By Kiel Christianson,
Ugly as they are, newfangled mallet putters such as Nike Golf's IC 20-20 Putter do provide advantages, including alignment aids and increased stability on missed hits.
Over the past few years, mallet-style putters have become all the rage. They've even shown up on the PGA Tour, where once no self-respecting golfer would even consider using anything but, at worst, a flanged blade.
Not only are mallets cool, it seems that the more bizarre their configuration, the more abstract their sculpting, the more promise they hold: Stability, alignment assistance and silky feel are the refrain of the mallet's siren song.
Heeding the growing allure of, and clamor for, new, bold mallet designs, the always forward-thinking Nike Golf has introduced the IC line of putters. One of these, the IC 20-20 putter (MSRP $159), has brought the mallet to a whole new level.
Despite the surging popularity of mallets, some golfers remain impervious to their wiles. I've come to discern three main reasons for this resistance:
First, many of the newer mallet designs simply have too much going on, and they get distracting. (Recall the branding-iron-like Scotty Cameron model that Phil Mickelson used for a while a few years ago?)
Second, there is a perception that with such a massive head, feel will be diminished.
Third, and far less importantly but no less real, is the fact that it is impossible with most mallets to pick up the ball with a quick scoop and twist of the wrist. For older golfers, this secondary functionality is a lumbar-saving necessity.
The Nike IC 20-20 addresses all of these worries with style and aplomb.
To decrease the distraction from the admittedly large putter head, the alignment mechanism - two bright white, narrow triangles behind the sweet-spot - are contrasted against a gray-green putter head body, which itself blends with the background turf. The effect is one of the most eye-catching aiming aids - and least-distracting putter heads - on the mallet market.
As for feel, the extreme weighting positioned in the back corners of the putter head makes for the highest moment of inertia of any putter we've tested. Even on off-center contact, it feels as if the putter doesn't twist at all. This high MOI translates into considerable feel, even on long putts or those tricky downhill "touch" putts.
Finally, thanks to low-profile indentations right behind the putter face, it is indeed possible to scoop up the golf ball without stooping. (To the great joy of vertebrae everywhere!)
The IC 20-20 will make some converts of die-hard blade fans. It's simply less distracting, great for alignment and back-friendly, too. Also worth noting is that the IC line sports an MSRP that is nearly half of the company's previous Unitized line.
That said, if you use a blade-style putter, it will take a while to make the transition to any mallet, and the IC 20-20 is no exception. And the headcover is, quite frankly, confusing at first.
These are minor concerns, though, given the overall performance of this radical new design.
For more information, visit www.nikegolf.com.
January 21, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.