By Kiel Christianson,
In early 2007, Nike Golf introduced the Unitized Putter line. The design "hook" for this upscale line of flat sticks, whose original MSRP was just south of $300, was a seamless construction from the putter head up to the grip.
Most putter heads are bonded - or glued - onto the shaft, and, Nike claims, this construction dampens feel. The Unitized's construction, in contrast, laser-welds the putter head directly onto the shaft, which is made of the same 303 stainless steel as the head. Then the entire golf club is plated as a single unit.
Finally, Winn has designed a pistol grip specifically for the Unitized line with variable thicknesses throughout, with the aim of allowing feedback (i.e., vibration) to travel up from the putter face untrammeled and unaltered into the hands.
I received the Nike Neo before they even hit the market and was struck first by the mid-mallet design. Some of the larger mallets on the market — including the Unitized Techno and 2008 Unitized Arrow — are often distracting or overly heavy.
The Neo, however, provides one of the highest moment of inertia of any putter on the market without being overly bulky.
But what of the ballyhooed Unitized construction?
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that the CNC-milled putter face is without any sort of insert, it is one of the most responsive putters I've tested. Somehow it feels soft and firm at the same time.
The performance is such, in fact, that the Neo replaced my own longtime favorite putter, and it has stayed in my bag ever since.
Dave Huber, head professional at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill., was right on the money when he struck the first of several practice putts with the Neo.
"Well," he smiled as a 6-footer found its mark, "it's not much to look at, but it does have a great feel."
The mid-mallet is a bit lumpy and ungainly, but the plumber neck "hosel" (remember, there are no hosels in the Unitized line) and the overall shape make it fairly easy to square up.
The impressively high MOI allows off-center putts to stay online, even though the remarkable feedback lets you know that the contact wasn't pure.
The original four Unitized designs - the Neo, Techno, Retro and Tiempo - have been joined by three new models for 2008: Arrow (mallet), Mako (mid-mallet) and Leo (classic blade). And while the high MSRP remains the same for '08, all seven models can be found for around $50 less.
Golfers who are sensitive to tactile response might find the Unitized Neo (or one of the other models) to be worth every penny.
For more information, visit www.nikegolf.com.
January 29, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.