A Dissection of Putters
All of you know me as "The Wedge Guy," but what you don't know is that my earlier work in golf club design was focused on putters. My first design, called "Destiny" was done in the mid-80s, and achieved pretty cool success on the PGA Tour in the hands of a number of players, including Robert Wrenn, Ian Baker Finch, Ray Floyd, Bernhard Langer and some other top names. It was one of the first to use the long hosel to achieve face balancing.

And a putter design concept I took to Hogan started my tenure there. The “Sure-In®” line never got the attention I would have liked, but it had some innovative weighting and some nice head models. I did three designs with Ben Crenshaw while I was President of Reid Lockhart. We did three models including one that was a perfect copy of Ben’s favorite 8802. And then I did all the design work for Ray Cook while I was president there. So I have more than just a little experience in putter design.

The reason I tell you this, is because today I'm responding to the question from Aaron, of Austin, TX, who wrote in:
"While I know you're the Wedge Guy, I've been wondering about putter technology. I know about some of the styles (blade, mallet, etc.) but I was more wondering about the different face technologies (insert, etc.) as well as the loft on the putter, the shaft material, and the purpose of the different necks (plumbers neck, etc.)"
Well, Aaron, let’s take these several parts of the putter and let me share with you my observations about the form and function of each.
1. Face Technology. Today that falls into two categories – inserts and texture. Though Odyssey garnered most of the press about inserts, they’ve actually been around for many years. The old Otey Crisman putters were aluminum with a brass insert, and had a hickory shaft. You talk about feel -- they were awesome. In modern putter design, a small company called STX actually pioneered the synthetic insert long before Odyssey. The idea behind this concept is to match the hardness of the insert with the ball you play to achieve optimum “adhesion” of ball to face, so that a superior roll can be achieved. I never much cared for them, personally, and the new urethane covered balls have negated much of the need, in my opinion. You still find all kinds of putters with inserts and various face milling textures, but the only rule is this: If it feels great and puts a good roll on the ball, you should seriously consider it.

2. Loft. Now, this is a more arguable subject in putter design. I’ve seen physical testing that proves that a slight negative loft at impact actually imparts a superior roll to a ball. But that was on an artificial putting surface, where the ball could not “settle down” any. Ping traditionally put 5-7 degrees on their putters, and every user had a pronounced forward press to get some of that out, or you’d loft the ball at impact. My personal belief is that about 1-2* at impact is optimum on most greens, but that is affected by how far in front of the head your hands are through the stroke. Again, it’s a trial-and-error process to find the right loft for your stroke.

3. Putter Shafts. In that old Destiny putter, I pioneered the use of graphite shafts in putters because of the feel. And I still believe graphite is a superior putter shaft material for that reason, though you see practically none out there. Most putters are equipped with a rather cheap and heavy steel shaft . . . even the premium models that cost over $200. Besides the material, I think the putter shaft flex is important. Ben Crenshaw, with his syrupy smooth stroke, liked a shaft that had “movement” in it, and could feel things in a putter that were unbelievable. A golfer with a short and quick stroke would benefit from a firmer shaft so that it would be easier to square the putter face through impact. Unfortunately, you won’t find lots of options on the putter rack, and I can’t think of even one putter on the market today that even talks about the shaft as part of the formula.

4. “Neck”or hosel configuration. Very simply, the purpose of the various bend profiles is to help you set the putter square to the intended line. The trend to custom putter fitting has proven that every golfer has a visual tendency to line up left or right, depending on the hosel configuration. I believe the old Slazenger/Kirk Currie system was the first to identify this and use the hosel to correct for aiming error. On today’s market there are several such systems, with another Austin company – Edel Putters – having the most sophisticated I’ve seen. For this reason, if no other, I think having a custom-fit putter will do more good for more golfers than just about any other equipment investment (other than good wedges of course!)
Today’s post got a little long, but the topic is heavy. Lets’ see what you guys have to say and maybe we’ll keep this dialog open for a while. If there are follow-up putter questions you have . . . just ask away.


photo source
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[ comments ]
MiddleAgedGuy says:
Great column Terry, thanks! I'm interested to hear your thoughts on "conventional wisdom" I've been told, that in-line putting strokes benefit from face balanced putters, while "screen door" strokes benefit from heel-and-toe weighting. Dave Pelz seems to disagree, in that he likes the feedback offered by a heel-and-toe putter. Am very interested to hear what you think?
10/26/10
 
Backquak says:
I've wondered about putter shafts and if there was a difference, so a stiffer shaft will reduce feel but help keep the putter square, and a softer would increase feel, but allow more "wobble" at impact, but that would only come into play with a faster stroke, right? are the UST frequency filtered shafts worth the cost? Is there that much difference in shafts, that the speed of your stroke would affect the shaft?
10/26/10
 
wrhall02 says:
How about your thoughts on grip? Have seen so many different "thoeries" on gripping the putter. I seem to do best with the reverse grip, but know I am in the minority.
10/26/10
 
sepfeiff says:
Wow some good points in there especially the shaft technology... not much done there in many many years.
10/26/10
 
krikan says:
We already have a putter company that has started making wedges (heavy putter).. Are we going to have a wedge company starting to make putters..hint,hint..
10/26/10
 
KVSmith59 says:
check out this putter - completely different than anything I've seen:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzgV8rOdPRQ

here's a slow mo of how it works: www.utopiagolfproducts.com/edge.php
10/27/10
 
Swingem says:
My preffered putter for the last three years has been a Cobra face balanced mallet that is over 20 yrs old. Before that I used an Odyssey White Hot blade, great on lags but not comfortable with the 3 footers. Earlier this year I used a Ping Craz-e, couldn't miss on short putts but not so good on lags, so went back to the Cobra. Awesome wife just gave me a Scotty Cameron Fastback #1 for my birthday. Never would have spent that kind of coin on myself, but the feel is amazing. She gave it to me on Saturday night, watched Euro golf on Sunday morning and Mateo Monesaro won using the same putter, Good omen. Birthday part-2 is Saturday and Sunday rounds at Pasatiempo this weekend, can't wait! If it works as well on grass as on carpet, it should pay for itself pretty quickly.
10/27/10
 
AH50 says:
AH50 says:
I alternate a Wilson TPA XVIII w/Tiger Shark huge grip, 31" length, & 635g dead weight. Bent down a lot. Changed to 8876 w/insert, 32", 645g & counter balance weigh.Served me well. Am now using a Cleveland bronze/brass Classic #2 w/650g, 32" w/huge grip, no counterbalance.
@TWG: What's your opinion re 'heavy putter', shorter length w/huge grip combo.
10/27/10
 
Joness says:
Terry,

What about lie and length. I recently got a new taylormade mallet putter and got a shorter shaft (33") and had the lie flattened a little. This means that for my stance the putter sits dead flat. It has improved the quality of my putting stroke a lot. I have seen too many people putt with the toe of the putter pointing in the air. This combined with the loft of the club, mean that toe in the air will have the clubface facing left of the target.
10/27/10
 
TravisMiller says:
@KVSmith59 I want one just to make people I play with go HUH?. Looks good. Still haven't gotten up the courage to spend much money on a putter.
10/28/10
 
KVSmith59 says:
same here, too expensive but would love to try one. maybe I'll glue a piece of metal on the face of my current ping :)
10/28/10
 
Matt F says:
I've been using a Yes Tracy for 5 years and it's the best putter for me that I have found. It's face balanced and gets the ball rolling from the start. I haven't found anything that I would replace it with.
10/28/10
 
Tim Horan says:
I have always struggled with long range putting with distance control and then with alignment for short range (3-4ft) putts. I changed out a steel shaft for a graphite shaft adding a couple of inches to the length on an old Hippo face balanced putter. I found the weight being all in the head helped with distance control and the extra length helped me with alignment. I also ground off the leading edge so that it didn't snagg in the grass and ground off the sole at heel so that it always sits square. All in all not a bad set-up but it doesn't change the idiot on the end.
10/28/10
 
Tim Horan says:
Taking this a little further I changed out the steel shaft on my Ray Cook Americana II for a graphite hoping for the same improvement. I set the shaft at 33in. Distance control improved in line with expectation but alignment was shocking. As a spectacle wearer I think I benefit from being a little more upright and not looking so much sideways through the glasses.
10/28/10
 
spy-croft says:
Mace is watching you.
10/28/10
 
onedollarwed says:
A tough topic to tackle. I definitely agree with the "aim fit" as being the most important element of a putter - beyond the basic construction. Most mallets probably can deliver more aim characteristics because they have more physical depth to work with to create a line, pattern, or reference points. When you do get a real "aim fit" you'll be able to sink every smooth, flat 6 footer and in. Then you'll know. If you're not doing that, then you need to shop around.
10/28/10
 
golfer72236 says:
Hi Terry,

I make decent putts within 10 feet, but on longer putts I tend to struggle. Would you ever recommend chipping with a wedge on the green on very long putts? I've seen John Daly try it once, but he failed miserably on that attempt.
10/29/10
 
Tim Horan says:
To all - apologies but I seem to have picked up a tail. @spy-croft just come out and say what you mean. You know where I am. Have some balls...this site is not here for you to abuse and spoil everyones enjoyment.
10/29/10
 
Tim Horan says:
@golfer72236 - I tried for a while using a rescue wood from on the green. Using a 24 degree I found I was able to attack the stroke more agressively. It had enough loft to encourage a bit of check and not enough for it to affect the roll-out.
10/29/10
 
golfer72236 says:
@Tim Horan: I prefer to chip with an iron or wedge b/c the the round edge of a hybrid makes me feel my shot is going to be less precise. That's mostly mental of course.
10/29/10
 
Tim Horan says:
@golfer72236 - yeah but the greenkeepers get a bit ansty when you you carve up the green like that. I would find it difficult taking people to task for not repairing pitch marks if they were to witness me taking a divot out of the green with a round club. Have you tried looking at the hole when you strike the ball? Line up alongside the ball and look at the hole swing the club back and forward to get a feel for pace, step in and align behind the ball look at the hole and strike. It is surprising how good at distance control you can be like that.
10/29/10
 
wedgeguy says:
I wrote about the difference between short putts and lag putting back in July -- www.oobgolf.com/content/the+wedge+guy/playing+th -- and posited the notion of carrying two putters. Is it an "out there" idea? Why limit yourself to only one club for all shots to finish off the 18 holes? Just pondering . . .
11/2/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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