Yet with the launch of its innovative Unitized putters last year, Nike Golf sought to prove the skeptics wrong by entering the rarefied air of the ultra-premium putter category, in which the baseline price is essentially $250. And now the company is introducing three new additions to its Unitized lineup.
Is Nike Golf just going farther out on a limb with its new Unitized models, or is the company putting down serious roots in the high-end soil? Following is PutterZone.com’s review of the new Unitized Leo model ($249).
The ultra-premium putter category exploded in 2007, as evidenced by the introduction of
The market for such putters is growing as the average golfer becomes more sophisticated and discriminating when it comes to putting, seeking an extra edge in terms of feel and confidence on the greens.
Nike Golf is hardly a latecomer to the ultra-premium party, having introduced its first Unitized putters in November of last year. Like virtually all putters in the category, the Unitized putters are 100-percent milled and promise exquisite detail and quality. The real hook, however, is Nike Golf’s proprietary “unitized” technology.
According to Nike Golf, its Unitized putters “hold the distinction of being the only putters in the marketplace that have the head and shaft designed and engineered as one piece.”
The 303 stainless steel Unitized heads are initially forged, then precision CNC milled into their final shape and detail. The heads are laser welded to the shaft and nickel plated as a single unit, with no bonds or joints to interfere with the goal of pure response.
According to the company: “The seamless construction creates an express line straight from the putter face to the grip, with no stops along the way to interrupt frequencies between the putter head and the golfer’s hands. This delivers a pure response and unparalleled feel.”
The View from PutterZone.com
My role at PutterZone.com affords me the unique opportunity to compare and contrast a wide variety of putters, and to obsess over attributes like feedback—the very thing that Nike Golf aspires to master with its Unitized technology.
On that note, I believe that Nike Golf has loaded the bases and knocked it out of the park with the Unitized Leo. When the sweet spot of this putter meets the ball, the result is sensory purity. The effect is buttery smooth, yet also crisp and resonant. It’s a perfect balance of soft and firm, yielding an immensely responsive and pleasurable putting experience.
Can I say for certain that this remarkable sensation is attributable to the Unitized technology? No, I can’t. But nor can I come up with any other explanation, so consider me a believer.
True to its name, the Leo is “unitized” as a one-piece, uniformly hued unit of head, hosel and shaft. In addition to tactile harmony, this technology offers the added advantage of visual unity when you address the ball, similar to Nike’s IC series putters, but within a more traditional color palette.
The shape of the Leo is what I might call “neo Anser,” maintaining the visual familiarity of the classic Anser shape while achieving a sleek, modern profile. The color of the nickel finish could be described as storm gray or dark metallic—it’s definitely darker and more distinctive that the product photos would suggest. The face is elegantly milled with arced crosshatching. The sole is brightly polished, adding just the right touch of luxury to the ensemble. The nicely textured grip is tastefully stylized in black and gray with accents of yellow. The Unitized Leo ultimately oozes class and quality, two attributes that contribute to putting confidence.
My only quibble with the presentation is the accompanying headcover, which is not up to the quality or the price point of the putter itself. This same headcover issue plagues Nike Golf’s IC and Ignite putter lines as well, so it now qualifies as a pattern. The Leo’s faux suede headcover has a wrap-around Velcro enclosure and ultimately fails the style test. I just don’t get it. Whoever designed the Leo itself needs to walk down the hall to the headcover department and administer some tough love.
I have no quibbles with the putter’s performance, however, as the Unitized Leo works ample magic on the greens.
When you combine exquisite materials and workmanship with the proven Anser-style shape, the results are bound to be good. What puts the Leo over the top, however, is the aforementioned purity of feedback. This, in turn, enhances touch and feel, which ultimately improves control and accuracy. My distance control was at its peak when using the Leo. The threat of three-putts was minimized while my putting enjoyment was maximized. I can’t ask for more than that.
My gushing about this putter doesn’t necessarily mean that you should rush out, spend $250 on a Unitized Leo and expect it to magically and immediately transform your game. There are no training wheels on this putter, such as overt alignment aids, special inserts or adjustable weighting. In fact, the Leo is so minimalist that it doesn’t even have a sightline or sight dot.
However, if you are comfortable with a traditional Anser-style blade, and if you’ve seasoned your putting game to the point of investing in the next level, the Unitized Leo demands consideration.
The Bottom Line
Nike Golf’s Unitized Leo ranks comfortably among the most elite putters to come along in recent years, at least on the broad retail market. This putter offers top-to-bottom excellence, from visuals to materials to performance, and it is particularly remarkable in matters of feedback and feel. Nike Golf’s Unitized Leo ultimately belongs on the short list of any golfer seeking a world-class putter that will raise his or her game.