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Club Report: Nike Method Modern Classic Putters
By Dave Wolfe
When I first read the release for the new Nike Modern Classics putter line, my initial response was “OK, here it comes”. Without even looking at the photos, I knew that the mere concept of the Modern Classics line was going to rub some of people the wrong way.
I could see the flame war on the horizon, stoked endlessly by members of the “that’s just a copy of ________” clan. As unpleasant as I find those debates, this time I thought that the naysayers could have a point. How could Nike’s new putter line strategy be based upon the copying of old putter designs? Granted, this has gone on for a while in the industry.
You’ve likely read through threads about, or even chimed in on the Anser vs. Newport debate. I guess that the real question is why would Nike so blatantly call attention to the fact that they are just rolling out copies of old putter designs?
Simply put, it’s because the new Nike Method Modern Classics are not just copies of old putters.
Think of it this way. Not too long ago, Dodge released new, modern versions of their 70′s muscle cars, and they have been a big hit. Many can justifiably argue that the old 70′s Challenger has the nostalgia and character that the new version can’t touch. However, one could also point out numerous features in the modern Challenger that are improvements on the original.
Call me crazy, but I like airbags.
Regardless, I think that Dodge did a great job of keeping the parts of the original challenger that made it a classic, while inserting modern elements that just flat out made it a better car than its predecessor.
That’s Nike’s plan for the Modern Classics; keep the tasty flavors of the originals, while incorporating current era ingredients.
“We were able to take a range of classic designs and make them perform like modern putters. We incorporated Polymetal Groove technology, which allows athletes to lift the ball, launch it and turn it forward as quickly as possible for a truer roll. We removed weight from the center, placing it in the heel and toe instead for a lower and deeper center of gravity. It’s Nike’s interpretation on classic, familiar shapes.”
David Franklin, NikeGolf Master Modelmaker
I think that one of the interesting things about designing the Nike Modern Classics line would have come early on when they were selecting the classic putter models. If you were going to label only four putters as classic, which ones would you select? Ping Anser, check. John Reuter Jr. Bullseye, check. Zebra mallet, maybe. TP Mills Spaulding 14/Odyssey #9, OK. I’m not sure I’d gone with the Zebra over the Rossi as the classic mallet, and it feels like there should be a Wilson 8802 in there somewhere. Regardless, these are definitely in the classic category, even if they would not be picked in every golfer’s top four.
So did Nike really pick classic designs? Yes they did.
Let’s take a look at the modern components that Nike has incorporated into the Modern Classics line.
Polymetal Groove Technology
Nike’s Polymetal Groove Technology has been around for a while now and I dare say that Polymetal Groove technology is a classic component of Nike putters. The Modern Classic line parallels the premium Nike Method line, as opposed to the less expensive, yet excellent (i.e. Most Wanted Blade Winning) Nike Method Core line that features the red insert along with the Polymetal Grooves. Unofficial studies (i.e. watching people putt) leads me to the conclusion that the grooves really do put a crisp roll on the ball; one without much skid, hop, or pop. When Nike unveiled the Method line, they had some great slow motion capture videos of the way the grooves work. The ball just came off rolling.
Heel and Toe Weights
Weights have been an integral part of the Nike Method line since its first incarnation. Replacing metal with polymer created a weight loss issue that Nike rectified by incorporating tungsten weights into the heads. Weighting took a different form in last year’s Core Weighted line, with the inclusion of weights that screwed into the sole of those putters. While these weights were not intended to be adjusted by the consumer, they did allow for the fine tuning of head weight. The Method Modern Classic line incorporates the Core Weighted weight scheme rather than the tungsten ones of their predecessors.
I assume that this gives the designers, and maybe fitters, more control over swing weight through the versatility of the swappable rather than permanent weight. They don’t come with additional weights like we saw with Odyssey’s ProType iX line this year, but that option seems like a natural inclusion down the road. Fingers crossed.
It’s not included in the Nike press release, but I think that the advances in machining since the first incarnations of these putters is worth mentioning. I would be proud to own one of the original Ping Ansers that Karsten Solheim rolled out of his workshop back in the 60′s. It would be such a cool piece of history, but it would not likely be constructed with the same precision of the modern CNC milled putter. The precision of Computer Numerical Controlled Milling just was not obtainable at that time. Don’t for a second that I don’t appreciate the human touch in my putters, I absolutely do, especially in customs. But if you are going to make a production line of putters to sell worldwide, having tight computer controlled tolerances represents an huge modern advantage over the classic methodologies.
I was not prepared for the prevalence of high-toe design in the Modern Classic line. It’s not mentioned on the product pages, and I didn’t pick up on it in the press release photos. I love box-opening surprises, and I definitely got one when I popped open the Nike package. All four of the models have high toes, even the MOD 00 mallet. I love the way that the high toe looks in profile, and also at address. The curvature of the putters’ soles are still within the traditional geometries, but there is no denying that exaggerated top line curvature. It’s curious that Nike doesn’t mention the ideas behind this design in any of the literature on the putters. There must be some Method to their high-toe madness.
Simple Fitting System
One of the purposes of these Club Report articles is to give you an idea about which putter or putters in the line would fit your stroke. Odyssey did a real service to the consumer when they went to their eyeFit Mirror System. The Nike Modern Classics line continues this consumer friendly fitting trend by offering four models with progressive toe hang with the names of the putter based on that design feature.
As Much as I love the looks of a Wilson 8802, I don’t really know what those numbers mean in terms of the putter. With the Nike MOD 30, I know that the head has a 30° toe hang and should fit a slight-arc putting stroke. Do you have a shallower arc or SBST stroke? Then go with the MOD 00 (0°). Deeper arcs can be served by the deeper hang (60°) on the MOD 60 and the toe down (90°) MOD 90. It’s a simple fitting system that should help golfers to correctly grab the right putter off of the rack.
When you check out the following model specific photos, I am sure that you will see that Nike has not just rolled out old designs, banking on previous innovations to sell their putters. Instead, these putters really do represent modern updates to classic designs and they are loaded with lines, designs, and style elements that are all fresh creations from The Oven. As you look at the following photos, keep an old vs. new tally in your head and I bet tally will have quite a bit of new when you are finished.
Toe Hang: Face Balanced (0°)
Stroke Fit: Straight Back Straight Through
Toe Hang: 30°
Stroke Fit: Slight Arc
Toe Hang: 60°
Stroke Fit: Strong Arc
Toe Hang: 90°
Stroke Fit: Strong Arc
A discussion of feel is included in every putter review we put up here at MyGolfSpy, but many will argue that feel is in fact subjective. While I agree to some extent with feel’s subjectivity, I also believe that there is a serious difference between a soft feeling and a firm feeling putter.
The Nike Method Modern Classics line gives you a great chance to create a “feel” reference scale, and also to learn a bit about how a putter’s construction plays into feel.
All of the Method MOD putters are made from the same 303 stainless and polymetal materials, but the model-to-model feel is very different. When these hit your local shop, take the MOD 30 and the MOD 90 out to demo on the practice green. In close (sub-10′), they feel a bit different, but it’s not a huge difference. Now go and roll 30 footers. From distance, there is a HUGE difference in feel, with the MOD 90 being the quintessential representative for a firm feeling putter.
Even with the polymetal grooves, the MOD 90 has a whole bunch of thick metal behind the face, significantly so when compared to the MOD 30. The MOD 30 gives you a soft pop from distance, the softness created by the large cavity behind the sweet spot. The MOD 90 has no such cavity, and it’s sound and feel from distance reminds me more the impact feel of a well struck iron than a putter. Go try this out on your own. You will be amazed.
Nike could have easily marketed this line without ever calling attention to the fact that these are all based upon classic putter designs. Golfers are used to seeing companies covertly borrow successful designs and ideas. Examples of this abound.
Instead, Nike has overtly stated that these are classic designs that we are modernizing them, i.e. making them better. It’s a bold move that will bring much more scrutiny to the line than if they had called the putters something else. Having spent some time with these putters, I think that the boldness of Nike’s marketing may be a masterstroke. But it could be a risky venture.
Many of us remember the ultimate vice presidential debate burn when Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”. The key there was that Quayle, of course, was no Kennedy, and his previous suggestion that they were similar was insane. Nike has opened themselves to similar criticism by calling these Modern Classics, but this will not bite them like it did Quayle. What if Dan Quayle actually had been like JFK? In that case, comparing himself to that classic statesman would have been a political masterstroke rather than mistake.
Nike Golf is no Dan Quayle. They knew what they were doing by calling these putters Modern Classics. Golfers and other putter companies should be very aware of what Nike is bringing to market in 2014. I don’t know if these will be the new benchmarks for the classic designs, but I do know that the Nike Method Modern Classics are damn fine putters.
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