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.