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|The NCX-Ray Alpha putter by Never Compromise has great alignment aides and a totally unique face insert. (Courtesy of Never Compromise)|
Spend a little time watching PGA Tour players on television, and you'll notice that far fewer of them use mallets than do average golfers at your local course.
However, just a few years ago, there were almost no mallet putters in play at the upper echelons of golf, and the few that were used were super high-priced, custom-built creations.
Today, even the best players in the world are recognizing the stability and feel that a well-designed mallet can impart. And more importantly for us duffers, many of the best mallets can be bought at far more reasonable prices than in the past.
Case in point: the new NCX-RAY Alpha mallet putter by Never Compromise. On the PGA Tour, Vijay Singh, Joe Durant, Kent Jones and Steve Marino have all put some version of NCX-RAY into their bags (it comes in four versions, three of which are mallets). Steve Marino even offers this ringing endorsement of his new Never Compromise flat-stick:
"I've turned my putting around since switching to the NCX-RAY putter," Marino said. "If you take the latest putter technology from each of the various putters out on the PGA Tour, you'll find all that technology wrapped into the NCX-RAY putters."
Of course, we wouldn't take the word of a PGA Tour pro when it comes to equipment. So I headed over to the familiar greens and practice green at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill., to put the NCX-RAY through its paces.
The NCX-RAY Alpha ($150) is a face-balanced full mallet with a slight double-bend shaft. The top of the putter head featured two deep red parallel bars to aid alignment.
The real engineering gold is in the putter face, however, which consists of something called "Suspended Face Technology." What this means is that there are five isolated metal ribs, each about the width of a pencil lead, suspended in a softer, red insert material. This unique combination of materials provides a soft, extremely sensitive feel, in direct contrast to the highly dampened feedback of many face-insert mallets.
The two aspects of the NCX-RAY that I noticed immediately were the excellent alignment and the slight "ting" (dare I even call it a "ping"?) when striking the ball. The former feature rendered knee-knocking 3-footers almost automatic. As for the latter feature, once I got used to the sort of "hard" sound coming from a "soft" face, I found myself running in several delicate, downhill touch-putts with confidence.
On the practice green, I recruited three low double-digit handicappers like myself to test out the NCX-RAY. Randy Feese, from Lincoln, Ill., immediately appreciated the red alignment bars.
"I really like those lines," he said. "I just feel like I can see the line automatically with those. As I get older, I don't see the line quite right all the time with my putter (a Yes! Golf flanged blade), but I sure do with this one."
Karl Newton and John Patterson, both of Mahomet, also liked the alignment aide but both commented more on the sound and feel.
"This sounds like one of those old Ping putters," remarked Patterson. (He said it, not me!)
"It sure does make a noise," added Newton, "but it rolls smooth. The ball sort of jumps off the face, but I feel like I have great control over it."
Along with the NCX-RAY, I had asked the men to test three other putters, one of which cost twice as much as the Never Compromise model. The unanimous decision was that right out of the box, the NCX-RAY was the easiest to get used to and provided the best results.
Interestingly, all three judged the NCX-RAY to be far superior to the big-name, doubly expensive mallet. When they heard that it was also half the price, they all just laughed and mused about how in golf, you don't always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get more, and sometimes you get way less.
Rarely do I find such consistency among a group of golfers when I ask for input on a golf club, especially a putter, where feel and look and personal taste play such important roles. The NCX-RAY Alpha was a hands-down winner among the guys who tried it. It was my favorite as well for ease of play right out of the box.
It was particularly striking that none of the golfers in the group actually played a mallet, yet each one had no trouble adjusting to the NCX-RAY after just a few strokes. In fact, it may have gone some way toward converting these duffers to mallets, much as it has those PGA Tour players.
For more information, visit www.nevercompromise.com.
June 29, 2009
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.
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