Zebra putters have returned for 2022 with a new range of models which seek to continue the legacy of one of golf's most iconic brands.
First introduced in 1976 and used to major success by Ray Floyd and then Nick Price, Zebra slipped out of the mainstream before being bought again in 2020 by Golf Brands Inc.
They chose to employ the talents of ex-Odyssey designer Austie Rollinson to produce this latest range, and he came up with four different models. I got my hands on the AIT-1, which is said to be the modern take on their original mallet design.
The main talking point with the Zebra putter is the alignment system from which it gets its name. The elongated zebra stripes are designed to easy align the ball to the target, helping you to get the ball started on line and rolling towards the hole.
Like all mallet putters the AIT-1 produces a high MOI, thanks to two 15g weights pushed to the heel and toe of the head to provide more stability and forgiveness.
These weights can be removed and replaced with heavier or lighter options to give you the right setup to suit your putting stroke.
A new multi material insert gives the soft feel of urethane, with the softer responsiveness of a steel face. This construction allows for the removal of weight from the face, allowing it to be redistributed elsewhere for more forgiveness.
The putter also features a friction roll control design, where the groove pattern on the face provides the right level of friction to impart topspin and a lower launch angle, producing a more consistent skid phase for better distance control.
Zebra AIT-1 Putter Review
Looks & Feel
I like the choice to switch to a darker coloured putter head in this new reincarnation rather than the original grey, as I think it makes the alignment lines stand out a little better. It provides a clearer contrast on the head and so you should be able to line up the ball even more easily.
The footprint is bigger than the old Zebra putters which were more of a half-moon shape, whereas the AIT-1 is more rounded and more pebble-shaped, reminding me a little of the Odyssey Tuttle - perhaps that's where Austie Rollinson got his inspiration from...
There is no sole plate this time around but there are adjustable weights, along with a new face insert which looks smart and gives an indication of just how far putter technology has come in the last few decades.
Despite this, you do still get a firm feel at impact with quite a loud click, which I wasn't the biggest fan of to be honest.
I was also a little disappointed in the overall finish of the putter, the paintwork on the top alignment lines was a little shoddy and the putter didn't seem to sit square when I soled it either.
Zebra Golf are only a small company so perhaps their products aren't made with the same precision as the bigger brands, or maybe they don't go under quite the same level of quality control, but I was still expecting better nevertheless.
As you'd expect from a putter like this, alignment was one of the main strengths. It was easy to centre the ball in the head and the white alignment line really did stand out.
The head felt very stable throughout the stroke without much twisting, while I also found that my distance control was good with the putter too. Having the two weights placed on the heel and toe of the putter head seemed to help with consistency even if you don't strike it quite out of the middle, whilst it also felt as though my stroke was solid.
In fact I felt more and more confident the further away from the hole I got! If you're somebody who is prone to 3-putts then it could be worth testing as it may help you with your pace on that first putt.
The use of the tacky Winn grip adds a nice premium touch and feels good in the hands, whilst the slightly thicker profile might help golfers to quieten down the hands during the stroke too.
It's great to have Zebra back and nice to see that the design hasn’t changed much over the years. I can see golfers rolling back the years and using this putter as it reminds them of the 80s and 90s. It also proves that putting can be as much about confidence and familiarity as technology - you only have to look at Tiger Woods' 25+ year old Scotty Cameron to see that.
Zebra AIT-1 Putter Verdict
With an RRP of £179.99 the AIT-1 still couldn't be referred to as cheap, although it does come in at a cheaper price point than the likes of Odyssey, TaylorMade and Ping.
The problem is that the quality of those brand’s putters these days is so high, that they’re going to struggle to compete. If I was going to spend £180 I think I’d probably rather spend a little extra to get something that is right at the top of the market.
Having said that, if you are looking to recapture some of that old magic in your game or you're someone who is invested in golfing history, then the new range of Zebra putters are well worth a closer look.
Who Is It Aimed At?
Anyone who remembers or used to use a Zebra putter may want to give one of the new models a go, whilst the AIT-1 provides plenty of stability and is good for distance control if you're a player that struggles with long putts.
Would I Use It?
I am not a massive mallet fan, and unfortunately this hasn't done anything to change that. It is great to see Zebra back though - I look to future iterations of the this classic model!
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