Riding the success of its 3DX hybrid line, Nickent Golf entered the short-game fray last year with the Pipe line of putters. These mallet putters featured a visually distinctive rounded white "pipe" section that served as an alignment aid and as a way to shift weight away from the putter's face.
Let's put it this way: if an Odyssey 2-Ball and a Futura Phantom got drunk and popped out a kid, the Pipe may be it.
Nickent has added two new models to the, uh, Pipe line this year. The Pipe PP004 and PP005 are both blade-style models that feature a modified version of the Pipe design. Is the Pipe hype or is it just your type? Read on to find out.
I've always favored blade putters to mallets. But thanks to alignment aid/high-MOI putters like the Odyssey 2-Ball, I've gone to a platoon system over the last couple years. I'll putt with a blade, like my trusty Scottsdale Anser, until I hit a cold streak. Then I'll switch to a mallet, like an Odyssey 2-Ball, for a few rounds. This lineup shakeup almost always produces improved putting, at least for a while.
The Pipe PP004 putter especially appealed to my schizophrenic flatstick tendencies. It has alignment and MOI-enhancement features, but it also has a plumbers' neck hosel and a more manageable head size. I decided to test a 34" inch PP004 over several recent rounds to see if it was twice as good as my two-putter platoon.
All five models of Pipe putters have stainless steel bodies and a lightweight polymer "P-Line" face insert. At the heart of each putter is the Pipe section that gives the line its name. The white pipe section is a rounded tube of ultra-light thermoplastic that is the same diameter as a golf ball.
At the end of the pipe section that is farthest from the face of the putter is a dark gray tungsten weight, which serves to move the center of gravity deep and away from the putter face - 15 percent of the putter's weight is housed in the tungsten plug. Nickent says this design creates a high MOI that improves forgiveness and roll. The PP004 and PP005 blade-style Pipe putters have a slightly shorter pipe section than the original three mallet versions of the putter. The PP004 has a plumbers-neck hosel, while the PP005 has a shorter goose-neck hosel. Aside from the hosels, the Pipe blade head designs are identical.
The T-shaped head of the PP004 is hardly subtle. You'll get your share of "What is THAT?" comments the first time you turn it loose on the green. But in practice, the Pipe putters are actually more subtle than many other alignment-style putters. There are no sight lines, dots, arrows, ball-shaped discs or any other sorts of busy-looking alignment aids to catch your eye. The white pipe section stands alone, and makes a nice contrast to the green color of the putting surface. Nickent calls this "three-dimensional alignment" and it is an eye-catcher.
I know some people prefer straight lines on their putters to help line up their putts, but I felt the rounded Pipe design was just as effective with less distraction. I thought the white thermoplastic pipe section might be prone to picking up dirt or dings in my golf bag, but the durable material stayed clean (though the heavy-duty, Velcro-close, bright-orange cover that comes with the putter should be used to protect the club during travel).
Each Pipe putter has a small "Pipe" logo in orange against the dark gray of the face insert, and an orange N graces the back of the tungsten weight on the pipe section. The orange-and-gray Winn grip is very comfortable, but a little busy with Pipe and Nickent logos.
Feel and Sound
The Pipe PP004 gave me much-appreciated feedback about whether I'd struck a putt well or not. When you stroke a good putt in the middle of the clubface, you're rewarded with a deep, soft "click" sound. But if you catch one too far out toward the heel or toe, you get a higher-pitched, plastic-sounding "thwock" that lets you know you didn't hit the sweet spot.
Feel is similarly affected by how well you strike each putt. On-center hits feel smooth and effortless, while off-center hits are a bit jarring. Better players will definitely appreciate this level of feedback.
On the course, the PP004 putter was a solid performer. Like other alignment putters, I felt much more confident on putts inside of 10 feet, and I didn't miss any 3-footers. The Pipe design seemed just as effective in terms of alignment as my 2-Ball putter. The tungsten weight at the back of the pipe section did make for a forgiving putter on anything struck near the center of the putter face, and miss-hits lost a bit of distance but tended to stay on line, though I felt the blade design of the PP004 made it a bit less forgiving than the full mallet versions, which have more weight pushed to the perimeter.
A feature of the PP004 that I really liked was the way the pipe section of the putter helps square the putter head at address. When you sole the putter on the green, the head sits very square and stable and is easy to line up to your target. I thought the extra sole area might make the Pipe putter less versatile from the fringe or on "Texas wedge" shots off the fairway, but the PP004 handled those shots nicely. There's a bit of relief on the bottom of the end portion of the pipe section that keeps it from catching on the green on longer follow-throughs.
My only difficulty with the PP004 was on long putts. On putts longer than 30 feet, the Pipe putter head felt very light (even though it weighs a beefy 345 grams) and I had a hard time judging the distance, usually leaving putts short of the hole. I'm sure a few more rounds would help me compensate for this, but it was noticeable on the few long putts I found myself facing.
Putting is the most personal part of the game, and the beauty of any putter is in the eye of the beholder. Performance-wise, the Pipe putters from Nickent stand up to the other high-MOI alignment putters on the market today. They're reliable at short range and have a confidence-inspiring design.
Pipe putters are available in lengths from 32-36" for righties, while only the original PP001 model comes in a lefty version. The PP004 version I tested had 3.5° of loft and a lie of 71°. Street price for all five models of Pipe putters is $149.