There are many factors to consider when choosing the right putter. With so many options on the market, it can be a confusing and overwhelming process to handle on your own. If you are serious about improving your game (and your scores), we strongly suggest setting up an appointment with a PGA professional club fitter/putter fitter and heeding their advice.
With so many considerations and factors in finding the right putter for your game, remember that it is an individual process. However, it is always a good idea to understand some of those factors so that you can actively participate in the process with your professional.
There are five tips that will be of great assistance to you on your quest to find "the one."
The Bottom Line:
- Match the Putter to the Putting Stroke: A mismatch between the stroke and the weight and design of your putter can lead to frustration and, more alarmingly, poor putting.
- Deciding on a Putter Head Style: You want the putter head to fit your putting stroke, but you also want confidence in your instrument.
- The Importance of Putter Shaft Length: While there are standard lengths of both male and female putters, if you have a less traditional putting stroke, you may require a different putter shaft length
- Proper Loft: When fitting a putter, the loft and lie angle are the two most important factors in figuring out how much spin your stroke naturally gives the ball
- Lines or No Lines: There are many options with and without markings.
Tip 1: Match the Putter to the Putting Stroke
This is the first tip for a big reason! The average golfer rarely takes the time to do this step in finding their perfect putter. A mismatch between the stroke and the weight and design of your putter can lead to frustration and, more alarmingly, poor putting. The important things here are the face of the putter and the path of the putting stroke. Being able to have someone video your putting stroke on your cutomized indoor mat from "down the line" (down the target line of the golf ball towards the hole) and "face-on" (having the videographer kneel at grip height, about three feet in front of you, facing you) is needed for this step. Look at the videos of a few balls hit in slow motion, if possible, and ask yourself these questions and make a few considerations:
- What kind of path, concerning the target line, does your putting stroke take from start to finish?
- Can it be described as more inside the path-to-outside of the path line? Or is it more straight back straight through?
- Does it look like the putter starts outside the line and then swipes back across the inside during impact?
- Paying attention to what the putter face is doing through the stroke, does it flare open and then close back down? Does it flare open and stay open?
- Can you tell if you are striking the ball on the toe, in the center, or on the heel of the putter face? It is something to consider if this is consistent in one area or the other. You want your natural stroke to produce a roll that is end over end (not wobbly or side to side).
- Different combinations of the putter face and path can produce a quality putt! This is not a one-size fits all scenario.
- Sometimes, the path of your putting stroke will match the path of your full golf swing.
How to Utilize this Information
- If you noticed that your putting stroke path was more outside to inside, a toe-hang putter is likely the best for you as it encourages a more in-to-out stroke path.
- A face-balanced putter, especially a mallet style, is an excellent option if you notice a significant opening of the putter face (and an inside path) in your stroke. If your arc opens up more than four degrees, it pushes the boundaries of being capable of a solid and repetitive motion. This putter style will aid in creating a more straight-stroke style naturally.
- Center-shafted mallet-style putters are helpful if you notice you consistently have off-center strikes. Using this type of putter, your hands are less likely to twist during the stroke.
- As a general rule, the more arc you notice in your putting stroke style, the more toe-weighted your putter should be.
- If your stroke path is straight back and straight through, a face-balanced putter fitting would make more sense.
Tip 2: Deciding On a Putter Head Style
There are many different variations of the two main types of putter heads. But, when picking a putter head during your fitting, you also want to like how it looks when you look down! You want the putter head to fit your putting stroke, but you also want confidence in your instrument.
There are blade putters, which have the more traditional-looking putter head shape of being narrow and longer. Traditionally, they have more control and accuracy on longer putts and are better if you usually putt on faster greens. If you have a slight arc to your putting stroke path, a blade-style putter is a good fit for you.
A mallet-style putter is better suited for a golfer who needs a forgiving putter. This putter will produce a better result if a putt is miss-hit. If you have a straight back and straight-through putting stroke, this is the style of putter head for you. The mallet putter has many variations and sizes, like the TaylorMade Spider, Odyssey White Hot, and Titleist Scotty Cameron Special Select – the list continues. Yes, some are expensive, but the right putter can be worth the investment for better scores!
Tip 3: The Importance of Putter Shaft Length
If you've watched the LPGA Tour in recent years, you've probably seen Michelle Wie's non-traditional putting stance, and if you've watched the PGA Tour, you've probably seen Bryson DeChambeau's putting change. The factors that help determine what kind of putter shaft length is appropriate for you:
- A balanced and centered set-up creates the "triangle" between your shoulders and your wrists on the putter's grip.
- Proper posture is key. You want your eyes over the ball at set-up. The tendency is for the majority of golfers to have them inside that line.
- How tall are you? Where do you hold the putter along the putter grip? Let your arms hang naturally.
Men's standard length putters are between 34-35 inches long, and women's standard length is around 33 inches. If you have a more unconventional method like the pros listed above, make sure that in altering the putter's length, the weight of the putter isn't compromised.
Weight of the Putter
Finding the right putter has a lot to do with the weight of the putter. A heavier putter can have either of the putter head styles (blade or mallet) and is typically better for shortening the length of the putting stroke and helping stabilize the wrists during the stroke. A lighter putter can give you a better overall feel and more control over longer putts. If you get a bespoke putter, the club fitter can expertly match the head weight with the proper length for you. You can have a lighter putter with a long shaft and a heavier putter with a shorter shaft; it is all about finding the right mix for you and your putting stroke!
Tip 4: Proper Loft
The average putter has between 2 and 4 degrees of loft. Most putters have not seen a super slow-motion video of a ball coming off of the putter's face. In that video, Jordan Spieth hits a putt, and the ball has no roll for about 3 inches before it begins to roll forward. It is incredible to realize how much spin is put on the ball on a short putting stroke! A difference you would see in a typical higher handicap golfer with a slow-motion video like that is that after the hit, the ball would have about a foot of backspin before "landing" on the green and then spinning forward. When fitting a putter, the loft and lie angle are the two most important factors in figuring out how much spin your stroke naturally gives the ball. If you have the putter shaft leaning forward at the address, this also affects the loft of the putter. With your new flat stick, you want to give yourself the best piece of equipment that can produce a forward roll off the face of the putter as soon as possible and reduce the amount of backspin that many golfers impart on their putts.
Tip 5: Lines or No Lines
Should you get a putter with an aiming line or dots across the top? Many options have markings, and many options have no markings. You need to know if you see better with your left or right eye in order to line up your putter on the line you want. When we stand behind the ball and look straight down the target line, our eyes make a triangle with the target. If we have a strong eye dominance, when we come to the side of the putt and turn our heads to line up the putter with the target, this line can visually change. It is invaluable to practice this with an instructor or a friend who can double-check your aim for you!
Another critical factor is determining if you are a linear or non-linear putter. A linear putter sees straight lines when reading the putt. For example, they see a straight line 4 inches outside the right side of the hole if the putt breaks significantly from right to left. They can focus on that point and put the ball on the line. A non-linear putter sees curved lines. So with that same putt, the golfer sees the putt enter the hole in a specific spot on the right side of the hole, arcing on a curved line. A linear putter will benefit from a line on the putter and a line drawn on the ball. If fewer lines were on a non-linear putter, it might be easier to see how the putt would curve.
We are all unique, and great putters can look very different from one another! The goal is to find an instrument that works with you and for you, not against you, in applying your putting stroke to the best of its ability.