The idea is simple – play with the same putter you practice with.
By practice, I’m not referring to hitting putt after putt on the practice green with your putter. What I mean is a product that provides you with an array of drills you can use every day to help you become a better putter. On top of that, without any other modifications you can take the exact same putter from practice into a competitive round. Zen Oracle has combined these two facets into a single product before and their newest introduction – the RDE Mallet is a major step forward for the company, not only in terms of technology but also overall fit and finish. Chances are very good you’ve seen a Zen Oracle putter before and not even known it. Stuart Appleby is one of many tour pros who use Zen Putters. The cult favorite “Cameron Cube” from Scotty Cameron was created with Zen Oracle technology. So just how does the newest Zen Oracle offering rate? Read on to find out.
GolfWRX recently interviewed Nick Middleton inventor and Founder of Zen Oracle and Bob Hanington, CEO of Zen Oracle USA. The depth of information they have provided us there is truly incredible, and while I will do my best to relay their information, the interview is well worth reading to capture the full scope of their research and technical innovation.
One look at the RDE Mallet reveals the main secret to Zen Oracle’s success, the aperture which has several functions. First and foremost, the aperture is the key to the Zen Oracle Training System. Placing a ball in the aperture and practicing the putting stroke allows golfers to work on their ability to release the putter through impact and produce a smooth putting stroke. Once in play, it provides a very effective alignment system. Since the aperture is roughly the width of a golf ball, it makes alignment a snap. Furthermore, the opening also functions to move mass toward the heel, toe and rear of the putter making it very forgiving and increasing its MOI.
While the aperture is at the heart of the RDE mallet, it is far from the only piece of technology. The face of all of Zen’s new putters have the Reduced Dimple Error (RDE) system which is a series of horizontal micro-ridges milled into the face of the putter. These RDE ridges help to counteract the changes in golf ball technology which have improved performance from tee to green but reduced accuracy and feel off the putter. At impact, the micro-ridges reduce the surface area in contact between teh putter face and ball. The result of this is tighter initial dispersion and overall a more accurate roll on all lengths of putts.
It would be remiss to talk about Zen Oracle and not discuss their views on fitting. The RDE Mallet has a unique feature of an interchangeable hosel used by heralded golf club designer Mickey Parker. With this feature, golfers can choose the style of neck they prefer to achieve the correct amount of face balancing, offset, and toe flow they prefer. Yet it does not stop there. Fitting is a major consideration for the folks at Zen. Their goal is to build a putter that is completely adaptable to whatever the end user needs to fit their personal stroke the best. Even the grip used on the Zen Oracle has been specifically designed with fitting and repeatability in mind. Nick Middleton explains:
On the putter, on the actual grip, we’ll have a position we use to measure from the thumb print, down to the floor, and back to the eye. Once you’ve got that, and once you understand how to use our training and what we understand about the actual movement and the motion pattern in the putting stroke, it means that every time you use that putting stroke, all you have to do is put your thumb on that same place on the shaft, address the ball in the same way that we asked you in the protocol to measure the putter. Every time you do that, it will enable you to bring the putter to square over a larger range of scenarios.
Zen Oracle’s mantra is finding one putter that does everything. From fitting to playing and practicing their goal is producing a putter that encompasses everything a golfer needs in a single package. Arguably, the most novel invention of the Zen Oracle putters is being able to use the same putter to practice and play with. The aperture in the Oracle allows for many unique drills that can help golfers learn to correct mechanical faults that lead to poor putting. They provide immediate feedback on mechanics and how to address any issues your putting stroke may have.
The Release drill is probably the most basic. A golf ball is placed in the aperture and then using the basic putting stroke, the golfer can roll the ball down the target line. Ideally, this drill helps promote a putting stroke that is based with movement of the shoulders and a smooth putting stroke. Any inconsistencies in release will cause the ball to either veer off line or remain in the aperture.
At first I was skeptical about how effective this training method would be for me. I have spent quite a bit of time changing my putting stroke in line with Stan Utley’s belief of rotation around the spine rather than up and down. However, when I tried training with the putter in this method, I was pleasantly surprised that the Zen Oracle still had quite a bit to offer me. Using the reflex drill helped me keep the putter head low to the ground on the back swing, especially on long putts. Any extreme lifting of the putter head up would cause the ball to come out of the aperture too early. Also, I was still able to release the ball from the aperture using the low, short follow through that Stan Utley recommends.
It doesn’t just stop with the release drill, there is also Reflex, Tracker, and Tracer, all of which can be viewed on Zen Oracle’s website. Regardless of exactly how you putt, whether it is straight back and straight through, gated, arced, even a cut across it Billy Mayfair style Zen Oracle has a drill that will help you become a more consistent putter. Enough time and experimentation and it’s likely you will be able to find your own drill using the putter that can help you.
The technology of Zen Oracle is hard to dispute. In the past they have done their research and have the results to prove it at the highest levels of competitive golf. However, previous iterations of the putter left something to be desired in terms of visuals. That has all changed with the new RDE line. The entire putter is milled from 303 stainless steel and cleanly assembled into an aesthetically pleasing package. Although the hosel can accommodate several different neck styles, they all blend seamlessly into the body of the putter and you would be hard pressed to know that each neck isn’t made specifically for each putter. Considering some of the forms mallet putters have recently been taking, the RDE mallet is fairly conservatively designed. The thin top line of the blade is cleanly attached to the body of the mallet which houses the aperture. A single sight line at the back of the aperture aids in alignment. In addition, the designers have placed a tremendous importance on proper feel and sound, that will be described shortly.
The RDE Mallet truly shines when it’s actually put into play. The overall feel and sound combine with excellent performance and make it a very capable putter. The ridges milled onto the face do seem to help get the ball rolling quickly. Although the putter is made from stainless steel and has a large opening right in the middle, it does not have a hollow, tinny feel you might expect from typical MOI mallet putters. Quite the contrary, it has a very soft, solid sound and feel one might expect from a more traditional blade style putter. Furthermore, the choice of head weight for all models between 345-350 grams is a perfect choice to provide feel short range as well as good distance control on longer putts. The alignment the aperture provides makes squaring the putter face up on putts incredibly easy and will make the transition very easy for players used to putters like the Odyssey Two Ball.
Since the putter has no insert, distance control is very easy on long putts, and the high MOI ensures that both heel and toe misses are not heavily penalized in terms of distance although direction did suffer as one would expect. However, this forgiveness comes at a price in the form of lack of feedback. My only real qualm with the putter is forgiving enough that putts missed even a large amount from the center did not provide the feedback I was used to from my Anser style putter. Combined with an uber-soft Winn grip, much of the negative vibrations off center hits usually produce end up being tuned out. However, that is a small price to pay for a putter that is as forgiving as the RDE Mallet.
Based purely on performance alone, the RDE Mallet provides a very capable putter that combines clean visuals, soft feel, easy alignment, and impressive forgiveness into a single package. Add in the fact that users can decide the neck style and face balancing that fits their stroke the best and you have a putter that separates itself from any other on the market. However, considering the number of putting drills and training methods the putter also incorporates, it not only provides a solid putter even the most traditional purists could accept but also provides a way for golfers to improve their putting.
Review: Optic Z Putters
Pros: Point-and-shoot putting. Optic Z putters use a Z-neck design that can lead to a more consistent setup with your hands and eyes on every putt.
Cons: It could take a little while to get used to the design.
Who It’s For: Players looking to develop a consistent setup and stroke.
- Model: Optic Z8
- Head Weight: 365 grams
- Material: Proprietary “Power 51” Alloy
- Finish: Black “High-Tech Molecular” application
- Face Milling: Deep Double Mill
- Stock Lie: 70.5 degrees (rolled sole allows angles from 67 to 75)
- Loft: 2.25 degrees
- Stock Length Options: 35 inches (All lengths available custom order)
- Stock Grip: Lamkin E.B.L “Optic” grip (Custom grips available)
- Stock Shaft: True Temper Steel (Aerotech, Loomis, and UST available)
- Price: $325 Base (Up to $500 with custom options)
Over the past decade, it seems like there have been as many new putter companies as there have been drivers released in the past year (I think another one just released since I typed that sentence). While many of them have come up with ways to re-create or re-design the classic favorites of the past 40-plus years, there are a few companies that are pushing the boundaries of what a putter can be and how it can help make putting easier. And a company called Optic Z Putters has done just that.
I reviewed the company’s Optic Z8 putter, which has a distinct batwing shape. It’s one of three putters the company offers — its Z3 is more blade-like in shape, while its Z7 is more mallet-like — and each putter sells for $325.
According to the company, Z Optic putters take the two main parts of putting and making them easy to reproduce. And with every putt, Optic Z putters are said to help golfers set their hands and eyes in the same exact position for every putt. “This has been done!” you say? Well, let’s find out if my experience with the Z8 was different.
When I first saw the Z8 putter with its Z-shaped hosel, I began to wonder, “What exactly is going on here?” It has a unique Z-neck that creates a “3D” effect when looking down over the ball at address. But when looking at the putter in any other view, it does look odd. It will take a little bit of time to get used to it, but like many putters that come out these days, after a while you simply get used to it and forget about it.
The putter is 100 percent milled, U.S.A. made, and has a deep “double” milled face pattern that is familiar to most people. It offers an incredibly soft feel that is part from the milling, but also from the Proprietary Power 51 alloy metal that is used. The sole of the Z8 has 8 degrees of roll to it. This means that it can effectively play with a lie angle anywhere from 67 to 75 degrees. The new Z-neck hosel also makes the putter face balanced as if it was a center-shafted putter. And finally, there are several thick alignment lines, both horizontal and vertical, to help aim.
The Z Revolution?
Once you set the putter down and see how everything lines up in a “3D” type of alignment, you get the point of the Z-neck. Instead of just giving one point of reference similar to other putters, the Z8 gives you three points of alignment.
You align the Z-neck bend with the toe of the putter, the heel and shaft together, and then make sure both are lined up together. Once you have this set, your hands and eyes will be in the correct position.
In addition to adding more reference points, the key difference with the Z8 is that it actually requires you to have forward press with your hands. The stated loft of 2.25 degrees is the loft with your hands in that forward-press position. The Z-neck is also supposed to eliminate the visual moment of impact of when the ball comes off the face of the putter. The theory is that it helps you relax more through the stroke by not seeing the point of impact, a similar theory to looking at the hole instead of the ball when putting.
Does it work?
I was skeptical of the putter when I first started using it, and it took me a little bit to get used to the 3D effect. After spending a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does what it is supposed to do. It really becomes a “point-and-shoot” kind of putting, and it makes the set up of putting incredibly easy. The ball rolls really well off the face, too, and the feel is incredibly soft. The alignment aids do a good job helping at address, and I’m someone who has moved away from alignment aids because I tend to aim them incorrectly.
The Optic Z8 putter performed the best for me on putts inside 10 feet. I struggled on longer putts, but it was more due to the weight of the putter. At 365 grams, it is much heavier compared to what I’ve been using, but I’ve always struggled with long-distance putting with heavier putters. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. And the more I used it, the more comfortable I became and the more putts I made.
If you struggle with consistency, especially at set up, this is one to try. It may take some time to get used to Optic Z putters, but most golfers should be able to adjust. These putters are well made, feel great and can truly help golfers in two areas that we know are important to putting.
To learn more about Optic Golf’s putters, visit the company’s website.
Review: Directed Force Putters
Pros: Stroke stability and consistency are likely to improve with a proper fitting. The putters also double as training aids for stroke tempo.
Cons: The looks, overall feel and forced-forward-press grip will likely take getting used to.
Who’s it for: Golfers seeking more stability in their stroke. If you don’t get fit properly, however, the technology will not reach its maximum potential.
Often times, great inventions are made out of necessity — a solution to a problem. That’s how Bill Presse, founder of Directed Force, developed his innovative putter technology. As a playing professional and teaching pro, he was frustrated by poor putting and needed a solution. Presse began building putters, and after “drilling holes in [putter] heads,” he figured out he could make a putter that stayed square to the putter path. His buddies were disbelievers, so he built “the revealer” to prove the technology — another invention born because of a problem.
Unlike most putters, which are either face-balanced or have what’s called “toe hang,” Directed Force putters ($399.95) are lie-angle balanced. That means the putter face stays straight (or perpendicular) to the putter path throughout the stroke, which is ideal in theory. And serious golfers across the globe have spent countless hours trying to improve their ability to keep their putter face perpendicular to their path during their stroke.
Can this new putter technology provide a shortcut? Watch the video below to see it in action.
Presse’s technology is effective for golfers because of the importance of the face angle at impact. According to findings from SAM PuttLab, the face angle at impact determines 83 percent of a putt’s initial starting direction, and is thus about 5 times more important than putter path.
Here’s how they’re made.
The company first forges the putter heads from 6061 aircraft aluminum, then CNC-milled to the proper shape and finishes them with a type-3 anodized coating. It’s important to note that lie-angle balance is not achieved because of the outlandish head shape, which is the immediate assumption, but rather due to the location of the shaft relative to the center of gravity (CG) in the club head. To dial in the specific lie angle of each putter — which are weighted differently depending on a putter’s lie angle, length and grip — weights are installed on each side of the putter face (toe and heel), as well as on the sole. It’s those weights, in conjunction the putter’s shaft position, that give the putters their “lie-angle balance.”
Not only does the head shape look, well… weird, but the grip is unconventional, too. But there’s science behind it, as well. Watch the video below to learn more about the PressGrip, developed by Presse, and how it works.
The putter shaft runs through the PressGrip at 3 degrees, instead of straight in (or 0), placing the putter in a forward-press position without the golfer’s hands moving forward of center. This allows the golfer to choke down or up on the grip without losing lie angle, and since the grip is made with a constant taper, changing hand positions doesn’t affect the feel of the grip.
The PressGrip comes in two sizes: Mid-Size (1.250 inches) and Large (1.375 inches), and can be purchased separately for $29.95.
Directed Force’s putter technologies are not dependent on the PressGrip, however, so the putters can be made with the aftermarket grip of your choice. Presse says the grip size and weight affect weighting in the head, so make sure to factor that in during your purchase.
Does it work?
First off, the grip feels very different at first, even for someone who forward presses their putter. It’s the first thing most golfers comment on when they try it for the first time. And while it can feel strange, all it takes is a few strokes to get used to it. After that, you’ll be disappointed going back to a normal putter grip — at least I was.
The second thing someone will comment on is the head shape… obviously. It’s a lot of putter head to look at, and the shape is far from conventional. That being said, different doesn’t mean bad in this case.
This putter has one of those, you’re-just-along-for-the-ride feels, and seems to swing itself. For yippers or those who struggle with short putts, those are great words to hear. And due to the displacement of so much weight well behind the face, it has a very high moment of inertia (MOI). That means it hardly matters whether you hit it off the toe, heel or center of the face. The putter allows you — and I have confirmed this — to hit 30+ foot putts dead off the heel or toe without much, or any, noticeable affect on distance or direction.
Because of its reliance on lie-angle balance, the technology won’t be as beneficial if the putter isn’t fit to your lie angle. So make sure — if you’re seriously interested in buying a Directed Force putter — you get fit by a Directed Force Fitter, or do a Remote Fitting with Directed Force, which cost $30 but comes with a $30 discount code if you choose to purchase the putter.
So how do Directed Putters perform? We tested them with two golfers on SAM PuttLab, each of which was fit remotely for Directed Force putters several weeks before the test.
- Tester 1 was me, a former college golfer and now a 1-handicap, weekend player. I’ve used the same off-the-rack Anser-style putter for the last two years, and only practiced with a Directed Force for about 30 minutes at the PGA Merchandise, which is where we discovered the putters.
- Tester 2 was GolfWRX’s Zak Kozuchowski, our editor and resident professional golfer. He was recently fit for his gamer, an 8802-style, in the fall by another putter company.
Tester 1: Gamer
Tester 1: Directed Force
Tester 1 Data Analysis
- Consistency improved on average with Directed Force putter (98 percent versus 90 percent with gamer).
- Face rotated less with Directed Force putter on average.
- Putter path was more neutral with Directed Force putter on average (3.5 degrees left versus 3.9 degrees with gamer).
- Putter path improved with Directed Force putter (56 percent consistency versus 52 percent consistency with the gamer).
- Rise angle was higher with gamer putter (1.6 degrees up versus 1.0 up with the Directed Force).
Tester 2: Gamer
Tester 2: Directed Force
Tester 2 Data Analysis
- Putter path consistency improved with Directed Force on average (95 percent versus 87 percent with gamer).
- Putter path was 2.3 degrees left with the Directed Force on average, but much more neutral with gamer putter (only 0.5 degrees left).
- Rise angle was less downward with the gamer (1.1 degrees down) versus 2.6 degrees down with the Directed Force putter on average.
- Face rotation consistency was better with the gamer on average (93 percent versus 89 percent with the Directed Force)
- The face rotated less throughout the stroke with the Directed Force on average, and was less closed at impact on average (0.6 degrees versus 1 degree).
The numbers show a rise in consistency for both golfers when using the Directed Force putter compared to gamers. Tester 1, who had little experience with the putter, struggled with alignment, and both players hit more “down” on their putts with the Directed Force, most likely due to the forced forward press.
Therefore, it appears that the Directed Force putters can immediately add consistency to a golfer’s stroke, although it is likely that it will take time for golfers to truly optimize their putting with them.
If you’re going to try a Directed Force putter, make sure you get fit for it. It’s designed to work with your specific lie angle, and isn’t going to be as effective as it could be if it’s more than a few degrees off.
The oversize putter head’s feel and the grip could be a shock to many golfer’s systems, but after just a few putts most golfers will find that they’re no longer even noticing the odd-shaped putter head. And while the setup and stroke that the putter encourages may take some time to master, the benefits are fruitful.
Based on our testing, there’s no question golfers can improve the consistency of their strokes with a Directed Force putter, which is a rare thing to be able to say.
Review: Toulon Design Putters
Pros: Toulon putters offer clean, classic lines. Exceptional feel and matching sound. Adjustable sole plates allow for custom head weights.
Cons: Only available in RH and polished stainless-steel (for now). Prices start at $399.
Who they’re for: All golfers, especially those true enthusiasts, collectors, and competitive players looking for something new and unique.
For this review, I tested a Toulon San Diego putter. The specs are listed below.
- Weight: 352 grams (head)
- Material: 303 stainless steel
- Finish: Tour Satin Mist
- Face Milling: Deep Diamond
- Stock Lie/Loft: 71 degrees/3 degrees
- Stock Length Options: 33-35 inches
- Stock Grip: Lamkin Deep Etch (also available in charcoal or gray add $10; and SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour or Mid-Slim 2.0 add $20)
Along with the five different models (San Diego, Madison, San Francisco, Rochester and Memphis), Toulon Design Putters are also available in two counter-balanced options: Moderate Release (MR) and Aggressive Release (AR) for $459 and $499, respectively.
From a young age, I have primarily sifted my way through putters designed around the modern blade with the L-shaped hosel. Whether it be a Ping Anser 2 or Scotty Cameron Newport 1995 First Run, some of those putters have hung around, while most have not with a destination unknown. Call me stuck in the past, but apart from occasionally fiddling with the latest and greatest mallet, I have remained loyal to this classic style.
Given that tendency, I was understandably thrilled and equally excited to review the “San Diego” from a new putter company known as Toulon Design. Incidentally, my San Diego was built with a 345-gram putter head and additional 7-gram aluminum plate. The loft was 3 degrees, the lie was 70 degrees and without a grip it measured 34 inches. The overall weight was 541 grams and the swing weight was D4.
Started in 2015, but currently launching its initial stable of putters (Madison, San Diego, Rochester, San Francisco, and Memphis) over the coming months, Toulon Design has set it sights on making the best performance putters in the world, with looks to match that lofty goal. The company is based in Vista, California, and it was started by Sean Toulon, formerly involved with TaylorMade Golf for 16 years in product creation and design, and his sons, Tony and Joe. The founding principles of the company being mentorship, collaboration, and making putters with the serious golf enthusiast in mind — but all players welcome.
Upon cracking the box open to take my first look at the San Diego built for me, it was clear that Toulon Design has taken the time to painstakingly build something that any equipment lover should try. If you are the type of person who says, “I’m a golfer” when asked at a cocktail party what do you like to do in your free time, then seriously check out Toulon Design ASAP. The technology behind this initial line of putters, including the San Diego, is simply the icing on the cake. A review can not honestly do justice to what Toulon Design is attempting to create, which is a company satisfied with being no less than extraordinary.
Beautiful and timeless in its clean lines, the San Diego pushed all the rights buttons for me from the outset. It has a dark charcoal alignment mark that somehow seemed superior both cosmetically and technically in my eyes, especially given the satin mist finish of the putter. While Toulon is opening its “Garage” in May 2016 in an effort to provide its customers with the full “Tour experience” and a variety of options (not readily available for most putters), I chose the stock Lamkin Deep Etch emblazoned with the Toulon Design logo.
Before I even hit a putt, it felt like this putter was destined to make its way into my golf bag. What’s truly difficult to communicate in words is the attention detail that was evident in closely examining the San Diego. Toulon Design utilizes what is known as vacuum brazing (through the “Big Green Egg” above) to fuse the putter head and hosel in a manner that makes it feel and look as if those parts of the putter were always one in the same. Everything just simply felt and looked right.
Matching Sound and Feel
Possibly the most important aspect of the technology behind Toulon Design putters (including, the San Diego) is the concept of matching sound and feel with launch conditions of your golf ball. It may seem strange, but this concept is effectively untapped in the industry at present. As Toulon explains, “Sound and feel are totally intertwined. And those two things create the expectation of the distance the ball will travel for the golfer.” In other words, when sound and feel are successfully synced, it is easier to correlate and control distance in putting; not surprisingly, when things are off, controlling distance becomes much more difficult. Can you say 3-putt?
I’ve been playing golf for 30 years and I honestly can’t recall a putter that felt or sounded better. Again, words can’t properly describe it, but for me, uphill putts are particularly revealing and my expectation for putts hit with the San Diego closely aligned with my actual result. When I hit any putt (though, in particular, an uphill putt of 20+ feet), the feedback was immediate and in that regard I was able to quickly adjust to the speed and conditions of the greens on which I was playing or practicing. Put differently, I didn’t feel as if I was guessing from putt to putt (which happens) and instead, I was able to trust what I was hearing and feeling.
Diamonds in the Rough
The face milling pattern is also unique to Toulon Design, and the product of not only the creativity of its design team, but its relentless pursuit of something better. The goal was to achieve a crisp, yet soft feel as the result of a putter face that would create gentle (rather than aggressive) overspin on the ball at the point of impact. Inspired by the tread pattern on car tires, Toulon Design putters use what is referred to as a “Deep Diamond Mill” pattern. Within each diamond is a separate groove (or “eyelid,” as I refer to it), which minimizes the opportunity for your golf ball to climb up the putter face upon contact. The result being, to date, a reasonable, yet appropriate amount of forward roll immediately after impact.
My experience is that everything matches up almost perfectly. And rather than a ball coming hot off the face with an almost uncontrollable amount of forward roll, Toulon Design putters (and in my case, the San Diego) produce roll that allows for consistency, especially from beyond 20 feet.
Performance on the Green
It is certainly 9-plus out of 10 for me. The technology, coupled with the classic look and attention to detail, which is evident, make the San Diego an easy putter to love. What makes it easy to use is the feedback it provides by eliminating much of the confusion (that I’ve had with other putters) when hitting putts expecting a certain result and not getting it. The by-product of which is not being able to harmonize the feel and sound in order to gain consistency. In short, I have yet to feel as if I needed to guess with this putter. No, I do not make everything, but I actually feel like I have a very good chance on almost every putt I hit because I am confident that my stroke will match with the speed and distance I need to hit any given putt. And this is especially true from inside 10 feet.
Overall, the San Diego is worth every penny and Toulon Design is committed to making putters for golfers and golf enthusiasts that will make a difference in your game. There’s no question its an investment, but one you won’t regret.
I have yet to take advantage of the adjustable weighted sole plates (I absolutely plan on it), but in the near future (May 2016) you will be able to purchase from Toulon’s Garage the 7-gram aluminum plate, 20-gram stainless steel plate and 40-gram tungsten plate, as they are interchangeable in every Toulon Design putter. In doing so, you will easily be able to vary the putter head weight from 352 grams to 365 grams to 385 grams.
Don’t overlook Toulon Design when looking for a new putter in 2016, and with five models to choose from there’s probably one for you.
To learn more about the company and its products, visit toulondesign.com.
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