Perimeter weighting is wildly popular right now, but the Rife IMO putter takes an entirely different approach. In many ways, you can think of this putter’s design as representing the complete opposite of perimeter weighting.
Not everyone’s heard of Rife Putters, but it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing putter companies. Golfers “in the know” are familiar with Guerin Rife’s reputation as a top putter designer, and more than 100 tour professionals have played his creations. I recently tested a Rife IMO putter, but I wasn’t surprised when I came away impressed. Here’s what learned about this specific putter, on and off the course.
Spoiler Alert: I liked this putter so much that I ended up buying the putter I tested (end spoiler alert).
I started this review by saying its design takes a different approach and represents the exact opposite of perimeter weighting. This putter clearly bucks the recent obsession with high Moment of Inertia (“MOI”) putters. Despite its design differences, the head of the putter does have the stability of a high MOI putter - it just gets there in an entirely different way than any other putter I know of.
MOI is a way of measuring a club head’s ability to remain stable and resist twisting or turning at impact. Generally speaking, a high MOI results in better forgiveness and accuracy on mishits. Typically, it’s achieved through a combination of perimeter weighting and other design characteristics. Most high MOI putters do it by placing much of the head’s weight toward the rear and outer perimeters. But the Rife IMO putter doesn’t bother with perimeter weighting or achieving a high MOI.
Instead, most of the weight (85%) of the club (“IMO” stands for “Inline Momentum”) is positioned directly behind the hitting area - straight down the centerline toward the rear of the club. In stark contrast to a perimeter-weighted putter, the heel and toe portions are hollowed-out aluminum shells and account for only 15% of the total weight. Rife believes this “Inline Momentum” design achieves two goals: keeping the head more on-plane during the putting stroke; and combatting deceleration (a stroke fault which is responsible for more poorly-struck putts than any other problem). The putter’s center-mass “spine weighting” is intended, in part, to help maintain acceleration during the stroke.
The shaft of the Rife IMO putter is positioned in-line with the central concentration of weight and its location helps make the putter be face-balanced. Almost everything about the design is intended to create an extremely stable stroke that stays on plane and maintains forward momentum, preventing the deceleration that can be fatal to accuracy. In short, the Rife IMO putter is designed to prevent mishits, not correct for them or be forgiving when they occur.
So, how well does the different approach of the Rife IMO putter work on the greens?
Quite well, I’d say – in fact, I loved it so much I bought the putter I tested!
Despite its size (the head is much bigger than I’m used to) the Rife IMO putter doesn’t look like a UFO. It actually fit my eye rather nicely. The body is predominantly silver and gray, with a white stripe running through a black area in the center, directly behind the face. A small, black face insert (which features Rife’s patented “RollGroove Technology™” to put a smooth roll on the ball) encourages you to strike the ball in the center of the face. The overall effect promotes the proper setup and more accurate, consistent putting.
I didn’t sink everything I tried, but I sure came close. Long lag putts (30 or 40 feet) all ended up within 2 or 3 feet of the hole, and 4 of them dropped in! That’s much better distance and directional control than I’ve seen with other putters. Short putts (6 feet and in) felt almost automatic. And my medium-range putts fell into the cup more often than usual.
The ball came off the face hot (probably due to all the weight directly behind the hitting zone) with nary a skid or skip. I don’t think I decelerated on any of my putts, and that’s always been one of my big putting downfalls.
Its feel and sound weren’t great, but with the type of performance I was getting, I didn’t care. The first round I played with the Rife IMO putter, I had 28 putts (I usually average between 32 and 33), but the second round was even better, with only 26 putts (okay, I had a chip-in, but still ...). That was it, I was sold!
The Bottom Line: With its deadly accuracy and extremely good distance control, I don’t care what the Rife IMO putter looks like. It’s big, but it’s an animal on the greens. Ka-ching!
From the Rife IMO putter to other putter reviews.