“Counter-weighting” has been a big trend over the past couple of decades, especially on putters. The idea behind weighted grips, weighted shafts, weighted plugs inserted into the top putter shaft, etc., is that distributing the weight more equally along the length of the putter promotes a one-piece take-away without extra hand and wrist movement.
When Steve Sacks and Rich Parente founded Sacks Parente Golf Company in 2018, the two golf industry veterans said “counter-weighting, schmounter-weighting.” (Or at least, I imagine them saying it.) And they did the exact opposite: they designed several series of putters featuring Ultra Low Balance Point (ULBP) technology. This patented feature consists of an ultra-lightweight graphite putter shaft and a heavy, but precisely balanced putter head. The philosophy behind the design is that the player should be able to feel the putter head through the stroke. The weighting also allows for a relatively short, controlled stroke that delivers considerable “pop” to the ball.
Playing the Sacks Parente Series 54LH Mallet Putter
Sacks Parente is a boutique putter company with several model options, ranging from a true blade to a hollowed flanged bade to and Anser-style model to mid-sized and large mallets. These models don’t come cheap – depending on customizable features, you could spend up to $800 on flatstick. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, “SP” is offering deep discounts on all models.
I tested the 54LH VA Mallet putter, with a graphite shaft and mid-sized grip, which normally runs $599 but is currently on sale for $399. Besides ULBP, there are a couple of other notable innovations in this model. First, like all SP putters, it features a front-weighted center of gravity (CG). This means that the putter head’s center of gravity is pushed forward, near the face. This reduces the “gear effect” (twisting) that affects putts when struck off-center, as well as any sidespin that occurs when the CG is farther back.
The second feature is Vernier Acuity (hence the “VA” in the putter’s official name). Vernier Acuity refers to the three red and blue alignment stripes behind the face. Sacks Parente was the first company in 2018 to incorporate these triple-stripes into their products. Now several larger companies have followed suit (including Callaway, which Rich Parente co-founded in 1982).
I normally play a mallet putter, and I prefer the plumber-neck look of the 54LA, as opposed to the center-shafted version, which is also available. As seen in the picture below, not only is the balance point ultra-low, there is also about a 1” toe-hang. This means that the 54LA VA is ideal for a basically straight back and straight through stroke, with just a bit of rotation (the so-called “gate-like” motion through impact).
At first, I found myself missing putts with the 54LA VA to the left—pulling just a hair. With the slight toe-hang, and the extremely low balance point, if felt like it was too easy to close the putter face at contact. The mid-sized grip helped counteract this tendency, though, and I soon settled on focusing closely on the VA alignment stripes through my stroke, and the ball started to roll true to my intended line.
The most notable characteristic of the 54LA VA, however, is the way the ball “pops” off the face. Not in a hard way – the feel is very soft. But because of the mass and the extreme weighting of the head, a short, controlled stroke is plenty for any putt of a reasonable length.
I shared the Sacks Parente 54LA VA with Troy Gagne, reigning Club Champion of Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, IL, coach of the Mahomet-Seymour HS Girls Golf Team, and scratch player. He’d been having trouble hitting his normal Anser-style putter hard enough early in the season when the greens were a tad slow. He handed it back to me after his round and said, “I really like that weighting. And I got the ball to the hole – finally!” When I asked if he noticed the “pop” off the face, he agreed completely: “It’s a little deceiving at first. It really does come off the face with good speed.”
Performance aside, there are a couple of features of the 54LA VA that take some getting used to. First, for an old guy like me, I missed being able to scoop my ball up from the green with my putter; this one makes you bend over to pick everything up. Also, I am semi-concerned about the durability of the lightweight graphite shaft. Bending over to pick up a ball or get the ball out of the hole, I tend to lean on my putter. If I put my weight on this one, I worry that I’ll snap it. Finally, the first round I played with it, a slight rattle developed somewhere in the shaft. Towards the end of the round, the sound stopped and it hasn’t come back, but I figure there’s some loose epoxy in there somewhere.
Sacks Parente 54LH VA Putter: The take-away
Sacks Parente putters remind me of high-performance sportscars. The engineering and balance are tuned to exact specifications. In order to take advantage of this exquisite machine though, you need to practice to get the feel. You can’t just stick it in your bag and expect to go out first time and drill all your putts. Speed will need to be dialed in, as will control of the putter head and face. It’s imperative to really work on the “pendulum” action of the putting stroke – let the head swing, because if you get twitchy, you could lose control. Get that stroke grooved though, and watch the putts race into the hole.
My Sacks Parente putter came with a classy metal ball marker and a snazzy logo hat, both of which became immediate favorites.