We read with interest the following throwaway quote in one of the major golf magazines regarding Tiger Woods and his switch to the Nike Method putter: “Never mind that the independent research on grooved-face putters seems to suggest the effect of grooves in and of themselves is marginal, bordering on non-existent.”
Not so fast, amigos. Yes, the research on grooves is inconclusive and open to debate, but the issue is by no means settled—particularly as each putter company’s groove technology is different from the other. To toss them all into the same basket under a summary judgment would be unwise and unfair.
At the risk of sounding like a Nike apologist, we wonder if any of the referenced “independent research” included the Nike Method’s new polymetal groove technology, which is unlike any other before it? For that matter, did it include the metal ribs (ie: grooves) on the new Never Compromise X-Ray putters?
Just because old grooves may not have worked, does that mean new groove technologies can’t?
We need to be careful when dismissing putter technologies—including grooves—as mere hocus-pocus. Sure, there are a lot of questionable claims out there. At the same time, there are a lot of dedicated putter designers working overtime to engineer a competitive edge into their creations, and we need to remain open to the idea that meaningful innovation is an ever-present possibility.
We earlier tackled this subject in piece titled Putter Technology: Real or Ridiculous, with reference to, yes, “independent research” that showed how different putter designs and face technologies can have a serious impact on the distance of a putt.
Similarly, the Suspended Face Technology (inclusive of the metal face ribs) on the Never Compromise X-Ray putters elevates the MOI and limits the surface contact area for, in the company’s words, “more consistent ball velocity off the face.” Sure enough, an independent magazine-sponsored test of 13 mallet putters found that the Never Compromise X-Ray Alpha was the putter that lost the least distance roll on putts struck toward the toe and heel compared to the center.
Getting back to Tiger Woods’ new putter, the Nike Method’s core selling point is that its groove technology increases the launch angle of the putt, enabling the golfer to sufficiently lift the ball out of its natural depression in the grass while benefiting from lower putter loft (click here for a full rundown of the Nike Method putter’s technological features, and the relationship between launch angle, loft and roll).
Sure enough, reports confirm that Tiger Woods’ Method putter features the Method’s relatively low stock loft of 2.5 degrees, which is one degree lower than the loft on his Scotty Cameron putter. Additionally, Woods cited St. Andrews’ softer, slower greens as the reason for the switch, and typically you want more, not less, loft on softer greens (see above graphic for visual explanation of loft; graphic generously provided by Never Compromise and Cleveland Golf).
Assuming that Tiger hasn’t changed his mechanics and putting stroke, we can only conclude that he is, indeed, achieving his optimal true roll with a lower-lofted Method putter on soft greens. And if that’s the case, if it’s not the groove technology making it happen, then what is it?
Perhaps it’s time for a little more research.
P.S. Every touring professional uses basic putter fitting principles to his or her advantage, and you can, too. To get the scoop on putter fitting and how it can raise your game, check out PutterZone.com’s Ultimate Putter Buyer’s Guide.