How To Buy The Right Golf Equipment
By Kickntrue on 6/24/09
Scott Kramer, the former Golf Magazine, Equipment Editor, has a new e-book on how to buy the right golf equipment for your game. He was kind enough to provide a free sample for oobgolf readers from the chapter on putters. Links on how to buy the full e-book (just $3.50 for Kindle or $5.00 for PDF) are available at the bottom. Enjoy and feel free to leave your feedback on his advice!


Putters

Put more thought into buying a new putter than any other club. WhyGÇÖs that? Because you take more strokes per round with it than any other club in your bag, and there are so many intricacies to putters that choosing the right one will help you sink more putts. The wrong one will actually hurt you often. And when you consider that most golfers mis-hit the ball toward the toe of the putter, you quickly realize that the wrong type of putter will only exaggerate your misses. What to do?

First, pay attention to the feel of a potential new putter. You have to pick it up and make sure it feels comfortable in your hands. Then consider its looks GÇô any distractions and you wonGÇÖt be able to focus on the stroke. If it feels good and looks good to you, then youGÇÖre much more likely to put a good stroke on the ball with it. But you generally cannot base your choice on feel alone.

Strongly consider getting fitted for your putter, to find one suited to your physique, stance, stroke and preference. A fitter will find your proper length, lie, loft, grip, offset and head style. Regarding length, if you need to set your hands lower on the grip, to get closer to the ball so that your eyes are directly over the ball, then you probably need a shorter putter. Putter manufacturers differ in how they measure the shaft. Some calculate it from the butt end to the heel of the sole, others from the butt end to the center sole of the putter. So one company's 34-inch model may be another's 35. Experts claim that most golfers use a putter thatGÇÖs too long for their stroke. Tell-tale signs that your putter shaft's too long: At address, you stand farther away from the ball and your hands will tend to be too close to your body, and thus you'll inadvertently raise the toe of the putter and exaggerate the arc of your stroke. Also, the butt end may poke at your gut. Finally, the putter's head will feel heavier on a longer shaft. If the shaft is too short, you'll stand too close to the ball and will raise the heel and, consequently, dig the toe into the grass. And there may be no feel to the head. Thus, make sure that the putter sits flat on the ground when you take a comfortable stance. Try holding the putter loosely in one hand and letting the sole rest on the green. Then take your stance - without moving the putter -- and see how it feels. You may find that the right length putter requires a more- or less-upright shaft angle or lie angle than you've been playing. But don't bend the shaft or hosel to fit your stance, as it can drastically alter the putter's loft. Some experts claim that the optimal length varies with where your eyes are at address. Contrary to common belief that you should position your eyes directly above the ball, some insiders insist that your eyes should be positioned one inch back from the ball at address, so that the ball is under your left eye, if youGÇÖre a righty.

Mind the putterGÇÖs weight, too. If itGÇÖs too lightweight, you might overcompensate by adding too much right hand into the stroke, and youGÇÖll pull the putt. Getting fitted for lie angle GÇô the angle you rest the putterGÇÖs sole on the ground -- is key to making a center hit on line. If you set the putter up too upright, you may scrape the toe along the green during your stroke, sending the putt to the right. Too flat and youGÇÖll graze the heel against the grass, veering the putt left.

As for offset, most putters in your favorite golf shop have some degree of offset, in which the shaft is positioned ahead of the putter head. This is to help golfers see the ball better and release the putter at the proper point in the stroke. Should you use a putter with more offset? It comes down to what you like to see when standing over the ball. Beware, though: If you switch to a putter with more offset, the click of impact will come a little later than you're used to, which you may find distracting. Also, the more offset your putter has, the more you'll pull the ball: Offset putters are like offset drivers which "correct" slices by forcing your hands to pronate through the impact zone.

Then thereGÇÖs loft to consider. When a ball's sitting on a green, it's actually resting in a slight depression in the grass. The putter's loft -- traditionally four degrees -- helps lift the ball from that depression. If it lifts the ball too much, it imparts backspin. Not enough lift and it forces the ball to skim the depression's edge, thus causing it to skip. A solid putting stroke naturally closes the face as it strikes the ball. At impact, the ideal loft is bet, because most putter manufacturers derive the ideal loft in their putters. Dynamic loft - the putter's loft at the point of impact - is the most important loft.

But you need high-speed analysis within a fitting session, to know what yours is. In fact, all of these factors add up to justify why a fitting session will save you a lot of heartache on the greens later on. Armed with the right data, you can buy a putter perfectly tailored to your natural putting stroke. A fitting session can reveal exactly what putter you need and why. Knowing if youGÇÖre better off with a blade or a mallet partly depends on your stroke path. If you take an open - or inside -- backstroke, square it at impact, then proceed with an inside follow-through, you're probably best off playing a heel-shafted, toe-weighted blade putter. That's because as you stroke, the heel moves through the impact area faster than the rest of the clubface. But the toe weight helps the rest of the head rotate through the impact zone, squaring it at impact, and imparting a straighter ball roll. If you were take that same stroke with a mallet, its built-in face balancing will prevent you from closing the toe by impact, meaning you'll push the putt to the right (assuming you're right-handed). After awhile, you might even overcompensate for the push and begin to pull your putts.

If your stroke stays straight the entire way through, you'll likely benefit from a mallet, which twists less than a blade at contact with the ball. Most mallets are center-shafted (the shaft axis runs through the center of the putter head even though the shaft, itself, may bend near the tip and enter the heel end of the head), so it creates a deep center of gravity that helps the ball roll straight, when used in a pendulum-like stroke.

A lot of golfers wonder about face inserts in their putter. How can you tell if an insert is right for you? First of all, their underlying premise is to make putts feel soft yet roll consistently. Each insert has a distinct feel. You have to be the judge if it works for you, since feel lies subjectively in the ears of the beholder. Inserts have a lower frequency vibration than steel heads, so they sound softer. And people tend to think what they hear is what they feel. Many golfers want to hear a click at impact, as it sounds crisper than the metallic click a steel head makes. But just because a putter feels soft doesn't mean the ball will react softly off the face. Softer faces briefly prolong the length of time that the ball sticks to the clubface, resulting in more topspin and a more immediate roll than a steel head typically produces, with less skid and skip. You may also come across putters bearing grooves on the face. TheyGÇÖre designed to prevent the ball from rolling up the putter face at impact, thus minimizing backspin and encouraging topspin GÇô to get the ball on a truer roll more quickly.

In the past few years, putters with unusual geometries have come on strong in the market. Essentially, these have a high Moment of Inertia, which means theyGÇÖre more stable at impact than conventionally shaped models. There has also been a slew of models with interchangeable weights that allow you to fine-tune the putterGÇÖs feel to your preference or to the green conditions. In other words, you can make it heavier for slower greens or lighter for faster greens. This is a great option to have, as long as the putter fits your stroke properly. No matter what putter you think you want to buy, test it first a few with your favorite ball on a real grass green GÇô and not on an artificial turf green inside a golf shop.




Veteran golf equipment writer Scott Kramer has published a new e-book, How To Buy The Right Golf Equipment. Whether you've played golf your entire life or are new to the game, you'll appreciate how this book helps simplify the process of buying clubs, shafts, balls, bags and shoes -- as well as buying equipment for other people, including your spouse and kids. The following excerpt is the chapter on buying putters. For the complete book, visit amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/How-Right-Golf-Equipment-ebook/dp/B002DUDJVW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245437090&sr=8-3) for the Kindle version or lulu.com (http://stores.lulu.com/golfequipment) for the instant pdf download.


[ comments ]
fraserjr says:
This book continuously mentions club fittings that are usually free or a nominal cost. Does anyone know where that is the case in Northern Virginia? I don't consider $75-200 a nominal fee.
6/24/09
 
kramerfreelance says:
Any Dick's Sporting Goods store, it's $39 or free if you buy clubs. There are several in the Richmond area, some have PGA Professionals doing the fitting. Hope this helps.
6/24/09
 
kramerfreelance says:
If the Richmond stores aren't close to you, here is a link to all of their locations: www.dickssportinggoods.com/corp/index.jsp?page=s
6/24/09
 
fraserjr says:
Thanks, didn't know Dicks had PGA pro's. I will try the one by me.
6/24/09
 
brtnsbs says:
I got fitted for my driver 6 years ago and it has been my money club ever since then. I dont' know why I haven't gone back to get a putter fitted, I've meant to but I'm a broke college student now. When I have the money I'll definitely be getting myself fitted for a putter.
6/24/09
 
HotBacon says:
I had my putter fitted at a Golf Galaxy after hearing about how great it is. They bent my lie from 72* to 69*, and my loft from 2.5* to 4*. After he did the bending I putted a few more balls and couldn't believe the difference. The ball started rolling immediately instead of skidding, and stayed true to the line I started it on.
6/25/09
 
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