Despite remaining dormant on the new product front for the entirety of 2008, Never Compromise managed to rack up $34 million in prize money on the PGA Tour last year with its existing putters.
Now, Never Compromise is back with its new NCX-RAY—a.k.a. X-Ray—putters ($149; May 22 release), which aim to light a fresh retail fire under the brand while advancing its success on tour. So are the new putters worth the long wait?
Following is PutterZone.com’s Never Compromise NCX-RAY putter review, which will compare and contrast two models—the Tau blade and the Alpha mallet.
The name X-Ray is derived from the translucent appearance of the proprietary red “Suspended Face Technology (SFT)” insert found on all four NCX-RAY putters—the Alpha full-sized mallet (which is technically known simply as NCX-RAY, but Alpha is its nickname), the Beta half mallet, the Sigma single-sightline mallet and the Tau blade.
The Never Compromise X-Ray putters have already made a bit of a splash on tour. Several notable Cleveland Golf staffers (Cleveland is the parent company of Never Compromise), such as Stephen Marino and Vijay Singh, have switched to the new putters. Word is that even some non-Cleveland staffers, such as Fred Funk and J.B. Holmes, have decided to bag them as well. Not bad for a $149 stick.
The SFT insert is designed to heighten the MOI of the putters while delivering enhanced feel. The insert consists of horizontal metal ribs embedded in an “ultra-lightweight” material that allows for 25 percent of the overall head weight to be distributed to the extremities of the putter. Such weight redistribution lowers and deepens the center of gravity for the achievement of high MOI.
The promise of consistent directional dispersion was backed up in a recent test conducted by Hot Stix Golf for Golf Magazine. Out of 13 mallet putters tested, the Alpha was the putter that lost the least distance roll on putts struck toward the toe and heel compared to the center.
Meanwhile, the protruding metal ribs reduce the surface contact area to provide “consistent ball velocity off the face.” The surrounding lightweight material aims to reduce vibration while still offering “responsive feedback.”
The Alpha’s head weight is a hefty 365 grams, while the Tau weighs in at 340 grams. The loft is three degrees and the lie angle is 70 degrees on both putters. The Alpha is face balanced, while the Tau has a slight toe hang.
The View from PutterZone.com
The Never Compromise NCX-RAY isn’t your father’s putter. It’s not even your older brother’s putter. This is something entirely different.
Never Compromise is based in Huntington Beach, California, but this putter looks like something created at Area 51. The translucent red plastic of the SFT insert is probably the most alien material I’ve ever seen on a putter. The thin metal ribs embedded in the insert look like they might pick up a shortwave signal. The SFT face makes the Odyssey White Hot urethane insert look positively organic.
In other words, Never Compromise is going boldly where no manufacturer has gone before in terms of insert aesthetics. And you know what? Good for them. The futuristic look of the X-Ray putters will no doubt have its naysayers, but I’ll bet that a lot of people will go wild for it. One thing is for sure: No one will accuse Never Compromise of looking drab anymore.
Moving on to performance, I conducted my own unscientific version of the aforementioned Hot Stix test, and I was very impressed by the stability and distance consistency on miss-hits with both the mallet and the blade. At one point, I sank three evenly paced practice ten-footers in a row with the Tau blade—one deliberately off the heel, one deliberately off the toe and one off the center (and no, I’m not boasting; trust me, I miss plenty). This experience made me a believer in the SFT face’s promise of “consistent ball velocity off the face.”
It would be hard to make a blanket statement about the feel of the SFT insert, as it varies significantly between the mallet and the blade. I prefer the feel of the Tau over the Alpha, as it has a soft, supple quality that makes good on the promise of responsive, vibration-free feedback. On the Alpha mallet, the SFT insert feels firmer and tinnier, a sensation that is likely related to the acoustics of the open-air frame.
Where the Alpha really excels is on the alignment front, with the two parallel red sightlines framing the ball and offering a vivid sense of directional reference. The frame of the head unfolds as a bright black and silver ribbon, to which the sightlines provide a bold yet complementary contrast. Indoor retail lighting just doesn’t do this putter justice—you need to see it outside to absorb the full effect of the design and its coloration.
The Tau sets up nicely, too, with an elegantly angled flange and a silver bumper that complements the black finish. The plumber’s neck hosel actually angles slightly toward the target, resulting in an unusual amount of offset (see photo and notice how far the leading edge of the shaft is from the leading edge of the face). Offset, of course, is ultimately a matter of personal preference.
The stock grip on the X-Ray putters is excellent on both the tactile and cosmetic fronts. Never Compromise smartly avoided the carnival-like grip designs that seem to be proliferating in the putter industry, opting instead for a clean black with white lettering that doesn’t intrude on the eyes at setup.
The Bottom Line
Never Compromise appears to have a hit on its hands with its new NCX-RAY putters, which offer cutting-edge visuals as well as rock-solid performance. The Tau blade boasts a supple yet responsive feel, while the Alpha mallet excels in matters of alignment. Both putters boast remarkable directional consistency and overall accuracy on miss-hits as well as pure strikes. For $149, the Never Compromise X-Ray putters ultimately deliver serious bang for the buck.