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The Odyssey Ai-ONE: Can Machine Learning Make You a Better Golfer?

The Odyssey Ai-ONE: Can Machine Learning Make You a Better Golfer?

AI is coming for us all, writers, accountants and teachers included. In fact, not even golf club designers are safe these days. It was four years ago that Callaway first introduced artificial intelligence into its clubs with the Flash Face, and now the brand has once again made the leap to bring machine learning to its Odyssey putters. This is the Ai-ONE line, and it’s all the rage in the golf industry right now. Naturally, we had to find out why first hand.

It may come as no surprise that reviewing a putter during November in the Northeast is a bit more difficult than it sounds. Our first attempt was met with a dismissive laugh from the golfing gods, who served up freshly aerated greens at a course in Connecticut. Hardly the ideal conditions for giving a new putter a proper test run. We’re persistent though, which is why we traveled all the way to Ireland just to find some smooth surfaces (not actually, we were going there anyway). Luckily for us, courses in Ireland don’t follow the same maintenance schedules as those in the Northeast, and so we took to Jameson Links at the Portmarnock Resort on a sunny, windy and 50 degree day to test out the Ai-ONE #1 model.

The Tech

Let’s get this out of the way, just so there’s no confusion. There’s no computer located inside this putter. AI, in this context, is about how the putter attempts to control the most crucial variable in saving strokes on the greens: speed. The Ai-ONE insert, which can be seen through the cavity of the putter (we’ll get to that later) was designed with artificial intelligence, creating tiny contours on the aluminum back side of the insert to minimize the dropoff in ball speed on off-center strikes. So even if you miss that putt, which is most of the time, your ball ends up closer to the hole. And that means less three putts.

The Look

At one time or another, almost everyone has probably looked at a piece of golf tech and thought ‘I wish I could see what’s inside.’ That’s exactly what Odyssey has enabled you to do thanks to a window made of Panlite, a clear glass-like material used in smartphone, security and car-mounted camera lenses. It’s the most visually striking element of the putter, immediately lending it this neo-futuristic feel that plays well off the “putter of tomorrow” concept.

None of this is visible once you’re ready to strike the ball though, which will alleviate the concerns of anyone who doesn’t like a busy look at address. The Ai-ONE actually looks quite conventional once you put aside all the talk of artificial intelligence and aluminum bonded inserts. The amount of offset is typical of a plumber neck style putter, the blade length is fairly standard, if not a bit on the shorter side, and the white alignment line is simple and effective.

Meanwhile, the navy blue PVD color (which is so dark that we honestly mistook it for black) has a fairly matte finish which contrasts nicely with the white face insert. And, along with the navy and white, the royal blue paint fills on the head are repeated on the headcover and pistol grip. A nice touch of color coordination.

The Feel and Sound

Out of the box, the Ai-ONE feels a bit lighter than other putters we’ve used recently, which is likely down to swingweight (essentially how the weight of the club is balanced between the head and handle). The standard headweight is 355 grams, but the good thing is that it has interchangeable weights on the sole of 5, 10, 15 and 20 grams so you can dial it in to your liking. You will have to buy those weight kits separately though.

Once we got to using it on the course, we definitely noticed a pretty soft feel at impact, which makes sense given the aluminum and White Hot (urethane) insert. However, we never got the sense that the softness came at the expense of feedback. Putts hit out of the center resulted in a satisfying click, and those hit slightly off center were slightly muted. No complaints here.

The Verdict

Does the Odyssey Ai-ONE make you a better putter? And more specifically, does it help you control speed? What we can tell you is that on a windy day on a seaside links course, notoriously difficult conditions for putting, the Ai-ONE performed admirably. We had more than a few 30 to 40 footers, most of which we were able to leave within a few feet of the hole. All of this would be consistent with Callaway’s claim that putts with its Ai-ONE line finish 21% closer to the hole.

With the Ai-ONE #1, you get to harness the same technology that Jon Rahm, Ruoning Yin, and Sam Burns have been using to compete and win worldwide. And at $300 USD, it’s priced pretty competitively when you compare it with the competition. Once you’ve made peace with the idea that AI could make you redundant, you can take solace in knowing that it will at least make you better at golf.

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