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GolfWRX Audio Chat Transcripts and Audio Download - Zen Oracle Putters 2007

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#1 taylormadefan


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Posted 11 July 2007 - 11:53 AM

Audio Download:

GolfWRX, your internet golf headquarters is proud to present an interview with Zen Oracle Putters.

Part I

Bob Hanington:  Well I’m Bob Hanington.  My history in the golf industry is strictly through Zen, my background prior to Zen was in the direct response business, infomercials. If you ever saw Ab Roller on TV, that was mine and my former partners invention.  Okay, and just from golf in general, I am just an avid golfer that doesn’t get to play golf anymore.

Nick Middleton: Alright, Nick Middleton here. My background is that I come from a family of engineers. My specialization is product development and my particular interest has always been from a very early age in putting. I made putters, experimented with putters and was infatuated with all aspects of putting from being very, very young. In about the mid-90’s we switched a lot of our concentration on product development into golf and that gave me an opportunity to investigate how putting instruments and obviously researching into putting and the training of putting could be improved. Really that is what preoccupied us ever since.  In the late 90’s early 2000’s, I was introduced to Bob while we were doing a complete strategic review of all of the inventions that we had and technologies that we had and we met and we struck it off very quickly.  I liked the fact that Bob had been extremely seasoned in marketing but particularly what he brought to the table was a complete understanding of how intellectual property could be prosecuted in a very large market, such as the states, he had been very successful in protecting his right in the wellness product with Ab Roller he mentioned before, which impressed me tremendously.  We decided at that stage that we would focus our attention on one of the products that we had that was at its genesis stage at that time, which was the Oracle, the putter with the hole in it.  And so I pretty much decided to throw my lot in with Bob, that we would venture into the US market and that I would continue to R&D on other aspects of golf but our complete focus would be on developing the market for Zen and developing the brand for Zen entirely around this product which was called the Oracle.  Bob’s feeling at the time was that we had probably too much technology for one box and that really what we needed to do is focus entirely on the value that we could bring and the differential of the uniqueness that Zen Oracle provided.  So we very much used the Zen Oracle as a vehicle to get ourselves into the market place because of its uniqueness.  So Bob has been particularly proficient in A) executing the patents that have streamed out of the technology, protecting and also securing rights against infringements, etc.  Because it has not been easy, the product works, it is extremely exciting for most people to try, it is very experiential, we’ve had our fair share of imitators and so really what we bring to the table in the relationship between Zen in the UK and Sheffield, England with Bob is entirely complimentary.  I’m sure and delighted to say joined today by Shaun Womersley, whom I’ve known and Shaun who was working with us during the mid to late 90’s when we had multiple other golf projects going on at the time. And I’m going to hand it over to Shaun now so that Shaun can give his background because what he also brings to the table which is very valuable to us moving forward at this moment, is an incredible knowledge of not only equipment design but also the whole aspect of assembly, customization, and a number of other aspects regarding how we can develop Zen Oracle onto the next level. Okay, I’ll just hand it over to Shaun.

Shaun Womersley:  Basically as Nick said that’s where I come in is over twenty five years of making clubs, custom fitting clubs, developing fitting system, etc. Ex-Maxfli, Dunlop Slazenger, my dad made clubs for forty odd years, my uncle now works with me he has made clubs for over forty odd years so that takes us back to the old hand grinding irons and making persimmon wood days. That way we use to have a six year training schedule just to get through, to get qualified. A little bit different now, more hi-tech I expect. But really just keeping with the advancement of the technology, I go on the site quite frequently listening to the guys with spinning and frequency which we have done for quite a long while. And that’s basically what I bring in just that basic skill of club making and the fitting side to actually compliment the products and the range of products that we’ve got now and also what we are looking to develop for future. Okay?

GolfWRX: Excellent. That’s great stuff guys. I’m real excited to hear more from you guys, go into a little more detail about exactly how Zen Oracle got its start and more about your products. So, can you guys describe a little bit to us about how Zen Oracle the company got its start?

Nick Middleton: Yeah, I can, this is Nick again.  I can give you a real clear point in history; I related early on the point where I met Bob.  We were looking previously at all sorts of golf equipment but particular focus was on putting.  The initial name, Zen, comes from a putter that was christened with this name, it was a patent that I had at the time. It was a putter I developed that allowed us to have a variable length putter; it had variable offsets, and a variable line.  So the putter was designed really because I perceived an issue regarding the position of the hands at the point of impact and also the point of address.  What the Zen did, it changed the position, and therefore changde the anticipation, and effectively changed the way people putted by re-orientating the center part of the stroke so it meant that they, instead of there being a kind of twitch at the point of impact they could not twitch, they had to complete the stroke, it was clear that they had to complete the stroke in order to finish.  The hand position, changing the hand position gave us the opportunity of examining how people’s movement patterns could change. So we are talking now the mid to late 90’s and people were very excited about the fact that here was a putter that you could start discussing the whole concept of training and understanding how the whole putt stroke works from a personal, or individual point of view, which excited me and also was encouraged then to look into how we could further encompass training within the same piece of equipment that you could play with.  Coming from a primary development background, I was very anxious to try and get a lot of kick for the dollar, so to speak, so a lot of things I have done in the past where I have been successful in product development, where there have been multiplicities of benefits after the same concepts.  When I introduced the aperture into the head it is purely because I decided at that stage we had to get rid of impact.  Impact was the thing that was creating the biggest problem from what I could see from talking and from my own experience.  It had a dual benefit, at the same time as reducing impact we were repopulating mass from the center of the putter.  So we were improving the MOI of the putter.  It wasn’t something at the time that was a big talking point in the industry, but clearly one of the things that we were aware of at the time was that for our putter, it had to be a face balance orientation and with face balanced putters, one of the deficiencies is the center of the cushion or the sweet spot does generally become a bit smaller and very tweaky and so to have high MOI with a putter that was face balanced was an advantage to us so the aperture was seen immediately and it got the reception we wanted.  People could see, oh yes you could redistribute mass that’s cool, you are kind of increasing the sweet spot a little bit.  Also we were taking impact out of it and by putting the ball in the aperture and starting training and we changed the hands positions. Immediately people’s reactions were just phenomenal.  They could see that here was a putter that they could play with and train with all in the same composite.  So we were encouraged to develop the training aspect that pretty much over took everything that we were doing at the stage, because up to that time our preoccupation or focus of our ascension was very much on impact technologies, in control, and stuff like that.  Currently working with some guys at Nottingham University, doing a lot of work on load-line technology, on shafts and measuring the swing on 5,000 different golfers with high speed photography.  We are getting a lot of feedback on where we can go with putter technology so up until that time we were very, very focused on impact, but we moved our focus then into the training side of it because we suddenly realized that wasn’t anyone doing this, no one had got the nirvana solution, which is that you could train with the same putter you could play with and I felt that there was a high value in it and it was at that point that I decided we got something really, really special and it was that point that I decided that I had to get on a plane and I had to go see someone in the states because I felt the real value and opportunity lay in North America and that is where I met Bob.  That takes us to how it came about and where we are so it is sort of the year 2000 and forward and up until about our more recent paths where we are going to expand a little bit more through this questions that you’ve got.  You know we had a period of about four years where we just completely focused on the training aspects of what the Oracle provided as a point of difference but also as a point of the feedback it provided.

GolfWRX: Excellent. Now I know the fact that you guys combine a functional putter and training aid is really, really impressive and separates you guys from any other putter in the industry. But combining the two takes a lot of thought and, I guess, a lot of know how, especially doing things like finding drills, that can help someone’s putting and then combining it into a functional putter. How do you exactly go about doing that? Can you guys describe the process of that?

Nick Middleton: Well actually Kiran, partly in what I just mentioned that is my background really.  I spent most of my working career trying to find an edge for other companies. My sort of expertise was in aid product development, also trying to find niches for products and then marketing those products through those niches, finding any kind of technical differential that could provide leverage for companies that were expanding.  The hardest part for me personally was to then start doing that for myself and so it wasn’t easy because you are sort of having to put yourself on the bench a little bit, but to a certain extent I was aided and abided by the fact that I had been that solider like the majority of us, who at an early age was a highly proficient putter and then in my late teens and early 20s, I lost it.  That led me to want to really explore why, you know, like most people do.  I was very inquisitive as an individual, I was very technically based but I was inquiring and I thought well how can that be, you know?  I was in the situation where I could hole just about anything and I hadn’t got any fears and suddenly I had the fears.  You were getting this kind of difficult feedback which is getting into the problems and that really was the impetus to force me to try to find a solution to this. It was purely because I had this problem myself and I think that you know with everything that we do we look at it entirely from the point of view of you know how does this benefit people and so to a certain extent, the aspect that I was you know trying to find a solution to my own problems, but I recognized in trying to do that everyone else has this problems as well. So throughout my early 20s I was becoming aware of the fact that putting is an area which absolutely is populated with all sorts of problems and those problems that people externalize and communicate are actually not all the same they are all different. So it is also like if you imagine there’s a book of problems in the golf swing and you examine those and you can probably thin them down to four or five key issues, with putting it’s completely different.  The sorts of things people externalize are quite psychedelic almost.  They vary from the weird to wonderful and it is one of the reasons why I was very, very motivated to try and provide something to people that they could create that link between teaching, or instruction, and actually playing, because that was the area that a problem for myself. I could read, I could understand what needed to be done, but I couldn’t actually enact it.  Enacting it in a closed environment such as a training center is completely different then it is on the golf course, for me clearly the issue is we have to have a putter that you can train with and then play a legal round of golf with.  That became evident in the development of the Zen Oracle, that is what gave me the excitement and the enthusiasm to want to effectively devote the rest of my time and energies and focus that right into the development of this product because I could see that is was going to be enormously valuable for everyone else in play, because it encapsulated most of the problems that people experience in putting.

Shaun Womersley: Basically there was nothing else there at the time either. That is one of the key things other than technique based solution. I think that is the crux is nothing else was aptly available as a solution for people with putting problems other than as is now, which I think will lead onto your next question, going to a technique based scenario.  

GolfWRX: Right.

Shaun Womersley: And I think that is where the training is and the routine, and drills, especially each one has a purpose and each one fulfills a specific need for a certain player’s problems. Without actually becoming a conscious technique based solution it is actually a reaction as opposed to a conscious action and that is what makes it valuable and that’s what actually makes it work.

Bob Hanington: Hey Kiran, are you familiar with the Cameron Cube?

GolfWRX: Yes, yes.

Bob Hanington: Well that’s a product that’s licensed from us.

GolfWRX: Okay.

Bob Hanington: So just to tell you sometimes we get lost in the shuffle just because we’re not Titleist or Scotty Cameron but there is a huge amount of application of the training technique that Nick came up with that’s actually been employed by pretty much the biggest player in golf and right now really one of the best known names in golf club design which is Scotty Cameron and that is a license that comes through us.

18:19 – GolfWRX: Right, so you guys have definitely been validated even though you might not get all the credit for it.

18:24 – Bob Hanington: Well yeah, it’s such a big market where big players get the most spotlight but it is important to know that not only are we promoting that concept but also Titleist is promoting that concept to the golfing public in general but also some of the best golfers in the world including Davis Love III and Brad Faxon, who are all cube users, are technically all Zen supporters.

Part II

GolfWRX:  There seem to be two different schools of thought when it comes to putting – you’re either a guy who goes straight back straight through, or the putter travels on an arc and opens and closes at some point.  Now what’s your guys take on these two strokes and how do your putters fit either one?

Shaun Womersley – This is a can of worms that you are now opening (laughter).

Nick Middleton – I think to answer that question we’d have to put our cards on the table right away and tell you that in 2003 we have been closely associated with Dr. Christian Marquardt in Munich who is a neuroscientist and is the inventor and brains behind Science in Motion Golf.  As soon as we saw that and we put the Zen Oracle together with the Science in Motion system we found there were fireworks.  A little bit of history, Christian has not come out of the golf industry, he has come out of the medical science and done a lot of research on occupational cramping and dystonia - particularly related to handwriting and occupational therapists.  The technology he has brought into the golf industry has opened up the window and has given us the opportunity to look minutely what’s happening in the putting stroke.  It’s quite alarming, what became immediately apparent was here’s an opportunity we can see in detail, and when I say detail we’re talking about very, very precise, very high resolution data that can be collected on all the different parameters of the putting stroke.  That data is actually quantifiable, it’s not like video or the naked eye where it looks apparent that you’re doing a particular movement.  With the SAM system, you can actually quantify what that movement was in terms of rotation, velocity, speed, all sorts of characteristics, but importantly it allowed us to open a window into the mind of the golfer as well because very often the way we physically behave either masks or mirrors a particular issue we have within our own putting strategy.  For instance, what we can really say and certainly Zen’s philosophy is we really do hold strongly the view that there isn’t such a thing as a specific convention as far as a putting stroke is concerned.  We are a little bit concerned, perhaps to be associated with a particular orthodoxy.  We don’t particularly say there are specific prescriptions for how someone should putt.  What we know with the thousands and thousands of people who have been analyzed with this system, and also from the feedback we’ve got from people who are using Zen Oracle in conjunction with Science and Motion, what we can see in actual fact is we need to treat the individual.  Everybody’s different, it’s just like handwriting, just in the research Christian had seen out in handwriting, it is clear that in the putting stroke, it’s more akin to handwriting.  What we’ve been preoccupied with in the last year to eighteen months, is trying to find out where the signature is in people’s stroke and everybody’s different.  What we need to do is look at where the neutral line is, or the neutral movement pattern is in the person’s stroke and you need to fit the club to that.  Finding it is achievable using analysis that’s available like Science and Motion.  We would assert a high degree of success is available through the treatment if there are problems using the Zen Oracle drills.  So we’re at the cusp at the moment where things could get very, very exciting because through the feedback from Zen and the feedback from Science and Motion, we can actually look at what the putting stroke is.  What we find straight away, very quickly, yes there are keys like in the full swing, there are maybe four or five key patterns in the stroke, but what we do know is that everyone is a little bit different.  Perhaps what some of the problems are related to putting, are where someone might say, “You need to be prescribed to a particular type of stroke or you need to enact a particular movement in your stroke,” or what we call technique change perhaps.  That actually might be doing more harm than good because it’s taking you outside your neutral movement pattern.  What we know is that when you’re outside your neutral movement pattern you are acquainted with your movement patterns change, not necessarily right away but certainly when you’re under pressure you are more susceptible to freezing and cramping when you’re not moving as normally would do.  So the whole issue that you talk about in terms of is there a particular stroke pattern or philosophy we hold, we don’t see from the evidence we’ve got that there is a particular type of stroke out there.  What we know is there are many.  What the challenge is for Zen and what I feel we are well equipped, not only with our association with Christian, but also with what Zen Oracle does, we’re at a time in history where we can actually open that subject up, but importantly we can actually provide fantastic experiential solutions to actually overcoming some of the key issues in the putting stroke and getting the player to actually see more freedom in the stroke than they have currently.  Furthermore, what I think is also exciting for us is the introduction of the experience and also the practical testing Shaun Womersley’s done on the same issue.  Last year we had a major conjunction in Munich where we all got in a room and we looked at the putting stroke from all different aspects.  What was amazing is we were all on the same page yet we were working independently, we were all on the same page and it was unbelievable.  What Christian could see that Shaun was doing and the work Shaun had been doing in terms of training the eyes and what Christian understood already about how the hand and the eyes work together from a focal dystonia point of view, immediately created a flux of interest because we got something then where we could not only identify and see the variety in the strokes, we could also see there is a way forward and that it might not necessarily be a technique change.  In fact, almost certainly we feel technique changes might be a potentially dangerous area.  We can see solutions in respect to training, but also solutions in terms of equipment fitting.  The fitting of the equipment, therefore then, stemming into a completely different model that looks at the eyes and how the hands and the eyes work and also recognizing where your neutral is, or where the signature is in your stroke and working the fitting of the putter and the actual training and the whole stroke to encompass that, to actually embody that.  As opposed to working against it or forcing the client into an unnatural movement pattern.

Shaun Womersley – It’s basically fitting relative to movement, that’s the bottom line, is fitting relative to that person’s neutral movement pattern which everybody exhibits.  I know there’s work on straight back straight through, square to a symmetrical arc, or whatever that may be.  The key issues really are if you have a player who uses an arc stroke, if that person actually has a high degree of rotation in that stroke already, getting them to play with that kind of technique change is far more detrimental because the club itself is heel-toe weighted, which is the predominant putter to use in that type of stroke, is also adding a high degree of rotation.  So what you are actually doing is multiplying two high numbers.  You’ve got a high degree of rotation in the player already and high degree of rotation in the club which then multiply themselves and make ball position and timing of that stroke absolutely crucial when putting and if you get that wrong, then you only have to be a fraction of a degree off.  It really means guys become streaky putters.  One minute they can do the exact same stroke as they did the day before and the putts that were going in are all of a sudden missing.  Rather than a stroke type – square back, square through, square to an arc, or whatever, the key thing is – unless you actually know where a player is now, where they are starting from, what is their zero point, then you can’t actually base an assumption as to what the prescription for that player may be.  If the guy does have a high degree of rotation and you give a prescription of a putter that has a high degree of rotation, you’re actually giving him the wrong tablet.  That then makes the guy putt a lot worse.

Nick Middleton:  Basically what it’s doing is taking down a different route whereby we’re using very accurate data to prescribe equipment to a movement philosophy as opposed to trying to get a player to adopt a movement around an equipment policy.  So we’re turning it upside down to a certain extent.  We believe this is a logical way to do it.  It’s almost a little bit like “The Ministry of Silly Walks,” people have to do things they can’t do and they look hideous and stupid trying to.  Not only that, internally they’re manifesting all sorts of resistance that become filters.  Those filters then change their movement patterns, certainly when they’re under pressure.  This is the evidence we’ve got.  We can either ignore and carry on giving people the same old story, or we can try and encompass some change and provide some solutions to that.  I feel we are in a fantastic position to be able to offer those solutions and give people different means of freeing themselves up.  

GolfWRX:  That’s excellent, that’s a really novel approach to fitting people.

Nick Middleton:  It’s dynamic fitting, we will be operating from a dynamic pattern or dynamic platform as opposed to a static platform.  So we look at people’s movement and then fit to that movement.  It’s the same way that if you were seeing a physiotherapist in the hospital and you’ve got an occupational issue with a piece of equipment you needed to operate, they would not say, “Well, sorry sir, just smarten yourself up.  You’re just holding the thing wrong.”  Well, you might not be able to hold it.  It’s ridiculous; it’s a crazy way of approaching it.  So we’re taking a much more scientific view of how this problem can be overcome.  And we’re using the same principles you would do in a typical therapeutic scenario.

Nick Middleton:  The other thing I’d like to mention at this stage because we talked a little bit about how we came to be and there was a point that I did miss out and I think is important.  That is we had a phenomenal break in Europe through Pete Cowen and Graham Walker who has since become the Elite Squad coach for the English Golf Union.  Now in the U.K. we have the Golf Unions of each country, but we work closely with the English Golf Union, mostly importantly because we have access onto the European Tour through Pete Cowen and into that channel through Graham Walker.  They saw immediately what we’ve got and they saw it as being absolutely amazing.  They gave us the opportunity to get into a whole group of developing golfers through Graham, getting access to kids who are coming through the system, who are going to be the next Walker Cup players and then potentially the next Ryder Cup Players, was fantastic for us.  To be able to affect them and to see what they had to offer us, especially at an early stage was absolutely crucial to providing validity to what we’ve got.  We’ve been doing that now since 2002 and 2003 and already we’ve got a lot of good players coming through.  I have to say there isn’t a good player that’s come through the English system that hasn’t used our putter and similarly on the European Tour particularly where we’ve had a chance to gain access to players and they’ve had a chance to externalize what their putting problems are, we have got now, a catalog and you can almost say it’s “before and after Zen.”  The best way to describe “before and after Zen” is that prior to Zen being available; people have putting strokes that exhibited early stage yipping characteristics.  After Zen, you can see their whole movement changes.  Not only does it become more natural, but technically it also becomes much more efficient.  So technically, just about everybody has had some kind of experience and they can attest to the value it brings.  Early on we said, how can we get going, and I have to give credit to people like Graham and Pete who did open the doors to us.  But more importantly, they championed what we do because they genuinely believed and it was no personal interest to themselves other than the fact that they were providing a solution to a problem which they personally knew about from their own experiences, but also because they could see there was an incredible value to the golf development program in the U.K.  Which I now know has been incredibly useful because players that come through that program are stronger and they attest to the value that we’ve brought to it.

GolfWRX:  That’s incredible and it’s the perfect intro to my next question, which is, the first time I saw a Zen Oracle putter was with Stuart Appleby and his instructor Steven Bann on the Golf Channel.  The second they got to their putting segment, they were just raving about your product and the advantages it has.  I was wondering how your association with Stuart got started and if there are any other tour pros that are using your products?

Bob Hanington:  I got in a relationship with Stuart because I actually worked on a product called the LeaderBoard which is a training product that a good portion of the pros both here in the U.S. and also in Europe use to basically bio-mechanically train their muscles to perform the golf swing in a repeatable fashion while also increasing efficiency.  Stuart along with a couple of other pros actually are the principal owners of that company.  So in the context of working on that project, I actually found out that Stuart and Steve used our putter to train with.  In talking with Stuart he was very enamored with how we did the training aspect, and Steve Bann especially, but they didn’t realize that we were actually a conforming putter, because they were using the training device like Nick was describing from 2000, and second they had not seen what we were doing in the interim to bring our putters to a more traditional look and feel.  When I started describing to Stuart what we had going on, he was very willing to look at them and start testing them and eventually putting a couple of prototypes in play including one he actually shot a 63 with right out of the gates.  I think it was at the 84 Lumber Classic I think where he did that in 2005?  That lead to him playing a bona fide early prototype of our blade series we have now during the President’s Cup.  That relationship is where we know Stuart from.  Prior to that we actually had Peter Lonard win the Australian Open with a long putter we had, a very unique putter, with a unique hosel configuration that was actually attached to the back of the putter.  So Peter had success with that.  We’ve had multiple players put the product in play this year, but one of the things from a business perspective that we run into is we don’t pay our players to play the putters.  We don’t have that kind of a budget, and we don’t necessarily think that is beneficial.  The goal is a relationship, and I think what we’re starting to see now is how we’re actually going to be attacking that.  We have a relationship with Stuart and what Nick and Shaun are doing over in Europe is they’re identifying some of the strongest new players that are coming out that will be the world beaters in the years to come and will create a relationship on the training side and all the way up to the performance side.  The whole soup in that division is coming forward in these younger players.  I think Nick’s got the scoop on one of the guys we’re really focusing on who’s already listed as a phenomenon over in England.  

Nick Middleton:  We have, from perhaps the very early stages of his career, Oliver Fisher who has been using our Oracle training system.  He came through the English Golf Union promotion.  Earlier this year he turned pro, he has full exemption on the European Tour, he was the youngest ever player on the Walker Cup team, and he’s probably going to be fit to be the youngest ever player to represent the country in the Ryder Cup.  He’s a prolific talent, and he’s probably rated as one of the best players England’s ever produced.  As I mentioned before we have a lot of support and we have a fantastic platform.  Most of the people who are going to make it, the movers and shakers, have all used our system and they’re highly attracted to us because of the gift we’ve given them – the movement changes we’ve made at an early stage are so key and fundamental to them becoming more immune to yipping and dystonia and freezing that is associated with having too much training or that you’re not clear mentally about what you’re doing.  I feel we have a fantastic legacy that under the surface is already there, it’s latent, so very much it’s an opportunity we have and one we relish and we’re excited about being able to tap into that and to be able to show people where we can move forward in terms of where we’re going in the future which is clearly custom fitting and impact technologies.  In a way, we’ve almost come full circle.  We started with impact technologies, we got into training, we used the training to leverage our brand and to give ourselves acceptance, we knew that innovation was key to the market and gaining some kind of entry.  The uniqueness we had in the training got us in there and we’re now swinging around a bit and we have a huge technology in impact technologies which the RDE is clearly the return of that.  The RDE is not the only thing we’ve got and it’s absolutely phenomenal for us to say we’ve got this platform that has been created from the training.  From taking impact out of the stroke, what has been so poignant is that having taken impact out, we’re now focused on the impact itself.

GolfWRX:  I think that’s a big thing is a lot of people are starting to focus on exactly how these putters roll.

Nick Middleton:  Yeah, we talked about how it can be before and after Zen, and the crazy thing is one minute it’s got absolutely nothing to do with impact and the next minute, it’s entirely about impact.  So what we’re providing with this incredible concert where you’ve almost got being and you’ve got nothing, so you’ve got two sides of the equation.  Which is the movement, and then what does the movement do to affect the stroke and deliver the putter to the back of the ball and then what happens a split second later which is the actual impact itself.  We’ve got a fantastic breadth of experience and we’ve got an amazing technical story which enhances the two sides of that cone.

Part III

GolfWRX:  Well, why don’t we get into that now.  I know one of your big technologies is the Reduced Dimple Error (RDE) technology, can you explain to us what that is and how it differs from some of the other groove putters on the market?

Nick Middleton:  First of all a little preamble.  The first thing is with our experience we got with the training side of it, we were looking at the movement control and you’ve already understood that we’re very preoccupied with that.  We don’t believe changing putters and this that and the other are going to be solutions.  So it was incumbent on us first of all, having rolled the ball out of the aperture so the ball is rolling, so there’s no impact, so we’re getting a clear understanding of how the ball is rolling free from impact – because at impact you’re going to get some kind of dispersion, you’re going to get some kind of adverse reaction, when two bodies collide, it’s not always predictable, we’d like it to be, but it’s not always predictable.  So about two years ago we were developing a relationship with Dr. Norman Lindsey with a lot of technology to do with impact.  We were very excited about the idea that for us to grow our range of putters, the equipment side of our company, we had to have a story that was consistent with rolling the ball.  So having rolled the ball out of the aperture and showing people how the ball would travel across the green in the optimum manner and give us some kind of feedback on that we then looked at impact technologies and then noticed that there was something to be discovered.  That was the actual goal posts in golf are changing, they’re moving.  We have a huge amount of change in the surface as a consequence of perhaps the biggest revolution in putting which is the lawn mower.  So we have more consistency on the ground.  We have greens that are like billiard tables.  Then we also have golf balls which are becoming a little bit more like billiard balls in that their mantle or cover is becoming a little bit harder.  The RDE technology, these are not grooves, but in actual fact they are microscopic ridges that stand proud off the face.  What they do is they actually control surface impact from the ball and the face, so what we do is we remove the ball from the face of the putter and in so doing, what we do is we affect the adverse dispersion which is created from the dimples of the golf ball.  We’re effectively changing the impact pattern by more than 50%, and the whole thing is governed by factors so if you imagine what can be achieved currently what a legal groove is about 8%.  By producing actual ridges, we can take that over 50% and therefore we can affect as much as +/- 2° change in dispersion.  So if you put all those things together, what you have is golf balls that are not compressing on the green, that are harder.  They’re fantastic aerodynamically, they’re great with restitution, they deform less, they spin less, but on the putting green they’re your worst enemy because in actual fact they’re more like snooker ball, or a billiard ball and the greens you’re playing on are more like snooker tables.  So, all of the advantages we’ve reaped from the improvements in ball technology which improve the flight and the spin control and actually work against us on the putting green.  That’s something that we’re aware of and that’s also something we’re anxious to provide a solution to.  Golf balls, if you imagine the modern golf ball now will probably not compress for a putt of somewhere up to 18-20 feet.  What we’ve measured is it’s actually possible with a modern golf ball on a modern green, it’s possible to miss a putt from five feet due to no fault of your own, nothing to do with the stroke, just purely the fact that the dimples will act against you and send the ball off the path.  We felt there was a huge amount of volume when we decided to look at the impact technologies, again there was a huge amount of volume on forward roll and controlling spin and things like that, but what there wasn’t – there wasn’t an interest too much in dispersion created from the ball itself, and so RDE technology, pronounced “ready,” is pretty much unique to us and it’s that we’ve patented in our first line of putters you see there.  There are also differential benefits we’ve discovered from introducing the RDE we can actually talk about in some of the questions you raise later on, things such as audio feedback and feel and restitution, and also things like resonance as well, the overall feel, which have been affected tremendously from going down this line which wasn’t anticipated.  But through our investigation have become elements of our line-up which have become incredibly attractive and very beneficial to people who use our products.

GolfWRX:  Well, why don’t we jump back up to question seven that deals with MOI.  That’s obviously a huge buzz word now in the industry, no matter what club it is, everybody wants the most MOI they can get.  How important is MOI for you guys when you are designing your putters.

Nick Middleton:  Funny enough, this is an interesting question.  Our reaction is very similar to the question of does our product conform to a particular swing type.  We would attack this question in a similar manner, which is let’s look at MOI and in terms of putters, what does it have to offer?  Interestingly, with face balanced putters, immediately one of the benefits is control of rotation which can affect the way you bring the club back to square at impact.  Really, let’s be straight, that’s what this whole business is about, if you were to say, what is the objective?  And therefore, what is the strategy of my training to achieve that objective?  Really at the end of the day if you want to get the ball in the hole, we’ve got to try to bring the club square to the target path at impact.  We know from our investigations that off center hits will change the length that the ball will travel on the green by as much as 20%.  In some cases we know that depending on the ratios of the MOI on the body and the head, that can be, especially with a face balanced putter, that can be quite small.  So in other words, if you’re not quite close to the center of impact, then there is going to be a distance control issue which is down to launch technology and an understanding of that.  What we are concerned with is what can we do to get people to impact the ball with their stroke pattern, which brings back the club reliably to the point it needs to be at impact but also impact the ball at the center of percussion, or the sweet spot of the putter face.  It’s interesting because if we state clearly that is the objective in what we’re trying to do, let’s look at other aspects we’re aware of now which either work for us or against us.  Now we know that a putter that is set up incorrectly for that person’s movement pattern, that person will have difficulty bringing that club not only back to square, but bringing it reliably back to the same place which is going to be the same place reliably on the face.  Now MOI may help us in that area, we don’t know.  What we do know is that in actual fact there is another aspect more important than all of this which is where are your eyes?  How are your eyes positioned?  How are the eyes working with the motor in the swing, which is effectively the hands and arms?  What we know is this – eye training delivers center striking because it changes our movement patterns.  When our movement patterns become more unfiltered and they become more subconscious automated movements, they become more reliable.  When we’re thinking about it less, we become more proficient.  Very interestingly, with the technologies we’re incorporating with Shaun’s Eclipse system, we’re becoming acquainted with the fact that people can hit the putter in the center more reliably if people are trained using their eyes properly.  The other thing we’ve found is that those player that use the Zen Oracle in their training, when we measure them, we find that they are hitting it in the center of the sweet spot more reliably.  So there’s two things here that are combining that actually add a lot more information regarding MOI.  Yes, MOI is an advantage, but we would also stress there is a third aspect to this, that is there is another plane besides the plane from the heel to the toe, and that is the vertical MOI, or the vertical gear effect we’re also exploring and that does in fact spin.  So there are a number of issues here that kind of dove-tail into this whole area.  What is fundamental from Zen’s point of view, what is unique to us, what is interesting to us, what value do we bring?  Well it’s clearly that we can change people’s behavior and movement patterns that allow them to hit the ball more reliably in the center.  We have a number of things that combine eye training and movement control through the Zen Oracle and obviously through the Eclipse system and obviously through the monitoring through the SAM systems which in fact become much bigger issues, become much more valuable to center striking than perhaps MOI which is effectively a plaster we put over a swing that is badly trained or is behaving badly.  So for instance, if we cannot center strike, it might be that the club is not set up for us, it might be that we completely have not come to grips with the job it’s trying to do, we have lost track of the objectives, or they haven’t been explained properly to the client.  But what we would say is that MOI is not ultimately the solution, it’s effectively a temporary solution to a bad putting stroke.  

GolfWRX:  So the end goal is hit the ball in the center of the face?

Nick Middleton:  Absolutely, that’s the primary objective, but how do we get there, how do we get the club from address and back to that position.  MOI is not necessarily the answer, it will let you off but what we’re saying is let’s attack it much more fundamentally.  Let’s look at how the eyes are used to work with the hands more effectively and lets’ have feedback systems and ways of fitting the club around that model because what we know and what we understand is we will be more reliably positioned to hit the ball in the center spot.  If we attack the stroke and look at how the stroke is moving and how we’re behaving we’ll be more effective as players.  Really good players, ultimately really good players can hit pretty much anything.  If you look at Phil Mickelson’s putter, where do you see high MOI?  It’s non-existent, he’s playing with a knife, yet he’s still hitting in the center.  If you take another player, Severiano Ballesteros, he was acutely aware of where he needed to hit the ball.  Even though it was unconventional, he knew exactly where he had to hit the ball on that putter.  Interestingly enough, that same gentleman we just mentioned was one of the clients of Shaun’s father, he routinely came to be fitted by Dunlop Slazenger and he was made aware of all of this from all the work Dunlop Slazenger did from the early days.  That is some of the heritage we brought forward and is encapsulated in what Shaun’s bringing to the table.

Part IV

GolfWRX:  Excellent, now one of the big methods of construction in putters these days is milling.  It seems like every high end putter these days is milled.  What advantages does milling putters have construction wise and are all Zen Oracle Putters now milled?

Nick Middleton:  When we ventured in the RDE technologies and when we went down this route, we tried casting it initially and we didn’t get the precision and the other thing is we didn’t really get the resonance qualities.  So one of the things we’re pretty much convinced for certainly for us and the size of our company, the milling of putters gives us immediately the quality control and the precision we need.  Importantly, I’ll have to say that one of the fantastic attributes we’ve got in our business is the contributions of Mickey Parker in Tampa, Florida.  This is a guy that like Shaun has grown up in the industry and has very much affected the way the industry is now.  He’s been there for 25 years, time served as an apprentice in other engineering fields, and has turned that skill into the golf industry.  I would pretty much say that perhaps Mickey Parker has pretty much seen history unfolding in front of him but has also been a major contributor to the path history has taken.  Not only that but he’s also been associated with the likes of Bobby Grace and most recently, throughout his whole playing career, Nick Price confides and works very closely with Mickey and has a lot of putters made by him as do a lot of tour players from around the world.  They immediately associate and have great affinity for Mickey’s approach but also Mickey’s eye for detail.  For Zen to have Mickey on board is phenomenal, it’s a breath of fresh air.  He understands what we’re trying to do, he shares with us the enthusiasm with his own couple that gives us the fantastic esprit de corps that we have now in the business.  The sort of never say die, never lose sort of attitude that we’ve got, we’ll always look at providing a solution.  Currently all of our putters are milled because for us it’s the best solution.  We’re only interested in providing the best possible solution to the marketplace.  We know our market’s not matted, so we want people to appreciate, like we did for the Zen Oracle drills, we knew we had to feed it into people that would appreciate and benefit from it because they would become our long-term brothers and sisters.  Having Mickey on board, just overnight, we’ve effectively benefited from all the heritage that he brings, his understanding of how to make putters, his understanding of tour players – the do’s the don’ts, all of that stuff can only be obtained from long-term experience and massive amounts of developments and experimentation to get something absolutely right.  If you go into his shop, you’ll see thousands and thousands of different variations on a single piece and you’ll ask him, “Is this necessary?” and then you’ll start to talk to him and then you’ll realize this guy is like a swiss watch maker when it comes to putting.  There’s nothing he doesn’t seem to know.  Then when you get Mickey and a guy like Shaun Womersley together, you get sparks right away because both of them can touch base on areas where they’ve got deep respect for each other, they understand all the intricacies of it, they almost have a different language, they immediately know where they’re going and that’s something that’s very, very special and that’s something we’ve got in them which is absolutely phenomenal and it gives a cultural edge to our business that I feel adds enormous value to anyone that comes into our company, becomes part of our products, embraces what we’ve got to offer and I believe gives us a long, slow, very healthy burn to our product line.

GolfWRX:  Your quality definitely shines in your products, but going hand in hand with the last question, materials are another big thing people consider when they’re purchasing and designing putters.  Are all your putters stainless steel?  How do you decide what materials to use in your putters?

Nick Middleton:  The current lineup of putters uses three materials.  We have a soft stainless steel which I think is a 303 grade.  We also have an aluminum bronze, and we also have a carbon steel.  The stainless steel is finished in a satin, and is true to the material.  It looks like stainless steel, there is no disguise, it is totally honest and straight forward.  The next stuff is the aluminum bronze which, if left untreated, would look very bright, perhaps a bit of a distraction.  What Mickey’s done there is developed an antiquing process that’s pretty much unique to himself.  It’s a coating which changes through its life and gives a great patina.  The response we’ve had from it on both sides of the pond has been absolutely phenomenal.  It’s incredibly soft, it’s got an unbelievable response from it.  The third material is carbon steel.  What Mickey’s done is produced a gun metal finish to that.  So the product really pops on the eye.  The lineup is we’re pretty much offering a very easy on the eye, classical solution.  What we’re not trying to do is we’re not trying to have product that dare people or distract people away from what we’re trying to do.  So they’re very classical shapes, they’re shapes we know people like, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel in that area.  There’s no point in trying to push the boat uphill by coming up with weird and wacky shapes.  We know fully that alignment aids on putters, crazy shapes, you name it, everyone is trying it.  We’re not doing that.  We’re completely going back to fundamentals.  We know that lineups don’t necessarily mean that you’re going to bring the putter back to impact.  We know, for instance that it’s possible to be as much as 3° pointing in the wrong direction at address, but you can still bring the putter back to impact.  So we’re not about to go and push the baby out with the bathwater and come up with some crazy shapes to announce our presence on the marketplace with the RDE technology.  That’s not what this is about, we’re not going to try people’s patience in that area.  We’re going with very smooth, classical shapes in that area, and we’re saying, by the way, we’re giving you a performance advantage.  These things are familiar to how people putt, they’re familiar pieces of equipment, they know how they work, they understand them, but we’re saying, by the way, we’re offering a performance advantage – when you hit the ball with this putter, you are more likely to put the ball along that line.  So there’s no confusion there.  We have three simple colors, three simple shapes, if you look at the hosel configurations Mickey has developed and you do the arithmetic, it’s well over sixty different configurations.  From two or three different shapes, three different colors, we’re offering a phenomenal array of delivery in terms of custom fitting and also we’re not offering something that’s trying to reinvent the wheel or is trying to be different for the sake of being different.  

GolfWRX:  Now I know I’m really interested to hear what you guys have to say about this next question which has to do with sound and feel.  Obviously finding a putter you’re comfortable with, a big part of that is finding one that sounds good and feels good in your hands.  How do you guys ensure you’re able to create designs with pleasing sound and feel to a wide variety of customers?

Nick Middleton:  We’ll offer an answer to this question in two parts.  We’re going to say straight up, that people being comfortable with the look of the putter is actually a big part of playing well.  We genuinely believe people have to like the look of something.  If they feel good with something, they drive it better, they play with it better.  It’s just like the analogy we mentioned with writing – you pick a pen you like writing with, and guess what, your writing looks better.  You pick a putter you like the look of, again we’re not trying to create any resistance in that area, there’s absolutely no need for us to do that.  So A) we’re working with very conventional putters, but interestingly, when we started to work with the RDE, when we started incorporating these impact technologies into our range, there was an interesting side benefit that came along – that is by changing the amount of surface contact between the ball and the face we changed the feel.  

Shaun Womersley:  The perceived feel.

Nick Middleton:  Certainly, the perceived feel.  We wanted auditory feedback, but we also changed resonance as well.  I’d say that further to that, there is a lot of work we did in the early year 2000-2001 with a scientist in Sheffield called Dr. Clive Bradshaw who had a system called dual domain listening that allowed him to actually measure what it is by combining the auditory feedback with the resonance feedback, so he was listening simultaneously to two different types of feedback.  We did a lot of experimenting and what we found was a lot of it was due, not only to the face contact but also with the ball and it has a lot to do with the socket and of course the grip.  But interestingly, what Clive found is that the socket was definitely right up there, of value to us is of course Mickey’s socket technology.  We have putters where the sockets are independently milled and then combined with the head.  Now if you combine what’s happening with the RDE technology by changing the impact frequency with Mickey’s sockets and the fact that the heads are completely milled, we found that as luck would have it, we ended up with a feel story with these products.  So much so that completely unprompted, when we have done focal tests, and we’ve been conducting these for over a year not only on the European Tour, but also with amateurs and consumers, the first thing they say to us is how do I get this feel on my Ping or my Scotty.  I can give you documentary evidence to support that.  This might sound a bit blasé, but what people have come back to us and said is regardless of what you’re saying about RDE and what is does, how the hell do your putters feel better than every one else’s?  This is not only the fact that we were pretty much acquainted with the technologies and the understanding you’ve need to have, but by having Mickey doing what he’s doing, that has not been a disadvantage to us, in fact it has been a real advantage because we’ve been able to do it in a really elegant way.  So we’ve got two parts to the story:  we’re delivering an extremely conservative, but very conventional offering, we’re offering on top of that a layer of performance in terms of dispersion, but the third aspect of that is it’s being delivered in such a way that the expertise in the milling and the technology itself provides us with a product that’s got feel and to a certain extent I would go as far as saying we can pretty much tell you where we’ve found, in terms of the chromatic scale, with our product, in terms of where we’re found and I would say that we’re more like ebony – we’re more like organic materials.  We’re more associated with wood and organic material feel, very traditional sort of feel than we would the sort of sparky, top end high notes, you probably get from modern materials.  So the combination of keeping the ball off the face, and not having the hardness of the ball change the acoustic note, coupled with the frequencies we’re getting with the impact technology, coupled with the hosel and coupled with the way we’re delivering the hosel gives us a phenomenal feel story that is totally supported by complete logic.

Part V

GolfWRX:  Now getting back briefly to RDE technology, how much of a factor is green speed, with regards to RDE technology being able to roll the ball in a consistent fashion?

Nick Middleton:  I think it’s fair to say that the best way to approach this is, is to look at it from the point of view of various curves, the curves that you get in velocities. There are cross-overs and simply what you need to look at is the facts that the faster the greens become the harder the ball becomes the more adverse effect you’re going to get from dimples.  So it is very straight forward response to that question, Kiran and it is that greens are getting faster, lawn mowers are getting better, and agronomy is getting better.  Predictability and the control of golf courses is going off the charts.  Okay, every year, look at the U.S. Open, every year the greens are getting faster everything is becoming more reliable and predictable.  The weight the golf ball is more towards the mantle more towards the outside the circumference of the ball and to do that means that there’s necessarily a stiffing of the mantle and therefore all of those things conspire to send the ball off the line.  We are more like playing on a billiards table with billiard balls and that is really where we are at.  As that unfolds, Zen as a company becomes more valuable because we are offering compensation, you know, and importantly what we are offering is a sanctuary for people who would be adversely affected by the negative reactions that they would get when they’re for instance, missing a shot from five foot and they are thinking how the hell can I do that, you know, I’m on the best greens in the world, I’m playing with superior equipment and I’m missing the hole.  I look foolish and I feel stupid and it is conspiring within us to give us incredible negative response and I think this is where Zen is very powerful, the fact that we are taking that worry away from you from day one. So we are changing the goal posts, we are moving the goal posts back onto the field.

Shaun Womersley:  It’s one reason why if you ever have a putting competition, which I got caught up by one of the guys who taught me to play golf many years ago, he always used a 162 ball which had an obviously heavy core, windings and everything else and basically always used to putt lights out with it because it was actually much more stable for putting then what it would be for driving. That is where the technologies have changed massively in terms of the greens have gotten better and obviously people’s putting stats are better but the ball and the contact and everything else are far less stable then what it use to be. So if you ever do, do that try to find an old 162 ball and then when you are putting against your friends, you’re always have a far less area of dispersion on that ball and it will roll a lot better than what it would with an 168 that’s got the new technology all the weight on the outside and that’s difficult. That’s just a little aside if you ever do do that.

GolfWRX: Yeah I’ll have to give that a try next time. Interesting.

Nick Middleton: Another thing is the fact that Shaun’s first putting lesson at the age of six was with Bobby Locke.  Bobby spoke with him and here’s a little bit of heritage of you.

GolfWRX:  Yeah that’s quite a putting lesson.  Great stuff.  Now I’ve heard it said before that the first three feet of a putt’s roll are critical in determining its overall accuracy and distance control.  Do you guys believe that there’s any truth to that statement?

Nick Middleton:  I think it’s certainly, you know, you have to assume, well not assume that might be using the word assume, but it is clear that this is all about launch technology.  Okay, it’s all about launch control and with putting what we know about the investigation in spin that had been done at Sheffield with Dr. Steve Hauge now Professor Steve Hauge, these guys have in their corpus in the sports engineering department there they are probably leading the world. They advise more national governed bodies in sports such as tennis, badminton, cricket, etc.  All bat and ball games they tend to, their governing bodies tend to lead the way to these doors to have some work done and to have some evaluation done.  And we went through the same process when we looked at in control of putting.  What we found was in a rough rule of thumb is that loft equals back spin.  Now having said all of that I don’t want to jump the gun a little bit we are still investigating this what we know is that the majority of putters on the market at the moment have more loft then they require so they launch the ball and lift it off the ground.  An interesting side and maybe add a little bit of color to your question there is a superstition about the requirement for us to have to do that and I don’t know why it is driven.  Colloquially I don’t know what might be the best way to describe it - it is this idea that the ball is somehow nesting within the blades of grass on the green and that it somehow has got to be lifted up.  So you get this sort of anecdotal comments that people make about lifting it up out of this rested position in the tucks of grass that are on the green. Now in my mind I don’t see very many tufty greens but too this is an interesting paradox in order to lift the ball out of these so called indentations on the green be there indentations which is a little bit odd because I can’t see the evidence of it.  We have to somehow have to pick it up and when you pick it up, you’re picking it up with loft. If you pick it up with loft you’re going to put back spin on it. Now the interesting thing also is that if this state of affairs actually did exist the last thing you’re going to want to do when you are so called in the rough is to put back spin on the ball because you are actually asking it to bury itself deeper by counter rotating it.  When actually in fact what you are looking for is top spin.  It is a very strange issue here because it raises a whole multitude of cross arguments that simply put you put back spin on the ball if you put loft on it and you can do it in a number of different ways, you can do it dynamically.  You can apply loft by changing the position in the stroke so that you’re affectively bringing the club with added loft to the back of the ball so if you change your ball position in your stroke you might do that.  And Shaun would be very quick to point out that if that’s the case then you are adversely changing the zero point in your stroke and therefore you’re going to have difficulty bringing that club back to square.  It will change the rotation and therefore change the orientation of your target.  So let’s put that one to one side because we don’t really want to do that.  Most putters have loft on them we don’t know why but we do know that loft equals back spin.  Now there’s another concept and that is I mentioned earlier the concept of MOI which is really much preoccupied at the moment between changing the weight distribution between the heel and the toe in order to affect the sweet spot.  That also affects spin.  Now then what the experimentation or certainly the investigation that we did looking at different putters - we found that putters with an adverse amount of weight behind the club, almost like drivers, in other words if you bring the weight back from the face of the putter increasing the MOI, what we found was that they increase back spin.  Because what happens is the ball spins in the center of gravity and anyone can do this experimentation and actually see how that works. If you take a putter that has very high MOI and you bounce the ball on the heel and you bounce the ball on the toe you can continue to bounce it, what you will see is that the ball rotates into the center. Now the same is true on the vertical plane so what we are looking at is the whole area beyond impact is the launch control issues and we have done a lot of work on spin and examining spin. Again aided and abated by Dr. Norman Wemsley and further assisted by Dr. Steve Hauge at Sheffield University, so when you are talking about launch you are also therefore about spin.  So if you launch the ball with a putter you will put a spin on it pretty much unless you use technology that we are going to be developing and introducing later down the line.  But you will be putting back spin on it if you launch it.  So when it hits the ground there are going to be a variety of scenarios and the chances are that if you got a high degree of loft and you got a high degree of MOI and you’re not hitting it right smack in the middle then you might be spinning the ball sideways, which means when it hits the ground it isn’t going to go down the line you intended.  Okay, so really that is where we are at is that we know a lot about launch makes the ball spin off the putter face and we also have some technologies that we are going to introduce in the future to overcome that. At the moment our preoccupation is RDE, you’ll notice on a lot of our putters that we immediately reduce the amount of loft on our putter to acceptable level. Below the center line most of our putters have actually got negative loft they curve off so in actual fact that is something we are slowly introducing and bit by bit as the story unfolds what we are going to be providing down the line are solutions not going what we are currently doing with RDE but we will also be providing solutions to spin control which will affect pace control on the green and it will also affect any adverse reaction due to launch control.
11:38 – GolfWRX: Interesting. Now just a quick aside here, what about guys who have big forward press in their stroke? I know I was taught to have little bit of forward press at least how would this sort of technology where you are having almost zero loft, how would that affect guys who like to keep their hands a little bit ahead of the ball when they are getting into impact?

12:03 – Shaun Womersley: Basically it is more of a custom fit issue then anything else.

12:09 – Nick Middleton: You need to measure what they’re actually doing. There are a lot of people who forward press Kiran. That doesn’t necessarily materialize in a zero angle of the shaft when it comes to impact.    

12:22 – Shaun Womersley: Basically some guys can actually forward press up to seven or eight degrees and then that would indicate that you would effectively, in most cases from a static fitting scenario, that you would have to change the loft to have to compensate for the forward press. So you would have to add loft to compensate for the forward press. Now in most case when people do forward press the actual angle of the shaft at impact is not the same as what it is when they actually take it away so a lot of the guys who do forward press don’t maintain that same relationship of shaft angle relative to the hands and the forearms that they do when the forward press is quiet a bit of movement which is in most cases one of the reasons why they do forward press.  Again using strong angles is actually one of my areas that I look at quite a lot in the fact that if you’ve got a guy going left hand low, right hand low, or left hand low scenario, it’s actually creating a very strong angle between his left arm and the shaft also his right wrist and his left arm and those strong angles are far more difficult to break down under pressure and through movement of the stroke.  The more you have when people are fairly central position where the wrist angles are rather shallow going into the shaft and if those angles move even just a fraction of an inch then the face of the club can actually move or shoot open by 1-3° without really doing anything wrong in the stroke.  So actually utilizing a forward press issue becomes more of a custom fit aspect which can be done by changing the lean angle of the shaft and/or the actual static loft of the head you could do it two different ways.  So yes you can accommodate that quite easily but again in terms of the strike pattern everything else we have actually done tests where you can actually hold the club in a 15° positive loft position you are tipping the shaft massively backwards and also 15° negative loft scenario and although the strike won’t feel very good a wooden ball will jump off quite quickly and a wooden ball will roll very slowly.  If you actually measure a consistent strike in the face the ball will still roll in a straight line you just won’t have any control of the pace aspect of the stroke.  But you can actually address that in two different issues basically you have to put the guy on something similar to SAM where you actually measure the guy where he’s at now, what’s he actually doing now, even if he forward presses it, it doesn’t really matter unless that forward press angle is there at impact.  If it’s still there at impact then you have to address the fit of the club to compensate for that forward press, otherwise that would be too much loft would create too much back spin and too much negative loft wouldn’t be very good for pace control either.

15:41 – Nick Middleton: I think one of the issues is Kiran is what we track with SAM is we can measure very accurately all people movement strategies and can determine whether they’re actually of any value to them, and whether they create some kind of repeatable pattern that’s reliable, in other words that they can reproduce it. So we look at competency and consistency. You’ve got a basket that you’ve have to weight up.  One is the optimum technical delivery of the putter at impact and our ability to do that under a whole range of pressure scenarios.  What we do find is that, technique change is what we’re talking about now, we’re talking about technique change or a strategy in that technique, for it to affect some kind of deficiency that’s already there or established.  What is important to notice is that technique change, ultimately at the end of the day does not necessarily deliver long-term value.  Perhaps what needs to be looked at in certain situations is finding where the consistencies are in the movement patterns and affecting training and as Shaun says quite rightly, the correct fitting of that.  Because what you end up doing, is if you try and solve people’s putting problems with equipment change, what you can end up doing is migrating the problem that already exists under the surface, it will just manifest itself further away and it just comes back again, and again, and again.  You don’t actually grasp the method and you don’t solve the problem, you just build up problems for the future and they can be worse to sort out later on.  

Shaun Womersley:  Each person really has to find out where they are right now.  That’s the key thing, is finding out where you are now and what you do now.  Once you’ve got that, you’ve actually got a zero point and benchmark to start from and make adjustments to make that movement pattern better.  

Nick Middleton:  Almost like a recalibration.

Shaun Womersley:  It is, the key thing as you know with a rifle, you can get a factory fitted rifle, and give it to three people, and if they all aim at the same target, they will actually hit three different places because it’s not calibrated to them.  If they would recalibrate it to fit them, they would all hit the bull’s-eye.  This works that same way then, but most people don’t have a starting point to work from.  But going back to the forward press angle issue, whatever angles you create with your hands and the shaft and your forearms, within that stroke, if the stay constant, you will repeat a constant impact position.  The big problem is most people that do those kinds of movements are a little bit too fluid in those moments and they actually create variable positions as opposed to constant positions.  So you could forward press it 25° forward if you so wished, and create a massively strong angle, and if you keep that angle the same, you’ll actually reproduce the same stroke even though the loft and everything else didn’t fit to make it work.

Part VI

GolfWRX:  If we could get into some of the new models, I know we’re interested in hearing what some of the culmination of these new technologies is and how they’re incorporated into your new lineup.  Getting into the new RDE Mallet, what improvements have been made in this model compared to previous ones?

Nick Middleton:  We mentioned before about the blade range being very conservative, easy on the eye, not trying to reinvent the wheel.  What we’d say is the mallet is pretty much the area where we perhaps push the boat out a little bit more.  It’s the vehicle which encompasses more of our technology, more of our patents, and encapsulates more of where we are going in the future.  Clearly, the mallet includes the RDE technology and combines the training we’ve already got, but you’ll also notice there is a slight difference in the hosel as well.  You’ll notice the hosel is arced and the reason we’ve done this is because it’s heralding a direction we are likely to go down in the future, which encompasses what we now know about the strategy for custom fitting.  What you’ll see perhaps in the future is us launching a new methodology for fitting putters as we develop as a company and we consolidate on our position, we will be looking at opening up that channel and to a certain extent, our mallet is effectively our showcase, the curtain raiser, the key indication of where we’re going philosophically and technically with our product range.  You’ll notice also that we’ve introduced with the mallet, it’s not all steel.  You’ll see the back is now a polymer and the reason we’ve done that is consistent with what I mentioned earlier about launch technologies.  You’ll notice the weight is way down, there’s more promoted to the front of the putter, and what you’ll see in the future is a lot of development around that cluster of technologies which we own and is designed entirely around changing launch angles and to make the whole area of accuracy, dispersion, and to link training and the remodeling of the stroke through synergistic feedback, which we’ve already got with the Zen Oracle training schemes, that is really beginning to roll all of that together into a homogeneous delivery of everything that is Zen Oracle.

GolfWRX:  You guys are also able to incorporate a variety of neck styles and face balancing within the RDE Mallet.  How are you guys able to do this?

Nick Middleton:  Purely with the expertise of Mickey.

Bob Hanington:  Not just the Mallet, the blades as well.

Nick Middleton:  The reason we’ve gone down that line is simply because it was made possible to us with Mickey Parker.

Shaun Womersley:  It gives you ultimate flexibility in what you want to do as well, that’s the key.

Nick Middleton:  It gives us a high degree of variability, it allows us to encompass much more sophisticated setups and customization, but it gives us the freedom to extol the virtues and encapsulate and manifest the things we know about movement control in a composite which can be delivered in a very elegant manner.  The delivery of it is absolutely fantastic.  We’re very delighted with everything we’ve achieved in terms of the quality, in terms of the feedback we’re getting.  The look of the whole thing and everything else is – on one hand it’s quite conservative, but at the same time, if you scratch below the surface you’ll see there’s a huge amount of technology in the business.

Shaun Womersley:  All three sockets will add different degrees of rotation to the same head.  So in effect, you can alter the rotation patterns of each head, relative to the person’s own rotation patterns, which for custom fitting, especially for me, is the first stage in where we’re going down the route.  That means that then you can actually neutralize someone’s rotation, but still keep the head style and the shape they like just by changing the orientation of the socket.  If you take that then one stage further, that’s one reason why people who do have problems with putting actually end up with a collection of putters.  Purely and simply if you change the orientation of the hosel, the amount of offset on the hosel, lean angle, whatever rotation of the head relative to that socket, then each one of those will produce – you’ll have to have effectively a different ball position, even assuming everything else is the same, you’ll have to have a different ball position relative to the use of each of those type of putter and rotation to make that face come back square to impact each time.  That’s where people, who have inconsistency in stroke, when they’re chopping and changing putting styles and putting types, end up in this big mix of inconsistency because they don’t actually understand that each part of that club’s uniqueness will change the relative ball position relative to the face being square at impact.  Unless you can match those, it basically becomes a lottery as to whether you hit the same place every time.  That manifests itself in a lot of inconsistencies with path and face angle and people that good that can actually do that, especially the higher up on the professional levels, you can actually set a professionals grip 4° open and he will actually make the ball go in a straight line.  The first one might not, but subsequently, all the putts will go down the line he intends them to go down.  He will subconsciously make that compensation to make that happen.

GolfWRX:  How about head weights on your putters?  Are they all around the same range of head weights, or do you guys vary your head weights depending on the length of the putter?

Nick Middleton:  What we understand on this subject, from the experimentation that’s being done on head weights, what we believe is that the majority of putters are going to end up being somewhere between 345-350 grams.  At some stage in the future, we have a putter we developed just over a year ago now; it’s called the Revolver, where we have the ability to change the weight of the putter.  It could weight as much as half a kilo, right down to 200 grams, so huge variations in weight.  We’ve used that in training laboratory to assess what people do with weight changes and as I mentioned before, there are theories out there that talk about making dramatic weight changes.  What we know is that, similar to what we were talking about previously regarding movement changes, is that they tend to be short term, and what happens is that if the problem is there to begin with, it has to be tackled fundamentally, not necessarily having a system that’s masking the problem by changing the weight.  So, what we know is that from a technical, from a physics point of view, there has to be a certain amount of mass at the head to provide a certain amount of resistance at the point of impact in order to give us the kind of transfer of velocities into the ball, certainly for long putts.  Generally speaking, I think you’ll probably find the overall variation in weight is actually quite small.  Anything say perhaps 320 grams, you’re going to find potential problems with long putts.  Anything say above 360 grams, the putter’s going to start to feel heavy and therefore it’s going to start to change your movement patterns.  So what we know is with us being human, there is a kind of almost like a hammer.  You wouldn’t pick up a 16 pound hammer to do a job on a swiss watch.  There’s kind of a happy medium.  We believe that around about 350 grams is where it’s going to settle.  It basically is a marriage of curves – feeling the resistance and weight, coupled with the fact that the efficiencies required to be able to hit the ball to begin with.  So it kind of results in the head being around 350 grams to fit the majority of scenarios.

Shaun Womersley:  The person’s perception of feel can also be changed massively by a person’s grip pressure.  Someone who’s gripping 350 grams in a light weight grip pressure, you get the same guy to do the exact same thing, but exhibit a much stronger grip pressure, and the weight automatically feels much less.  So that in itself is one of the big areas that can create a lot of feel differences of weight relative to the actual club.  Obviously, it would be fantastic for me as a club fitter to work with the Revolver because I can change the weight to 250-300 gram plus on an incremental basis because that way I can individually fit each person to their perceived weight feel.  In a commercial sense, it’s not practical or possible to do that.

Nick Middleton:  I think the by word here is that messing with weights, tinkering in that area, can lead to changing a person’s perception can lead to problems in our swing behavior.  It’s a bit of an area where there’s a lot of debate going on.  We are certainly not the company interested in simulating, although we’ve done a lot of work on this area, we don’t believe that huge weight variations are required at this moment.  I think what we have to do is stay at this happy medium which I feel will deliver some kind of consistency which is important, but also doesn’t take the putter too far away from the norms, which if you do that can actually stimulate a lot of other problems which are very, very difficult to handle.

Shaun Womersley:  I can see where you’re going from a club making side, making a club lighter relative to its length.  In a sense, making it heavier if you change the overall length, making it lighter, which ever way you go on that.  That obviously club making wise, there’s other solutions you can use such as back weighting and things like that which will change the percieved feel of the head but increase the overall weight of the weight of the club.  Some people can handle that, other people can’t.  It’s purely an individual thing.  At the moment we are limited to some degree by what we can do to the head.  We don't want to just put things in there just for commercial or for people to move and think they're getting some sort of benefit out of it when in fact, it's not making much difference.

Nick Middleton:  I think one thing we've got to be careful about as well is that the golf industry unfortunately you could describe it like the fashion industry.  We've got to be careful that we don't want to invent fashions that have to be reinvented later down the road.  Loads and loads of players have come to us for assessments and they fiddle with their putters in terms of the weight and the swing weight and things like that.  They don't actually, without having the proper telemetry to see what they're doing to their movement patterns, it doesn't matter.  They're very often acting on a whim or anectodal advice or evidence which might not necessarily be valuable to them.  In terms of answering your question more specifically we'd say that there is a great degree of investigation going on in this area.  We as a company, the advice we've got, and the way we pretty much feel is definitely in the happy medium area which is about 350 grams and a head weight that will physically do the job that's required to do.  We're not about taking a 16 pound hammer to crack a nut.

GolfWRX:  How about the Studio Custom Fit Series?  How does that fit into your lineup and how does that product work?

Nick Middleton:  The Studio is where we are at the moment.  With Mickey's invovlement and the aforementioned the variety of hosels we've got and effectively creating this new platform for numerous configurations to be developed around a readily accessible and extremely pleasing and elegant delivery such as the heads that we've chosen is pretty much what we mean by the studio.  We are very, very keen to attract business and develop relationships with people similar to Shaun who have got expertise in the area of providing a very, very proficient service to players who are discerning about and want to know what they can do about their custom fitting to enhance their performance and enhance their enjoyment of the game.  Golf, like fishing, is an area which enormously preoccupies us.  It becomes the spirit in everything of our lives, and some people, like all of us in the golf industry who came into the industry because we were excited about the huge degree of variety the game offers.  Clearly with the Zen Studio, there is a huge number of people out there who are incredibly discerning, they're technically competent, they've read exhaustively - their appetite for taking on information and they're wanting to take their game onto another level.  They're assisted by the research we've done and also the technologies we're offering.  Encompassed in the Studio selection is not only the fact that we're committed to working with custom fit organizations, we're also very much attuned with the idea of introducing as much science and research as we possibly can and to deliver it in a format which is incredibly elegant.  We're not trying to upset the apple cart, we're not trying to tell people they've been wrong all the time, we want people to feel the putters are what they like to look at, their chosen embodiments, what we're offering is a high degree of variety in that area, in that envelope we're offering an extreme delivery of art and science.

Bob Hanington:  As a clarification point, you're going off the website where we have an RDE icon and a Studio Custom Fit icon?  They are the same thing meaning that we're showing what a kit would look like to a custom club fitter.  They are getting RDE infused heads in their Custom Fit Series.

Nick Middleton:  To certain channels we will offer a ready made solution and retailers can pick from those - our specification.  Those that want to take it a little bit further and offer a full solution, we're going to be extremely in tune to the demands of that channel.

GolfWRX:  When and where will Zen Oracle putters become available?  What retailers are you going after, is there an approximate date for the product launch?

Bob Hanington:  Technically the products were unofficially launched during the 2007 PGA Merchandise Show.  They're currently available directly to the consumer off the website.  What's happening is we're having ongoing applications into becoming Zen dealers where individuals are contacting us, who have a custom fit shop, or other larger custom fit organizations are trying to align themselves with carrying our line.  So what you're seeing is a phase ramp-up as people become more and more aware and our relationship with Jared is helping us reach communicators like GolfWRX in the industry where that will become more of our main way of getting the word out to various individuals that this is a new and exciting line of putters to go after.  Really after the end of June, we're coming out with a full blown launch where the mallet will sort of spear head the effort of getting Zen Oracle back into the consciousness of the consumers.

Nick Middleton:  Aided with all those things Bob's just mentioned, we're also about to unveil an online protocol driven custom fit advice line where we're going to present a new model for how someone can almost self fit around best known information.  We're going to introduce what we know in a fairly relaxed and unsophisticated mode whereby people can take on board the measurements they need to know and be aware of in order to then have the putter fitted.  One of the things you'll notice in our new range is that we have an actual dot on the grip.  That has a specific significance, it's not there as a purely aesthetic issue, because we use it to fit the putters.  Moving forward, what we'll be unveiling at the same time the mallet comes to the market, is we'll be unveiling a method that makes it easier for people to understand where we're going philosophically with our custom fitting, but also how to use our grip to affect the correct measurement of the shaft and the position of the shaft in relation to the ball and the eye.  We have a geometrical equation that we will use to enable people to fit themselves to our putter using a fairly simple procedure.  It will probably take somewhere in the region of five minutes for people, and all they need to have is effectively a golf ball, a shaft, a stick, a bamboo cane if they wish, and a tape measure and we'll be able to guide them through what we feel is the best way to optimize and understand where they need to be in terms of custom fitting.  Further down the line, what we'll be looking to do is through the channel that we're undertaking at the moment in regards to custom fitting the Studios, most of those will most likely be aware of the telemetry that's coming onto the scene such as Science and Motion, etc.  From there they'll be able to get a full service and that's where we'll be able to - where Custom Studio is going - is that we are effectively in advance of our equipment for what is a developing channel in the golf market where people, because of new technology, will be able to go to these studios and see how to dynamically fit their putters to them and they'll then become aware of the story we started to tell two or three years ago when we first met Christian.

GolfWRX:  I know custom fitting is one of those things everybody wants but can be difficult to get.  It's great that you guys are trying to simplify things a little bit.

Nick Middleton:  It's very difficult, because the world is a complicated place and sometimes you have to work with best fit scenarios, but I think the way I've just outlined to you is the way we're going.  First thing we're going to do is we've taken on board a huge amount of experience from people like Christian, Mickey, and Shaun.  What we've got is a fantastic and unique composite.  It's not that difficult, it's actually very easy to guide people through it, but what it will do is open their minds to a different way of fitting the putter.  It will also give them, once the putter is fitted, it will give them a method for using the putter which is more reliable and will improve their consistency and improve their competency.  So their actual overall consistency will improve.  The reason we're doing that is because 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.  Therefore it will improve your putting performance.

Shaun Womersley:  This actually allows you to create constant angles by using these parameters whether you're left hand low, or right hand low doesn't matter.  You're creating constant angles between the ball, your head, eyes, the shaft, etc. Which then means the fitting and the performance automatically improve for the same person because you're creating constants rather than variables.  In terms of the actual stroke repeatability, it's far more enhanced using this method even though it's a basic method of doing this, it produces fantastic results, purely and simply because the only thing you've got in your hand is the club, and if you have any advantage at all, you can create this scaffolding scenario where you can put this club in place and then you form your body and mechanics, and the actual mechanics around this piece of equipment knowing full well that it's been fitted to you.  Therefore, the actual repeatability and movement patterns come back around every time.

Nick Middleton:  Therefore we use the eyes to align the scaffold which then the club becomes part of.  Then to actually customize the equipment, we use the club to reverse that process back so that the eye is then in the same place.  Once the eye is in the same place, the eye to hand coordination will improve and then the efficiency of bringing that club back to the same position will improve.  What we do is we have engineer it so that we take you in one direction to bring you back to the same starting point.  Effectively we recalibrate you through the process of customizing the club to you.

GolfWRX:  Now that you guys have the product launch ready to go, what's next for you guys?  What does the future of Zen Oracle look like?

Nick Middleton:  I can give you some snippets.  In the U.K., we're about to join with Dunhill International as being the partner who is going to undertake this putting challenge.  It's a one million dollar putting challenge that's going to take place in London at the end of next month.  At that stage we feel comfortable that in terms of the European launch, that's going to be the focus for us.  This event is actually a curtain raiser for the big Pro-Am that takes place at St. Andrews which actually takes place at the three courses there: St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and King's Barn.  That takes place in October when all of the top pros and the top amateurs compete for this big event.  That's a great thing for us moving forward.  We also have a new product called Z2O, that's Zen 2 O, that's taking the training onto the next level.  We actually have been able to have an adaptation that goes onto the front of the putter whereby you can actually release two balls and further examine rotation so there's more feedback coming there.  We're further going to be developing the grip concept we just explained we use for custom fitting and helping players line up properly.  That's going to be a development for us because it's going to take us into how we can get the hands and eyes to work more efficiently.  That's going to help us release some interesting deliveries there. On top of that, there's a lot of research we're doing into how to help people line up the ball for putting and also the whole area of getting the hands and eyes to work together and training the eyes to work more efficiently which is going to release more various applications.  On top of that, our relationship with Christian from Science and Motion is developing strongly, and we're very enthusiastic about what fantastic benefits that's going to bring to the golf industry and we feel very confident we're going to be able to deliver that in a very exciting way.  The future for us is very bright, we're very enthusiastic that we'll be able to achieve it and we're extremely excited about the huge amount of options that we've got as a business and the directions we can go with that.  But we're also at the same time very conscious of the major job we have to do, being a relative newcomer and fighting our way to get an audience and we're extremely thankful of the opportunity GolfWRX has given us to express our ideas to your readership and viewers.

GolfWRX:  Definitely, I know we're very appreciative of your time today.  I know you are on site at the Travelers Championship ready to explain your products to Tour players and we'd like to thank you for your time and the great information you've presented today.  From all of us here, we're really excited to see the new putters and we're really looking forward to hearing more from you very soon.  Thanks again.

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#2 taylormadefan


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Posted 11 July 2007 - 12:09 PM

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#3 jaredk20



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Posted 12 July 2007 - 09:27 AM

Thanks for the great interview.  This is some excellent info.  Tremendous job Kiran!


#4 azone


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Posted 04 September 2007 - 01:35 PM

Thanks very much.  This is some of the best, most well-founded information I have experienced on putters.  There are broad applications here.  Thanks again!


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