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L.A.B. DF3 Update - theory vs practice


One of my favourite sayings when I was a Fund Manager came from Albert Einstein and I guess it appealed to the engineer in me. Einstein said, "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not". Despite my comprehensive evaluation of the DF3 putter before purchase, that is exactly what I found once I started using it for real. No amount of theoretical practice sessions can adequately replicate the reality of actually playing golf in practice.


The DF3 got off to an excellent start, but its magic faded quickly and all but disappeared by the time I wrote this update. I know I've not had the putter for very long, but I'm lucky that I play a lot of golf, and I have 22 rounds and several practice sessions logged in the Tangent app. I believe that's enough to make a rational evaluation.


When I wrote the initial review (here) I found that while the DF3's overall performance was similar to that of my Toulon Atlanta, it was much better on short putts. That additional confidence ultimately tipped the balance in its favour. My subsequent experience with the putter confirms that it has indeed performed well with short putts, but it's needed to as it's been much worse on medium and long putts, leaving me with many tricky second putts.


As often happens when making club changes, I was putting well with the old putter before the DF3 arrived, so it was up against tough comps. The strokes gained putting chart shown here demonstrates that while the DF3 got off to a good start, that was pretty much as good as it got. The historic work I've done with Bruce Rearick would suggest the early success was effectively a placebo effect from the new putter and that my dominant traits would re-establish themselves over time. L.A.B. recommend that you alter your swing for the DF3 to work properly. They recommend positioning the ball forward in your stance and adopting a "straight back, straight through" putting stroke. That's alien to me. I see the line of my putt best when the ball is under my right eye (so back in my stance). I also have a strong arc to my swing. Trying to adapt my natural style to fit the putter ultimately got me messed up and bogged down in the mechanics of my stroke. So despite the earlier review agreeing with the L.A.B advertising slogan of "less to think about", I ended up with much more to think about! My confidence in the DF3 fell away quickly, as did my performance

The three charts above break out my performance in a bit more detail. On the left (+0.1 SGP) is the summary of all 22 rounds with the DF3, the middle chart (-0.3) is the last 3 rounds and the final one is the last 5 as the confidence started to really fall away.

It's also interesting to look at my misses. Looking from left to right you can see that I was fairly evenly split over the 22 rounds between long and short but I got less consistent as the rounds went on. The graph on the right is the last 5 and it's pretty ugly. What it doesn't show though is the proximity to the hole for the second putts. I really found distance control difficult with the DF3 and the misses were often considerable.


Some comparison data from the Toulon


I'd been messing around with a couple of putters ahead of getting the DF3 but most of the time I was using my Atlanta. It was working! So much so that every time I played with it after ordering the DF3, my regular partners kept asking "Why on earth was I changing putter again".

The reason was my performance in the 4-10ft range and the hope that the DF3 would restore some confidence there. That range has been my nemesis with all putters.


I wasn't prepared to give up just yet


I didn't want to give up on the DF3 too quickly, so I had several long sessions on the practice greens at The Duke's and the Link Academy, where I also put it in competition with my old Toulon Atlanta. I used ladder drills, circle drills, gates to assess start line and par 2 competitions around the green. The results mirrored what I'd been experiencing on the course. Up to 6-8ft, the DF3 was great. But once I got beyond that distance, the Toulon pulled away. Any putt that required more feel or finesse favoured the Toulon. Thinking about why the DF3 performed well on short putts I believe it's because I simply hit it more firmly and therefore took out all the break. Perhaps there's a lesson there for the Toulon. With the par 2 competition, the Toulon pulled away for proximity to the hole on the first putt. The number of one-putts was about the same with both putters, but when I missed I generally had an easier second putt with the Toulon. Visually I was also struggling with the DF3. When I was aimed correctly, it always felt like I was pointing left and I just couldn't get comfortable. One concern I had during initial testing was a possible right miss bias and that was confirmed during these tests. Maybe it's the onset shaft or the fact it's centre shafted, but something just isn't suiting my eye.


So what am I going to do now?


I really wanted to love this putter. I put a lot of effort into the pre-purchase testing and the post-purchase practice. I've watched the instructional videos and tried to make the adaptations they suggest. I've also watched many of the rave reviews and wanted to be part of the hype. But it just didn't work for me!

Maybe I'm being overly harsh? The putting data in this review isn't bad. It just isn't as good as it was for my other putter and it was getting worse the more I used it. The original review included my SAM Puttlab data which proved I have a good, repeatable stroke. SAM also proved that heal-shafted, toe hang putters, work well with my stroke. The real DF3 deal breaker though is that in order to get it to perform at its best, L.A.B. suggests I have to change my stroke and way of putting. I'm not up for that. Essentially, I've fallen for the marketing hype and rave internet reviews. Other than this I can't find another negative review other than for the way it looks. I chose to ignore my original testing and not believe my eyes. I should have paid more attention to the dominant right miss bias and poor pace control witnessed then but I convinced myself that everything would improve once I got the custom-fitted club. Wrong! What a sucker.


This was an itch I had to scratch though. I know I'll take a loss when I sell it but it's not disastrous. After all, golf is my hobby and one of the things I like about it is trying and testing new clubs. I could certainly have plenty of more expensive hobbies!


For Sale


L.A.B. DF3 putter, in "as new" condition. Custom order at 33" long and 71 degree lie angle with one careful, but slightly annoyed owner. Available now in Auchterlonies Pre-Owned shop!


Take the advice of Public Enemy and be your own judge.....



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4 Comments


Guest
May 29

Awesome analysis. I quickly demoed the LABs at a store and didn’t like the feel or audio. Plus my wonky stroke could still seemingly move it all over.


Love the analysis with Tangent. Probably would have been hard to confirm gut feels without it.


We have the starting of a club comparison tool that I might have to expedite for this purpose.


I just got a Scotty Cameron Phantom 5 to go against my Nike Method 004 that i might have to do this with.


Good stuff!


-Dallas

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keithfmuir
Jun 07
Replying to

Thanks Dallas. The Tangent data really was invaluable for this. You know yourself there are days when you think something is good or bad, but the data takes away all of that subjectivity.


I look forward to seeing how the club comparison tool develops too and I'm more than happy to help with testing that. Good luck with the Phantom 5.


Keith

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Guest
May 28

Good article Keith - not surprised!!

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keithfmuir
Jun 07
Replying to

Care to expand? I'd love to hear other views as I feel like I've insulted a cult 🤣

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