TPP REVIEW: TaylorMade Ghost Manta – Standard vs. Belly!

 

I think that the person who names the TaylorMade mallets must be a long relative of mine.  We are definitely on the same wavelength when it comes to the animal kingdom.  As a former multiple tarantula owner, I was very interested in the TM Spider.  Last year’s Japan-only release of the Stingray piqued the interest of my marine biology background, as did the announcement of the 2012 Ghost Manta.  The manta ray is one of my all-time favorite sea creatures.  These massive beasts swim with a grace, inconsistent with their size (adults can be 25 feet long and weigh 5000 pounds).  The manta’s sleek, yet powerful, morphology make them one of the ocean’s most effective predators.  More cool manta ray facts HERE

So, TaylorMade hooked my interest in this new putter based upon name alone.  Needless to say, I was very intrigued to see how the Manta looked and performed in person.

Aesthetics

The TaylorMade Ghost Manta represents my first adventure into white golf clubs.  I don’t have any issue against white golf clubs. I just hadn’t gotten around to playing them yet.  In fact, I think that TaylorMade’s marketing of their white woods and putters has been nothing short of brilliant.  In addition, Justin Rose showed us last season just how effective a Rossa Corza Ghost can be on the greens at the BMW Championship.

When the Ghost Manta arrived, my first thought was that the head was huge, but not huge.  That statement doesn’t really make much sense so let me explain.  The Manta from the top is quite large.  But at the same time, it doesn’t look large.  I think that the contrast between the white body and the black alignment lines sets up the optical characteristics of the putter in such a way that your eyes are drawn to the center of the putter.  I don’t think that it takes too much imagination to see the “manta ray” in the Manta.  From the top, the space between the lines would be the body with the outer sections being the wings.  From the side, the manta-like design continues, as the putter is quite thin compared to its surface dimensions.  The sleek underside of the putter is also consistent with the architecture of the manta ray.

Not to turn this into a complete National Geographic article, but TaylorMade did reverse the colors on their putter compared to the sea creature, though I think that this was on purpose.  If you look at a manta ray, you will see that it has a dark color on top and a light color on its underside.  This allows it to blend into the background in the ocean.  Predators or prey above the manta will not see it as its dark topside blends in with the darkness of the ocean below.  From below, the manta ray is hidden as its light underbelly blends in with the bright water and sky above.  The Ghost Manta reversed, being light on the top and dark on the bottom.  Unlike its sea cousin, the Manta putter does not want to blend into the background environment.  The white colored top instead stands out against the green grass and also against the putter’s two alignment lines.

 

The white finish is what I would call a glossy-matte white.  Depending upon how the light strikes the putter it can seem shiny at one angle and then flat at another.  I expected a bright white putter to glow a bit in the sun, but never once did I think that the putter finish was too bright or in any way distracting.  I never would have thought that a “white” finish could prove so interesting and difficult to accurately characterize.  My camera even struggled to focus on the putter from certain angles, likely due to the finish.  There is some optical wizardry going on there.  The size of the putter head even seems to shrink a bit at address.  I wouldn’t ever call it “compact” but it is not as large as I expected it to be.  In addition to the dominant white, the black and silver accent colors of the putter work well together and are nicely complemented by the colors on the grip and headcover.  The inside of the headcover contains some seriously plush carpet.  The Ghost Manta rides in protected comfort as you travel the course.

On The Course:  The Clash of the Mantas!

So there is one added feature to our play review today.  In addition to the standard length Ghost Manta (34”), I also collected play data with a belly-length Ghost Manta (40”).  I am a standard length putter player, but all of the hype and tour success surrounding the belly putter intrigued me.  One Ghost Manta in each configuration seemed like a great way to discover what differences really exist between the two putting modes.  Before we get to the differences between the two though, let’s cover some of the common play features on the two Mantas.

Insert

Let’s hit this topic first as it was my greatest concern.  I have had very different experiences with TaylorMade’s putter inserts.  I absolutely loved the feel of the insert in the Spider Vicino, motivating me to buy one when they released.  In contrast, the insert in the Spider Bolero did not work at all for me, with the putter heading back to the rack never to be considered again.  The Pure Roll insert has an interesting horizontal groove pattern to it and is made of Surlyn rather than the Titanium-alloy found in the Ghost Tour models.

Two play features regarding the insert warrant mention.  First is the lack of tone at impact.  This is a very quiet putter.  A Surlyn insert+ Surlyn or urethane ball is not going to make much noise.  The lack of sound will be welcomed by some players and bemoaned by others.  Personally, I like a bit more sound at impact.  The second, and more important, characteristic of the insert is that it puts a fantastic roll on the ball as soon as it comes off of the face.  There is no hop, skip, or jump with this putter.  The ball comes off clean and remains true to line.  I soon forgot about how quiet it is as the roll after impact became my true focus.  This insert delivers a very tight, end-over-end roll.

Alignment

As with any new putter, the Ghost Manta took me a bit of time to get comfortable with its alignment system.  My first few sessions with the standard length Manta yielded a consistent miss just to the left of the hole.  After a bit more practice though, I found that the two lines worked pretty well as a way to target the hole.  One of the most interesting discoveries for me was that the bold, white body of the putter almost disappeared from my consciousness as I aimed at the hole.  The black lines really stood out at address.  I never would have guessed that the bright white putter would be mentally overlooked at address.  Ultimately, after a bit of practice, both versions of the Manta were very to aim at the target.

Making the Swing

Obviously, this is where some differences arose when comparing the standard length Ghost Manta to the belly-length putter.  The standard length is a great SBST putter.  It stays very square through the stroke and at impact.  The weight seems appropriate for length and, barring golfer manipulation, the Manta just glides along the target line.  If you play a standard length mallet, you will likely feel immediately comfortable putting with the Ghost Manta.

The belly version of the Ghost Manta is still face-balanced, but the belly stroke is not straight back and straight through.  As I mentioned previously, I am not a belly player.  Before going through this review, I made sure that one of the local pros helped me determine the appropriate shaft length.  In addition, the pro also gave me a quick lesson on the belly-putting stroke.  Long story short, it took some adjustment to feel confident or even competent putting with a belly putter.  There was an “ah ha” sort of moment though when I realized that once I had the grip anchored in my belly, all I had to do was control tempo with my hands/arms and it would roll the ball along the target line.  After this realization, regardless of distance, I did not miss a single putt due to missing the line.  I may have been a bit short or a bit long, but line was nearly dead on every time.  Until that point, I did not really see how people could see using a belly putter as a competitive edge.  I think that putting with the Ghost Manta really opened my eyes to the power of the belly putter.  I can see how one who goes the belly route might never head back to standard.

My father-in-law dropped by the house one evening after a round where he putted himself to a big number.  He is a solid player, carrying a 6 or so handicap.  He has putted with the same putter for many years, but he has started pulling and pushing balls all over the place.  He hit some balls on my indoor putting green with the standard length Ghost Manta, and commented how he liked the feel and balance.  When he took the belly Manta though, I thought that I was going to have to wrestle the putter out of his hands.  He made everything with the belly Ghost Manta.  The March 23, 2012 street date for the Ghost Manta putter can’t come fast enough for him.

In Closing…

Here are what I think are some of the key elements of the TaylorMade Ghost Manta:

  • The white color is not as bold as one might expect and is less overt at address than one would expect.
  • Although the putter head appears large at first, it does not seem overly bulky or large during play.
  • The balance and weighting of the belly and standard length versions of the Manta seem appropriate.  The belly has a heavier weight in the tail to compensate for the shaft length.
  • With practice, both versions are easy to aim.
  • The Pure Roll insert puts an excellent roll on the ball that is consistent enough that one can accurately gauge distance with a bit of practice.  I am curious to see how the insert compares to the Titanium-alloy insert in the Ghost Tour putters.
  • All mallet or belly players will need to check these out when they release on March 23, 2012.

Find out more about the Ghost Manta and TaylorMade Golf’s other putters HERE