Cigar Aficionado

Nike Golf Oz Putter

One of the golfers in my foursome is curious. "Where's the rest of that putter?" he asks.

The club does appear to be missing something, and invites comment. It has the silhouette of a typical mallet putter—the flat face and rounded back, the size of a waning moon, recently full—but an egg-shaped mass is missing. Stare for a while, and the clubhead begins to resemble a fancy handle on a new car door. It's an unusual sight, but it begins to make sense when you see the familiar swoosh emblazoned on its bottom.

Nike, never one to enter any venture in less than showy fashion, is making a big splash in the putter business with this unusual club called the Oz, the hallmark of the company's Blue Chip putter line, which debuted in April. It's the Beaverton, Oregon, sports titan's entry into the putter business, and no doubt golf equipment makers are taking as close a look as any weekend hacker who spies it for the first time sticking proudly from a golf bag.

The trio of Blue Chip putters are named for their blue-hued aluminum inserts, which are lighter and softer than the steel face of many clubheads. The chip is designed to put the weight of the club in the heel and toe, keeping the clubhead square through impact. The radical design of the Oz magnifies the weight distribution. The entire front face of the club is lightweight aluminum, and the circular ring in back, which is made of stainless steel, carries two-thirds of the club's weight. Keeping the weight in the rear, Nike says, gets the ball rolling faster on the green and
lessens skidding.

In our test, the Oz, which retails for $149, didn't stand out on short putts, but it was a staunch ally for longer shots. The putter's balance makes it easy to take long, straight, even swings to guide the ball to the hole with confidence from 20 and 30 feet away. Once a player gains a feel for a green's speed, the Oz makes it easy to swing consistently. With golfers eternally seeking ways to chisel, hammer and shave strokes off their rounds, there should be no shortage of those who try it on their games.