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Rife Putter Review: the Sorrento
I’m going to go ESPN’s 30 for 30 on you: What if I told you that a small company rose to the #2 spot in the putter business without marketing, without a PR strategy, and with a fraction of the R&D budget of the companies that it crashed the party on? What if I told you that the prosperity from that business model didn’t last? Well, that would be pretty believable, wouldn’t it?
In a very brief and ineloquent sentence, that’s pretty much the story of Rife putters. However, where most companies would pack up shop and have a fire sale of their assets, Rife stuck out the tough times, albeit with an ownership change not too long ago. But to get a better idea of where Rife is and where Rife plans to go, you should know where Rife has been
At one point, Rife was a major player in the putter game, competing with the likes of Odyssey and Scotty Cameron. Rife was even the top putter on the Champions Tour, and they got there by word of mouth. Word of mouth is a good thing, it develops a lore, an unspoken reverence, and that’s more effective than any ad campaign.
While there’s nothing wrong with relying on the quality of your product to do the talking — more companies would do well to take that advice — the product must be the unwavering focus of the business. Amidst all of the success, that focus was lost, and, to make a long story short, Rife went through quite the transition phase.
Now, after moving across the country, Rife has made a resurgence over the last several years, and I was invited to their new Bellevue, Washington headquarters to do some PNW bonding.
It’s not a swanky putter studio, there isn’t an elaborate display with every generational iteration of Rife putters. They’re still moving in. There are boxes of displaced putter heads. It’s modest. It’s humble. But the focus is once again on the product.
The meeting was a casual one filled more with banter about the golf industry, where it’s heading, company philosophies, etc. than with discussion of product details and technology. I walked away from the meeting with a revived sense of hope in the Rife name. I walked away feeling like that passion for creating a quality product was alive and well, and Rife wants to earn customers’ trust back with their quality, they don’t want to buy it with commercial spots on the Golf Channel. I also walked away with a member of their Italian Series, the Rife Sorrento. So let’s get into that.
Rife Putter Review: Sorrento First Impressions
The Rife Sorrento is a good looking putter. It’s not daring, not garish or bold. Its unimposing satin chrome head and lack of paint fill or metal finish is as representative of Rife’s mission as its new HQ: the putter’s performance should do the talking, not its looks.
With that in mind, it’s better than good looking actually. It’s great looking. The black finishes, iridescent finishes, unique plating, and all of the other wild putter customizations gets pretty tiresome. Sometimes you want something simple and easy on the eyes. Sometimes less is more. And there’s something about the grooving on the face . . . with the Rife “R” on the heel, the grooving creates this classic, retro appeal to it. Think ’41 Buick Eight grill and maybe you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
Feel & Sound
The Rife Sorrento mid-mallet tips the scales at 365g. It feels weighty, and it’s face-balanced, which means it takes some effort to get it moving, but once it does, it has a smooth rhythm about it.
Grips are easily screwed up, too. There’s a reason why companies like Super Stroke broke on to the scene as easily as they did, so it’s always impressive when a putter company makes a good grip . . . the Sorrento’s new mid-size grip is really good. Pair the Sorrento’s face-balanced, 365 grams with the excellent grip, and you’ve got a smooth rhythm that keeps your hands quiet.
Speaking of quiet, it’s an interesting thing, the sound of the Rife Sorrento. It’s quiet. Not muted — as that term is ritualistically beaten to death in golf vernacular — but soft, quiet. It has milled grooves, but it sounds more like a putter with an insert because of the soft pop it creates. It almost sounds like a knock on wood with an ever-so-slight “crack” at the end of the strike that reminds you there isn’t an insert in it.
Rife Sorrento Performance
Rife made its name by the grooves of its putters. They’re unique in that, unlike conventional putters, they start the ball rolling immediately on its line without the initial hop or skipping. What that translates into is a truer roll, a more consistent roll, and more forgiveness on off-center strokes.
Standing over the Rife Sorrento is different. Most mid-mallets have a shape to the back, whether it be rounded or otherwise. The blade-shaped mid-mallet is an uncommon thing, but it shouldn’t be. Similar to the oversized putters that TaylorMade recently introduced, the Rife Sorrento has the appeal of looking bigger but not looking big . . . if that makes any sense. It instills confidence without making you feel like you’re swinging an upside down, one-legged nightstand.
The size and the weight make lag putting easy. The 304 stainless steel construction material provides the soft, responsive feedback that you want in a premium putter.
Rife Putter Review: The Sorrento Final Verdict
If you’re a victim of the anchor ban, the Rife Sorrento should be of consideration for you. It has all the things a yip artist wants: a heavier head, a bigger head, face balanced, and a thicker grip. There are many quality putters out there, but there are few that actually make putting easier without robbing you of the feedback that better players want.
Oh, and the price. The Rife Sorrento is $149.95. I have played a lot of putters from big manufacturers to boutiques, and I’m hard pressed to name another putter at that price point that offers this much performance. So, find a retailer near you, and take any one of Rife’s putters for a spin. They’re going to have something that fits your game, your eye, and your budget.