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Putter Reviews

Zen Oracle RDE Mallet Review

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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.

Technology

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.

Training

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.

Aesthetics

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.

Performance

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.

Overview

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.

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3 Comments

  1. alan

    Dec 2, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I use a Zen Oracle putter and am very happy with the weight, feel and touch however I’d like to purchase a zen head cover.
    Cheers
    Aaln

  2. Andrew Linch

    Nov 15, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Tried all the new putters and i do mean all and this one was head and shoulders above the rest, and the training aid side of the putter is a Bonus 2 for the price of 1, so in short bought one and am very happy with it.

  3. D.Power

    Mar 15, 2008 at 10:45 am

    all very interesting. How can I decide what face balanacing, weight,and neck style would suit me? I live in Waterford Ireland.Will they be stocked here?

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Equipment

WRX Spotlight: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter

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Product: Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter

Pitch: From Odyssey/Toulon: “The Odyssey Toulon San Diego Stroke Lab Putter is our take on on another classic putter. It’s an expertly crafted, premium milled blade, with our multi-material Stroke Lab Shaft, deep diamond milled cross hatch grooves, and a new Charcoal Smoke finish.”

Our take on the Toulon Design San Diego Stroke Lab putter

Toulon is the line of all milled putters from Odyssey, originally started by club designer Sean Toulon and his sons. Toulon putters have always featured their Deep Diamond Mill face, adjustable sole weight, and brazed (instead of welded) necks. That combination has created a great putter line that has become popular on tour as well as us amateur players. For 2019, there are some new head shapes, Charcoal Smoke Finish, Deep Diamond Milling across the whole face, and the Stroke Lab putter shaft.

I got my hands on the Toulon San Diego, a more squared-off blade shape, for this review. The shape, milling, and finish on the San Diego are great and really show off what a high quality piece it is. The biggest change visually is the full Deep Diamond Mill face, making the view from address more uniform. The face used to have the milling only in the center of the face and to some that was a distracting look while others liked the way it framed the ball. The new finish also looks great. I always have liked darker finishes and this looks high end while still reducing glare in the brightest conditions.

The Stroke Lab shaft goes well with the finish on the San Diego and the head cover is a plush synthetic leather that feels like it will hold up for years of use.

On the green the San Diego SL has a crisp sound and feel. If you like a little more click to your putter, then the San Diego SL will be right what you are looking for. And don’t take that as a negative thing, that crisp feel gives great feedback on face contact. You know exactly where the putter face and ball met by the sound and feel. The Deep Diamond Mill gets the ball rolling quickly on line with very minimal hop and skid, providing very consistent and repeatable distance control.

This is blade, so shots off the toe to tend to stray from your intended line a bit, the face does seem like it wants to rotate open a bit. Heel strikes defiantly stay online better, but tend to lose more steam and net get the roll out you might expect. The simple alignment line on the flange of the putter is easy to align, even for a guy who has been using mallets for years.

Like I have said before, I think there is something to the Stroke Lab tech, the lighter shaft and weight in the butt of the shaft do affect tempo for me; I noticed a slight calming of my backstroke and stroke through the ball.

Overall, the San Diego is a great putter for those who like a little firmer feel and more audible click on their putter. It is very responsive and putts a great roll on the ball. This isn’t a cheap putter ($450) and the fit and finish let you know that you are getting what you paid for.

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Putter Reviews

WRX Spotlight Review: Miura MGP-NM1 Putter

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Product: Miura MGP-NM1 putter

Pitch: Limited to 300 pieces, the Miura MGP-NM1 is Miura’s first 303 stainless steel putter. Its appearance is in keeping with the bolder designs of the Miura Giken family.

Our take on the Miura MGP-NM1 putter

Miura Giken has become the brand where Miura can push some limits and try out designs and technology not really fit for the standard Miura line. And if doing something new and different is what Miura Giken is about, then the MGP-NM1 fits like a glove. When most people think of Miura, they think forged carbon steel and traditional, old school shapes. The MGP-NM1 is a long ways from that, being milled from 303 stainless steel, having adjustable weights and milled stepped pockets in the sole.

If you love mill marks, then the MBG-NM1 will fulfill all our needs because the head is covered with them. I really liked the top line where the mill marks go front to back but then get much finer around the alignment line. If you look close the milling is still there, but just much finer. It works great along with the alignment lines on the “fangs.” The MGP-NM1 is a great size: large enough to give you confidence that a mishit will stay online, but not too big to be distracting. Like most putters with this (Odyssey No. 7)  shape, it frames the ball really well and looks great to my eye. The way the shaft goes into the head is for sure unique, it is straight from address but does drop down into the head.

I will get my one con on this putter out of the way early: the way the shaft goes into the head from address. I love the shape of the head, but the way the shaft enters the head makes it harder for me to line up. At address you can see the the top line of the putter on both sides of the shaft and for some that might be helpful, but it took me a long time to get comfortable with my alignment. Also, the head cover isn’t up to standard for a putter in this price range.

But the good of this putter really outweighs that bad. The putter  feels and sounds great, much like the Miura KM-009 reviewed previously. Feel is very solid with, to me, the perfect amount of click on impact. There might be just a slight bit of vibration on contact, but very minimal and will probably vary with the ball you play. Contact on the toe and heel really stay on target well; you can tell this mallet has a fairly high MOI. Like any responsive putter should do, this really provides good feedback on mishits. Toe and heel shots are not punished as much as you would think, the ball still rolls out well with minimal distance loss. That solid, soft Miura feel really does come through with this putter.

Overall, I think the Miura Giken MGP-NM1 is a really great way for a mallet user to put a Miura putter into the bag.

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Putter Reviews

Review: Optic Z Putters

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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.

The Review

  • 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.

Z8Putter4

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.

The Look

back optic z8

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.

Z8putter1

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?

3WayAlignment_grande

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.

Z8Putter6

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?

Z8Putter5

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.

The Takeaway

Z8putter

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

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