Zebra Milled Putters: Now Comes The Hard Part
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Zebra Milled Putters: Now Comes The Hard Part

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Zebra Milled Putters: Now Comes The Hard Part

The Zebra putters comeback is officially entering what’s known as “the hard part.”

The Brand Resurrection Playbook says that while Year One is no cakewalk, Year Two is when you either establish yourself as a legit player or fade into the obscurity of a nostalgia-based money grab.

Zebra followed the Year One script faithfully. Designed by longtime Odyssey putter designer (and current head of Acushnet’s Putter R&D) Austie Rollinson, the AIT line captured Zebra’s legendary striped aura and sparked a fair amount of nostalgic buzz. 

Performance-wise, the new Zebras were solid but uninspiring. The AIT 1 and AIT 2 mallets finished in the middle of the pack in last year’s MyGolfSpy testing while the AIT 4 Anser-style blade was a lower-third performer.

They did, however, outperform entries from some pretty big names such as PING, Evnroll, Bettinardi and Scotty Cameron.

Zebra Milled Putters

Year One mojo, however, can take you only so far. A real putter company has the juice to keep developing new products as it builds its brand identity.

Is the reborn Zebra a real putter company? The answer might be found in the new 2024 Zebra Milled series.

Zebra Milled Putters: The Back Story

The original Zebra putter dates back to the U.S. Bicentennial. In 1976, Dave Taylor’s original Zebra design may well have been the first mass-marketed face-balanced mallet in golf. Zebra burst onto the scene that spring as Ray Floyd used it to win the Masters, setting the 72-hole scoring record. Ram Golf, which had been licensing the design from Taylor, eventually bought Zebra outright in 1980.

The original Zebra putter

Floyd also had a Zebra in his bag when he won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock in 1986 and Nick Price used one to win the Open Championship in 1994. Ram sold out to Rudy Slucker and Teardrop in 1997. Slucker made millions in the hardware business, retired and then decided to take his talents to the golf equipment world. After buying the struggling Teardrop, he snapped up Tommy Armour, Ram and Zebra.

Slucker’s magic touch was gone, however. After three years of red ink, Slucker’s empire filed for bankruptcy. The company would change hands through the ‘80s, ultimately winding up under the Sports Authority umbrella. DICK’S scooped the brands up when Sports Authority went bust in 2016.

DICK’S then sold off the Teardrop, Ram and Zebra names to serial brand resuscitator Simon Millington in 2019. After some starts and stops (thank you, COVID), Millington brought Zebra back last year with the AIT series.

AIT stands for Artificial Intelligence Technology. Rollinson used AI to optimize the MOI and CG for each head (and you thought Odyssey was the first to use AI). A CNC-milled stainless-steel face insert backed with urethane rounded out the AIT package.

New Zebra Milled Putters: The Mallets

At first glance, the new Zebra Milled putters share some DNA with the new MacGregor Milled putters. Both brands, of course, are under Millington’s Golf Brands Inc. umbrella. What’s more, both new putter lines are milled from a single billet of carbon steel and both bear the same “00” naming convention. Not coincidentally, both are the work of another former Odyssey club designer, Larry Tang.

The new Zebra Milled putters feature traditional Zebra stripe alignment lines and a black finish. Each putter has a blacked-out KBS Stable-Stepped putter shaft, a premium mid-sized Zebra-branded Winn grip and a magnetic headcover.

Zebra 001 Milled Putters

The Zebra Milled 001 and 002 are mallets. The 001 is a full-sized rounded mallet you can order as a face-balanced or toe-hang model. It features a single white alignment line surrounded by three grayed-out lines on either side to give it that traditional Zebra look.

The 002 is a traditional fang-toothed mallet with a slightly different take on alignment lines. A single, centered white line is surrounded on each side by three grayed-out lines. Then there are thick white lines on the inner portion of each fang to help frame the ball.

The 002 stood out in this year’s MyGolfSpy Mallet Putter testing, ranking seventh overall. That score was powered by the 002 finishing second from five feet and third from 20 feet. It also finished an impressive 11th (out of 46 putters tested) from 10 feet.

Zebra 002 Milled Putters

Despite its performance, the 002 didn’t fare well with our testers in the subjective categories of looks, sound and feel. That once again verifies that while looks, sound and feel make us feel good, none of those three helps you get the ball in the damn hole.

Zebra Milled Putters: The Blades

The new Zebra Milled 003 might have been the surprise performer in this year’s Blade Putter Testing. It finished second overall, just one-tenth of a point behind the winner, the Evnroll New Classic ER2.

The Zebra Milled 003 is a wide-bodied blade, designed to provide the stability and forgiveness you’d find in a mid-mallet style putter. It ranked second out of 37 putters tested from 10 feet and fourth from 20 feet. The 003 was no slouch from five feet, either, finishing sixth.

As with the 002 mallet, the Zebra Milled 003 didn’t wow our testers with looks, sound and feel. Hate to sound like a broken record, folks, but our testing has shown that, year after year, looks, sound and feel may make you happy but they don’t help you sink more putts.

There’s always a question of whether a wide-bodied blade can be considered a true “blade.” The bottom line is you can categorize wide bodies any way you want. If you want to be strictly traditional, one could argue that anything outside of an old Bull’s Eye putter can’t be considered a “blade.”

Zebra Milled Putters 003

If you’re in the putter business, you have to have an Anser-style with a plumber’s neck hosel. That’s the role the Milled 004 plays in Zebra’s 2024 lineup. The 004 finished in a tie for 11th overall in this year’s testing, beating out such putter royalty as PING, Odyssey, Bettinardi and Scotty Cameron.

Final Thoughts, Price and Availability

If you just go by performance, it would appear the new Zebra Milled putters have nailed the Brand Resurrection Playbook’s Year Two requirements. If you follow the I gotta like the looks and feel or I can’t putt with it mantra, then it’s likely Zebra won’t make its way in your bag.

Then there’s the dilemma any direct-to-consumer company faces: You’re buying blind without an opportunity to demo the product. While you can make reasonable assumptions about DTC irons, metalwoods and maybe even driver, buying a putter sight unseen and untested can be a bridge too far for some.

DTC companies are different when it comes to product releases. While the Zebra Milled putter line scored well in our testing, they weren’t available for purchase on the Zebra website until recently.

“We had some chipping issues on the black finish,” Millington tells MyGolfspy. “We had to get a new finish. It was a minor thing, but if you’re going to do what we’re trying to do, it takes a little time. We did miss a bit of opportunity but if we’re a month behind from where we want to be, so be it.”

The new Zebra Milled putters run $299.99. They feature swappable 15-gram sole weights (extra weights are $24.99), a blacked-out shaft to match the head and a magnetic headcover.

They’re available now. For more information, visit the Zebra website.

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba





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      Paul Maisey

      2 months ago

      I’m sure they would have sold far more if they had the original head shape, I definitely would have bought one.

      Reply

      HikingMike

      2 months ago

      Love me the Zebra 003 from the photos, and 2nd place in this year’s blade putters category. I could probably game that. And I have zero sentimentality about the original Zebra putters, which were catching on back around the time I started playing golf.

      Reply

      Greg Tobias

      2 months ago

      I have and still use my Zebra (sirca 1977) every round. I have a Taylormade blade putter but always go back ti my Zebra. The leather grip gets come love (balm) after a few rounds and still look Brand new.

      Reply

      Jimbo88

      2 months ago

      Hi John: Thanks for the write-up… oddly, the “Ping MyDay”/Zing-with-plumber-neck-style (prominently pictured in your header / story) = isn’t mentioned in your article, NOR on the Zebra website? (…or i’ve missed it? If so… apologies! It was the head-style that hooked me into clicking on the twitter-link! )
      Any details pls? Thanks

      Reply

      John Barba

      2 months ago

      Yo Jimbo – thanks for the catch. Everyone needs an editor – or sometimes two!!

      Last paragraph of the Blades section – I meant to write “004” instead of “003.” The 004 is the traditional Anser=style blade with a plumber’s neck hosel. The oo3, which dominated the section, is the wide-bodied blade. Fixed it.

      Thanks for catching it!

      Reply

      Tony Wright

      2 months ago

      These can be great putters for many golfers. Variable head weights are a wonderful option. You can get most of these to 335 gram head weights, an option many golfers need and not available for many product lines.

      Reply

      League Golfer

      2 months ago

      The price is just too high for a DTC putter that you can’t see in person, can’t try out and hear in person. I have last year’s Zebra AIT rounded mallet. I like the original Zebra and still have it in my basement, but the new one from last year was more upright and didn’t fit me well. I’ve been too lazy to get the shaft bent flatter, but I don’t even use it because of this. These are the “issues” associated with DTC stuff and why I would be hesitant to buy another Zebra, even those these all look very nice to me. But $299 is too expensive. Get a nice Maltby putter from Golfworks instead. The Pure Track models have milling on them that are second to none and the price is ridiculously low.

      Reply

      BH

      2 months ago

      I’m getting real Pyramid Putter vibes on these….. I feel dirty now that I said that.

      Reply

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