CHASKA, Minn. – A year after Paul Casey convinced Nike officials to let him use a new prototype putter at the 2008 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the company officially announced the arrival of the Method putter line Tuesday evening.
There are five putters in the line and each will retail for about $250. A limited number will be available later in 2009. The putters will be made widely available on Feb. 1 of next year. The photos here show the Method 1, an Anser-style, heel-toe weighted blade with a plumber's neck and site dot. There are two other blade-style putters in the line, as well as two heel-shafted mallets.
All of the five Method putters come standard with 2° of loft and will be available in 33-, 34-, and 35-inch lengths. None of the five head shapes are groundbreaking, but each employs a technology that has drawn a lot of attention. The grooves in the face of the Method putters are what Nike calls Polymer Groove Technology. A channel is cut in the sole of the club and behind the face. A soft polymer material is then forced into the channel and allowed to seep out of slots cut into the putter's face (right). A portion of the polymer is then cut out, leaving a tiny gap between the soft material and the sharp stainless steel grooves.
"As the putter is coming up and through the ball, these tiny little knife edges of steel will actually dig into the ball, and the polymer will dampen the feel," said Tom Stites, Nike's director of product innovation.
On the green, a golf ball rests in a small depression created by its weight. Putters need loft to get the ball out of the depression, but the loft also imparts backspin, which causes the ball to tumble when it first lands rather than rolling smoothly. Nike says these polymer grooves help get the ball out of its depression without imparting backspin.
"By taking the backspin off, the ball can just start to roll," Stites said. "A putt that rolls more quickly and more true to the hole is more efficient, goes a little bit farther and stays on line much better."
Using high-speed video footage, Nike officials showed that, using his old putter, Justin Leonard's putts skidded 3.6 inches before they started to roll. Using a prototype Method putter, that distance was reduced to .3 inches. "By being able to bite into the ball itself, we're able to put less loft on the putter, still lift the ball out of the depression on the green, but we get immediate over-roll."
Stites also pointed out that by creating the channel and removing some steel from the face, 30 grams of weight could be redistributed to improve performance. That mass was repositioned in the form of tungsten weights (right) placed in the heel and toe areas to lower the center of gravity and add stability at impact.Follow David Dusek on Twitter