Putter Buying Guide
Roughly ⅓ to ½ of the shots that you hit in a round of golf will be with your putter. For this reason it is important for you to choose the right one.
Finding a putter that you find visually appealing and that gives you confidence will go some way to improving your putting. There are a number of other factors to consider when making a decision on a putter purchase.
Personally I’ve had more putters than some people have had hot dinners! If I’d bothered to read a guide such as this 30 years ago then I might not have been so prone to change!
The three main components of the putter are the head, shaft and grip. As with every other golf club putters also have a hosel which is where the putter shaft is attached to the head.
Some putters will have an insert in their face or the clubface may have been milled.
A number of premium putters might have adjustable weighting in the head by using removable weight screws. There are even a few models that offer an adjustable length!
Putter Head Design
A traditional design of putter featuring a narrow, solid piece of metal. Offering little or no assistance for mishits. They usually have little in the way of alignment aids. A blade putter is generally best left to those with excellent putting strokes and confidence on the greens.
They tend to work well on faster greens that require a gentler stroke.
Blade putters are generally toe balanced and therefore suit players with a arc type of putting stroke.
Peripherally Weighted Blade
Popularised by Karsten Solheim during the 60s, the addition of peripheral weighting to putters was a boon to the average golfer. Moving a large percentage of the putter’s mass toward the heel and toe produces a much larger sweet spot. This makes it more forgiving on less than perfect strikes. His original design has inspired an enormous number of similar putters over the years.
Putters of this design can usually be adjusted to work with almost any type of stroke.
Mallet putters can be as deep as they are wide. This allows manufacturers to tinker with the weight distribution on an even greater basis than with a heel and toe weighted blade. Mallets will have a high MOI – moment of inertia or resistance to twisting. What this means for the player is even on mishits they will still tend to see more consistent results in terms of distance and accuracy.
The sheer size of the clubhead means they can experiment with a wide variety of different alignment aids. Over the years we have seen golf ball sized circles and innumerable different combinations of lines.
Mallet putters are more suited to straight putting strokes since they are generally face balanced.
A halfway house between a traditional blade and a mallet putter. A much smaller segment of the market. Trying to provide the benefits of a mallet in a more aesthetically pleasing shape.
More three-putts are caused by pace control than poor alignment, so in order to control the pace of the golf ball, it is vital that the ball must come consistently out of the sweet spot of the putter face.Dr. Paul Hurrion
Hold a putter with the shaft balancing on your finger. You will find some putters have a tendency for the toe to point straight down and others where the face will tend to point the sky. You will also get a wide variety putters that fall somewhere between the two extremes.
You are likely to find your putting will improve if you match the type of stroke you have to the correct type of putter.
If you are unsure of the type of putting stroke that you currently use then your local golf professional should be able to put you straight.
Alternatively you could place a couple of alignment sticks parallel on the green and then hit a number of putts. If you can see your clubhead is moving toward the nearest alignment stick then that suggests you have more of an arc putting stroke. If the putter head stays more in the middle of the two alignment sticks then you have a straight putting stroke.
Face Balanced Putters
Mallet type putters tend to be face balanced (the face points up). They are better suited to players that have a putting stroke that is more straight back through.
Toe Balanced Putters
Blade putters are most likely to be toe balanced which means they are more likely to open and close during the stroke. This makes them a better fit for players with a more arcing stroke.
Faces and Inserts
Take a look at old blade putter faces such as the Titleist bullseye or one of the Wilson models then you will see that the face is plain. That is in stark contrast to today. Manufacturers claim their face design will improve your distance control, direction or feel.
Feel in particular is such a subjective thing that it can only be measured by the individual player when they putt.
Some people swear by their Odyssey inserts and would never even consider going for a milled face putter. Others don’t get on with face inserts and much prefer the feel of milled putters.
Milling was originally used to give a more consistent finish to cast putters. These days it is promoted in a variety of ways such as offering a softer feel or even helping you with mishits.
From an aesthetic point of view, I find milled putters look the best. Since confidence plays a big part in putting performance you will need to like the ‘look’ of your putter. If you do like the look of a milled putter then it is likely to perform better for you than an insert putter assuming both are fit to your stroke.
My personal feeling on inserts is that they grew in popularity from the mid 90s. This was around the time professionals were switching from softer balata covered balls to firmer urethane covered ones.
Manufacturers were trying to combat the firmer feel from putters in use at the time. Odyssey experimented with a variety of different materials inserted into the putter face. TaylorMade brought out their Nubbins insert. Most inserts these days will have grooves which claim to reduce the amount of skidding that the ball does after you make contact.
High speed video has shown that the ball will actually skid for a time before starting to roll in spite of what manufacturers might suggest.
Believe it or not, I’m not really thinking about anything when I putt. I let my instincts take over. When I’m putting well, I feel like I can make everything.Brad Faxon
Hosel and Shaft Styles
The hosel of a club is the point where the club shaft goes into the club head.
Traditionally putters had the hosel in the heel of the club in the same way as irons and woods. This is the most common type of hosel. Blade putters are almost exclusively heel shafted.
A center shafted putter has the hosel in the middle of the head. This type of putter is especially suited to players who like to get their eyes directly over the ball. Putters with a center shaft will generally be face balanced and therefore better suited to players with a straight type stroke.
Sometimes called an offset hosel. This design helps the player keep their hands ahead of the club during the stroke and it aids alignment at address for certain types of players.
The least common hosel, this type favors players who prefer to use an arcing stroke.
A type of shaft design featuring, you guessed it, two bends. The shaft is also inserted directly into the head. This gives a somewhat offset look similar to a plumbers neck. It will tend to produce a more face-balanced putter which will work best for a straight back and through stroke.
Men’s putters will tend to have a standard shaft length of 33” to 35”. Models in the premium and mid price categories will generally have options available in 1” increments. Putters for ladies would tend to have a standard length of 33”.
Interestingly the average putter length on the PGA Tour is around 33” to 33½”. Maybe we should all be using shorter putters! I have experimented at times with ladies putters which allowed me to feel like I was more ‘over’ the ball at address. You
Belly putters came to prominence over the last few years. It was a popular style on tour when you were still able to anchor the putter in your midriff.
While the anchoring method has been outlawed by the game’s lawmakers they haven’t set a limit on the actual length of the putter.
Belly putters typically have a length of 41” to 46”.
In response to the anchoring ban a number of manufacturers started to produce belly length putters with weight in the grip end. These putters feel similar to an anchored belly putter while still remaining within the rules of the game.
Originally popularized on tour by the likes of Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance. This was before the anchoring ban was brought into play. When players could still use their chin or chest as an anchoring point depending upon their preference. While some players still employ these types of putters they have had to make modifications to avoid accusations of anchoring.
In order to use such putters you need to use an entirely different grip than you would with a standard or belly length butter. Usually the non-dominant hand would be used to anchor the grip end of the club and the dominant hand used to make the stroke.
An often overlooked aspect by many amateur golfers is the lie of their putter. Some professionals have had great success with putters that you would think aren’t correctly fitted to them. Your average amateur ought to address this aspect of custom fitting. Seve Ballesteros had a putting stroke where the toe of his putter was ‘in the air’.
Putters are designed to perform with the sole parallel to the ground. If you use a putter with the wrong lie angle then this is going to cause you to hit putts off-line. It is likely to make it more difficult for you to become a consistent putter.
You should always get a putter that has been bent to the correct lie angle
Another putter feature that is often disregarded by amateur golfers. Off-the-shelf putters will tend to have between 2° and 4° of loft. If you have a tendency for a forward press then you will be significantly de-lofting the putter at impact.
It would be important therefore for you to pick a putter with sufficient loft so that at impact you still manage to achieve a good quality strike.
The weight of your putter can also have an effect on the way you swing it. Some people prefer heavier putters as it helps them feel where the putter is during the stroke. It also has a tendency to stay online more than a lighter putter.
Putter grips have certainly evolved quite a bit over the last 20 or 30 years. For many players there is a great benefit in removing wrist and arm movement from the stroke to improve consistency. One way to decrease the use of your wrists and arms through the stroke is to have a thicker putter grip.
I recall buying a Tiger Shark oversize putter grip back in the mid-90s. If memory serves it was at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in 96. While not as big as some of its modern equivalents it was certainly a change from the common or garden putter grips found at the time.
Another reason to have a thicker grip is if you suffer from arthritis.
Putters are the only clubs in your bag where you are allowed to have a grip with a flat side. This part of the grip would be placed perpendicular to the face and you would place your hands on either side generally with your thumbs on the flat part.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to afford the latest models from premium manufacturers. You will certainly need to take this into account when looking for your new putter. Arguably it is the first thing you need to decide as there’s no point looking at the likes of Scotty Cameron golf putters if your budget is going to be $200.
Putter Buying Guide: Conclusion
There are many criteria to consider when purchasing a new putter. Certainly consider getting a proper custom fitting if you are thinking of spending a lot of money on a putter. The last thing you want to do is waste money on a club that doesn’t suit you.
If you are really struggling on the greens, it might even be worth getting a putting lesson or two to sort out your fundamentals before purchasing. The putter you already have may not be the problem.
Sometimes it’s not the putter but the puttee!
Best Putter For Bad Putters?
If you are currently struggling on the greens then you need to try to identify what is going wrong. Are you struggling with distance control or alignment? If you are struggling with alignment then you might benefit from a mallet putter such as an Odyssey 2-ball type. You might prefer a TaylorMade Spider or Scotty Cameron Futura.
If you are tending to catch the ground with your putter they might be too long for you or have an incorrect lie. Perhaps the sole of the putter is too flat.
Have you just lost confidence in your putter. If so a change might be in order. I often find that changing to a different putter for a few rounds revitalizes my putting.
There’s also the possibility that your putting stroke has fundamental flaws that need addressing. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and sign up for a lesson with your local pro. Another pair of expert eyes can often find a way to put you back on the right track without needing to buy another club.
What is the Proper Putter Length for my Height?
To generalize, people over 6 feet are likely to want a 35” putter and people under 5 foot 9 inches need a 33” with those in between needing a 34”. It is also true that everybody’s anatomy is slightly different and everybody’s putting stance will also be subtly different. This is why you need to have a proper fitting to make sure that you are getting the correct length for your putting stance, not just your height. Remember that putters in your local store are probably 34” or 35” Yet on the PGA tour putters are typically around 33” to 33½”.