallet testing. The MEZZ.1 finished in the top five from five feet while the DF 2.1 finished second from 20 feet among the mallets. The DF 2.1 placed 1oth overall and the MEZZ.1 12th out of 27 putters tested.

The B.2 finished 13th out of 25 blades tested.

Decent but slightly better than middle of the pack. All three were stock models.

Using any of the LAB Golf putters will be different from any other putter. Lie Angle Balancing requires center shafting and the unique LAB grip builds in considerable forward shaft lean. You don’t have to add to it.

From the moment you pick it up, the DF 2.1 just feels different. Once you pick a line, grip it like a baby bird and stroke away. Even with a soft-handed grip, the putter doesn’t wobble in the slightest and the ball will roll on the line you choose. Of course, if you don’t pick the right line, the ball won’t go in the hole but it does go where you tell it to. I didn’t find distance control to be quite as automatic as our testers, however. If you’re not getting it to the hole, it’s better to use a longer stroke than a stronger stroke.

Sound and feel are subjective and don’t help you get the ball in the hole. But both the DF 2.1 and MEZZ.1 sound and feel very sweet, at least to my hands and ears.

The MEZZ.1 is much more compact but the same principles apply: use a soft grip and let the putter do its thing.

Is a LAB Golf Putter For You?

Boy, is that ever a loaded question.

I first encountered LAB Golf putters at the 2015 Minnesota Golf Show. We saw the Revealer in action and learned about Lie Angle Balancing. After rolling a few, two guys bought the old Reno 2.1 and haven’t looked back. Yours truly, however, kept laughing at the pretzel on a stick. I wouldn’t be caught dead with that … thing in my bag, thank you very much.

Currently, I’m on putters 11, 12 and 13 since that time.

Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places.

“I didn’t think I could get over the looks, either,” says Hahn. “And if I hadn’t holed the world in those first seven holes with it, we wouldn’t be here today.”

LAB Golf putters

Along with looking, uhhh, different, LAB Golf putters aren’t cheap. Stock models are $399 with limited lie-angle options. Custom models start at $449 for the MEZZ.1 and $549 for the DF 2.1 and the B.2. You have more lie angle options (important for custom fitting) and can choose upgraded shafts, alignment aids and finishes.

“Our putters are made entirely in the U.S.,” says Hahn. “Even the components, other than the shaft, grip and headcover, are made here. Everything that goes into the head is made in the U.S. and they’re put together by hand. And some of these putters can take up to 45 minutes to balance.”

No matter how you slice it, $449 to $549 for a putter built to your specs is a nice hunk of lettuce. But as my Minnesota Golf Show buddies happily remind me, it’s short money compared to the 13 putters I’ve tinkered with since 2015.

It’s all relative. It’s up to you to decide what you value and what works for you.

LAB Golf Putters: The Final Word

Two obvious questions remain.

First, if these are so good, why don’t pros use them?

Well, they do. Adam Scott used a DF 2.1 at the Masters in 2019. Several Korn Ferry and mini-tour players bag them, including MyGolfSpy’s own Harry Nodwell. Harry recently won two straight mini-tour events with the DF 2.1. He calls it the most stable putter he’s ever used.

Second, if this Lie Angle Balancing idea is so great, why didn’t PING, Odyssey or some other “big guys” come up with it first? What did Bill Presse know that these other geniuses didn’t?

“A couple of guys got really close,” admits Hahn. “People assume toe-up is the same thing as Lie Angle Balancing. It isn’t. Bill figured it out before anybody else because he invented the Revealer before he invented the putter.”

LAB Golf putters

So what’s to keep a major OEM from, well, copying?

“We have very good intellectual property stuff in place,” says Hahn, “and it would be difficult for a major OEM to promote a Lie Angle Balanced putter without saying every other putter they’ve ever made is crap.”

Also, the big guys spend an awful lot of money marketing their ideas which, rather subtly, tends to invalidate non-traditional ideas. Consumers subconsciously believe if the big guys didn’t come up with something first, it can’t be any good.

We golfers are a funny lot. We dismiss Spider or Anser imitators as mere “copies” and accuse OEMs of marketing same-old as new and improved. In that light, LAB Golf is posing a rather uncomfortable question.

If the Putter Formerly Known as Prince actually does work for you, can you get over yourself long enough to actually put it in the bag?

What say you, GolfSpies?

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