Selecting/Fitting Your Putter
I've been on the topic of golf club mechanics and club fitting lately, and thought we would close this series with a question from Stephen J., who asked about selecting a putter. I thought it might be fun to dive into this topic and let everyone chime in with your own experience and observation. Specifically, Stephen wrote:
"You have been talking a lot lately about tweaking clubs and it all makes good sense. Can I get you to extend that discussion to putters? I am contemplating buying a new putter, but I am not sure why because I find my current putter OK. I suppose I am wondering if the advances in technology have impacted on putters as much as other clubs and what to look for when buying a putter and getting it set up right for me."
Well, Stephen, to begin with, if the one you have is working OK, examine what you are hoping to gain with a purchase. If you feel like you have room for improvement, then maybe a new putter can be part of that solution. What really amazes me as I observe golfers is how many are using putters that just don't fit them at all, but then some of those same guys seem to make everything. One of the better players at our club uses an Odyssey Two Ball putter with a lie so overly upright for his putting style, the toe is a half inch in the air at address. But he's one of the best clutch putters I've ever seen! Makes you go "hmmmmmmm."

All other things aside, however, a putter that fits your set up and stroke style greatly enhances your chances of consistency and effectiveness. There are two aspects of putter selection and fitting, in my opinion, that the process should be built around. The first is the style of putter head.

One of the great developments in putter design, to me, is the face-balanced concept. This means the putter head is balanced around the centerline of the shaft, so that the face “wants” to be square to the direction the shaft is moving. It really got started with the first Zebra, then took off after the development of the original Pelz “three ball” putter. Almost all of the big mallet designs are balanced this way, and those “conventional” looking putters with longer hosels, too. To see if a putter is “face-balanced”, simply lay it across your fingers – if the face points straight up, then it’s face balanced. The face is designed to be square to the direction of the shaft force. It takes away any effort you must make to square the face during the stroke. All you have to do is have the stroke online.

The other key aspect of putter selection is to be sure the shaft length and lie angle makes the putter fits your address position and stroke. The industry has made 35” the standard putter length and lie angle forever, it seems, but most tour players are using putters shorter than that. What they are trying to achieve is the ability to allow the arms to hang from the shoulders rather naturally, with only a slight break, and to have the putter soled flat on the ground. This often requires the putter loft to be adjusted flatter as well. If the toe is sticking up in the air, as you see with most amateur players and a surprising number of pros, the loft of the putter is making it point left. So, you have to have a bias in your stroke to make up for that. Sheesh. Isn’t this hard enough already?

Finally, one of the newer developments in putter-fitting is the ability for the sophisticated systems to correct your natural visual bias with the right combination of offset and other fitting criteria. Using lasers, the fitter can determine whether your visual orientation causes you to aim right or left of the target. Almost all of us have a bias, and it’s in part caused by the putter. And this can be corrected through fitting.

So, if you are going to invest heavily in a new putter, I’d sure recommend exploring the fitting possibilities and taking advantage of the science available. After all, that’s the club with which you will hit the most shots in a round of golf, so it makes sense it should be the one, if any, which fits you the best. Right?


photo source
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Great read and it couldn't be more true. You shouldve seen the looks i got when i asked to have my putter cut down to 33". The guys looked at me and said "why?". My only answer was - "you're the pro, you tell me." greatest idea ever, second only to cutting my driver down.
8/24/10
 
georgelichti says:
Perhaps you, Terry, or someone else knowledgable here, can expound a bit on why it is that so many putters on the market and seen inthe bags of "hackers" are indeed face balanced, yet such a large majority of top echelon players (pro and amateur) use one variety or other of the original Ping Anser (Cameron, Ping, etc)or something similar, that are toe heavy. Why is this? Thanks!
8/24/10
 
Tim Horan says:
I have recently started tinkering with my five differing styles of putter. I have cut down two to circa 33", reshafted one with graphite at 36" tweaked lie angles and fitted two thumb grips, square grips, rounds etc.
Everything works...for a while and then the reality sets in...it is whats on the other end that's at fault...you know, the idiot in plaid trousers and a cap. Seriously though I had never thought of getting a putter fitted even though every other club in my bag has been fitted so why not the putter? As Terry rightly says 30% of your shots will be made with the putter.
8/24/10
 
TravisMiller says:
Well I have noticed that I like to bend over alot during putting, more than any other golfer I know. This led me to choke way down on the putter shaft, close to the bottom of the grip. This last time I went out and played I took my son's jr putter and it was just about the perfect length. I had a little problem getting used to the mallet, and the greens were pretty uneven from hole to hole, but I was putting pretty good. I even sank a 32ft for birdie. It is approximately 27" and I am standard height. I am going to try it again soon, this time I will keep putting stats
8/24/10
 
bducharm says:
@BirdieXris - funny they would ask you why!!! I have putted with a 33" putter for years - definitely allows for my arms to hang more naturally. I was also really happy when Scotty Cameron came out with a face balanced putter. I LOVE my Squareback!!!
8/24/10
 
TravisMiller says:
I was in golfsmith today and they had 33" putters for sale.
8/24/10
 
Bryan K says:
The one thing that Terry didn't address, and it is important in putter fitting, is the loft of the putter. I'll be honest and say that I had no idea that there was a such thing as a putter-fitting when I bought my Odyssey White Steel two-ball putter, but I did know what to look for when I was selecting it. Some people like to put the ball forward in their putting stance, and others like to put the ball back. If your ball is forward, you'll want less loft. If the ball is back, you'll want more loft. My stance has the ball right in the middle. What happens if you have too much loft is you get a little bit of backspin on the shot which will cause the ball to bounce a bit right after contact. If you don't have enough loft, you'll drive the ball into the ground causing it to bounce a bit right after impact. Either of these scenarios will case the ball to not roll true.
8/25/10
 
Bryan K says:
That said, my putter is way too long for me even though I have the loft correct. I learned how to hold it so that the bottom of the putter is flush with the ground, though. The result is that I choke up quite a bit. I'm actually only holding the grip with my left hand when I address the ball. My other hand is on the shaft. Additionally, I know that I have a severe bias because I have a severe strabismus. Therefore, I close one eye throughout my putting stroke. From the point where I'm plumb-bobbing my ball marker to the point where I make contact with the ball, my left eye is closed.
8/25/10
 
dmsmith20 says:
I would love to get a fitters opinion when I buy my clubs, but it seems impossible to get an honest one. Ping says i should go 2* flat on my irons yet the local golf shop says .75* flat. What's a guy to do go to golfsmith???
8/25/10
 
Matt F says:
@dmsmith20 - When you say golf shop, is that a club maker or just a shop selling off the rack? If it's a club maker, I'd trust them over a computer generated fitting.

Matt
8/26/10
 
birdieXris says:
@dmsmith20 - dude, i think at a 2 handicap, whatever you have is working darn well, so i wouldn't be worried about it. :)
8/26/10
 
BigTazz53 says:
Went thru this myself, had a cheap mallet putter than I loved the head but it was to long and caused my stroke to not be as smooth as I wanted. Local pro gave me tip, go short. So snip snip, my putter went from 35 to 30 and after regripping it, I have to say it really feels smooth and rolls alot better for me.Straightened my arms to hang easy.
8/27/10
 
BigTazz53 says:
cont..
the pro also told me to make sure my eyes were right over the ball line to help see the putt line better.
8/27/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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