Many people get their woods and irons fitted to their game. They make sure to pair the best shaft with the right clubhead and loft to optimize their ball flight and hit the best golf shots that they can.
Then they get to the green, pull out their off-the-rack putter that "looks good," and proceed to three-whack it from 25 feet for double.
This is often because they ignore one club: the putter.
A lot of people purchase a putter right off of the rack. Though they may test it out for feel and looks on the in-store practice green, the putter likely doesn't fit their particular stroke or stance. This week we'll take a look at some of the major factors that go into selecting the right putter for you.
There are many ways to get started. A good place to begin is right here, on the internet. Both Ping and Odyssey have basic fitting guides on their respective websites. Ping offers a video explaining some of the basic factors, and Odyssey has a tool that invites you to plug in various aspects of your putting stroke before making recommendations on which models to try. These are a nice start, but the real testing can only begin once you have the putter in your hands. Below we will take a look at the things you need to consider when looking for a new putter.
Know Your Putting Stroke
This is perhaps the most important factor in choosing the right putter. The different head styles are aimed at different stroke paths and types.
First up are the blade-style, often toe-hanging putters. Some popular models include the Ping Anser line and Scotty Cameron's various Newports. These putters are traditionally intended for players who have a bit of an arc to their stroke. The toe weighting - also called "toe hang" or "toe flow" - helps to square the putter face at impact, and provide a straight roll.
Next up are the true heel-shafted putters. These putters are connected with the shaft at the far heel (inside) of the putter head, and typically meant for golfers who have a wider arc to their putting stroke. The face is often very open at the rear of the backswing and swings in a more pronounced semicircle. The majority of the weight is in front of the shaft on these putters, which helps rapidly close the face of the putter, helping to avoid a pushed putt. These putters can range from a traditional blade, to a mid mallet, to a mallet. Some popular models include the Odyssey White Hot XG #9 and Taylormade TP By Kia Ma Maranello.
The third type of putter is face balanced. Players who have a straight back and through stroke often feel they do best with these. The face is very close to square throughout the entire stroke. These putters are often mallets, and are balanced across the face. This means that the weight is distributed evenly across the face and there is little to no toe hang. Popular models include the Taylormade Itsy Bitsy Monza Spider and the Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie.
It's important to note that these are generalizations, as well. Scotty Cameron believes very strongly that the truest and easiest way to putt is with an arc stroke, yet he makes face-balanced putters and players on the PGA Tour who putt in an arc (as the vast majority do) will use them. Scotty's Newport Fastback and Squareback, for example, are relatively face balanced.
Length, Lie, and Loft
Once you've chosen a head shape (and balance point), the more important aspects of putter fitting come into play: length, lie angle, and loft. These are the same as with your irons or driver, and each player has a different stance and stroke. Length is determined by how far you are bent over while making a putting stroke. If you are nearly upright, you will prefer a longer shaft in your putter. Those who are more bent over will prefer a shorter shaft, seeing as they are closer to the ground. The standard putter lengths range from 32 to 36 inches. Once you get into belly putters, you can find shafts from 39 to 50 inches!
The lie of your putter is also important. You want the sole of your putter to be as close to flat on the ground as possible. This makes for the truest strike and roll. Putters that are too flat for the player will lie with the heel farther up than the toe, causing the player to push the ball. On the other hand, if your putter's lie angle is too upright for you, the toe will be above the heel, causing balls to come off left.
Loft is a commonly overlooked factor. Most amateur players never give a thought to the loft of their putter, even though it could be a factor in many of their missed putts. A putter that is lofted a bit too high will lift the ball off of the ground, causing you to lose control of your line and speed. Too little loft will cause you to push the ball into the turf, altering speed and trueness of the roll. A putter of the proper loft will keep the ball resting on the turf and give it a smooth, uniform roll.
Grip, Weight, and Feel
Feel is one of the most varied factors when choosing a putter. Some prefer the firm feel and enhanced feel that is provided by a milled steel putter. Others prefer the softness of an insert. This is one thing that is based totally on your preferences. Classic milled putters, such as the Studio Select line by Scotty Cameron, give the player a firm roll and enhanced feedback. They also offer precision line control. Insert putters, such as the White Hot XG line by Odyssey, give the player a soft feel and good distance control.
Weight is another preference. Some like their putter to be light so they can control the speed and line of the putt with their stroke, while others prefer a heavier weighted putter that carries itself through the stroke a bit more. Again this is a personal preference, and many combinations of weight and face material are available to the consumer.
The size of the putter grip that you use will also have an effect on how you putt. Smaller grips encourage more wrist movement and release during the stroke, while larger grips tend to keep the wrists in place better through the stroke.
The Fitting Process
Starting at around $25.00, a putter fitting session is some of the best money you can spend at a golf shop. This fee is often applied toward the cost of your new putter, should you choose to order one from the shop. This investment of a few dollars and half an hour of your time will continue to pay dividends far into the future.
The fitting itself is a relatively simple process. The method used will depend on where you have it done, and which pro is doing the fitting for you. Some shops have all sorts of gizmos and gadgets that are used to fit you for a putter. These often include putters with telescoping shafts, mirrored alignment boards, and even gauges to measure wrist action. Experienced pros will often skip all of these and head straight for the practice green. With just a few strokes and a couple of different putters, a seasoned pro can often tell you everything you ever wanted to know about your putting stroke, including which putter would suit you the best. The putter is all about feel, and the only way to truly know which one is best for you is to get out and roll a few balls.
The putter is considered by many to be the most important club in the bag. It is the only club that is used on each and every hole (besides those where you hole out from off of the green). A large percentage of a player's strokes come with the putter. Getting the right putter for your game can be the most valuable piece of equipment that you will ever buy. Drivers and irons come and go, but the putter seems to stick around in the bag much longer. With practice and a proper fit, it can go from your most hated nemesis to your best friend. Why not take the time to make sure it is the right club for you?
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