Golf Discount’s 2016 Putter Buying Guide
By Bob Gomavitz
What to look for when choosing a new putter:
The club players will use the most throughout a round, the putter, is also the most personal club in the bag. Putters are offered in a wide range of shapes, sizes, grip sizes, lengths, weights, inserts, and colors. Applying some basic putter knowledge will help players immensely when it comes time to choose a new putter.
Getting fit for the proper length putter is very important. Producing a neutral set up, a proper fitting putter allows your arms to hang naturally. A neutral set up is where a golfer’s eyes are over, or slightly inside the ball with their arms hanging naturally. This allows the the putter to release freely and the player to see the line with greater ease.
Over the years putters have become slightly heavier than in the past. Most of the putter heads in today’s market will range from 330 to 360 grams in weight. Some putters even have interchangeable weights built into them for quick adjustments.
The importance of proper loft is that it puts the correct roll on the ball. When a putt is struck correctly it rolls truer and with less bounce. A true, tight roll of the ball helps the ball to stay on its line longer and should equal more putts made. Most putters will have 3-4 degrees of loft, but a player can also affect the loft of the putter with their own hands. A forward press stroke will de-loft the head which is best on faster greens. While some players create additional loft by having their hands behind the blade at impact.
Head Shape and Shaft Positions:
The shape of a putter head and the shaft position vary greatly from model to model and OEM to OEM. By far, the most common shape on the market is the Ping Anser shape. Small variations, be it squared off or rounded edges, and varying points and angles to where the shaft inserts into the head create different types of toe hang, balance points, and hand positioning (which can lead to a built-in forward press).
A proper lie angle will give players the best chance at hitting the sweet spot as often as possible. Consistently hitting the sweet spot provides players better feel and proper distance control. If, for example you are a right handed golfer and your putter’s toe is in the air, chances are that your misses are to the left side.
A wide range of alignment features are available to players to help start the ball on the proper line. Again, this is a very personal feature when choosing a putter, so make sure that you take a look at a few different versions to see what fits your eye best.
Traditionally, the putter face was the same material as the actual head until face inserts came along. When face inserts were first introduced their main purpose was to provide a different or softer feel than what the head material was producing, which tended to be on the firmer side. At that time some players felt that the slightly softer insert provided a better feeling to their hands. These days inserts provide different types of feels and also aid in how the ball rolls off the face.
Face Milling & Grooves:
Many putters these days have incorporated “milling” to the face of the putter. The “milling” depth varies from OEM to OEM, but some say that the deeper milling produces a softer the feel off the face. Other OEM’s have incorporated specially designed grooves to produce a more forward roll off the blade with less skip, which helps the ball roll more true.
An often overlooked feature that is important to address is the balance of the putter head. OEM’s are now informing consumers with this knowledge to help them understand why a certain type of putter stroke will work better with a specific type of head balance. There are basically two types of heads, face-balanced and toe-balanced, better known as toe-hang.
All you have to do to check and see what type of balance your current putter has is to balance the putter in the middle of the shaft on your fingers so that it is parallel to the ground. The face of the putter will either point straight up into the air, or the toe area of the putter will hang down. A putter face that points straight up is face-balanced, and putters where the toe points down is toe-balanced.
Both versions can offer heel-toe perimeter weighting, but the face-balanced versions tend to have a higher MOI, or Moment of Inertia, producing a larger sweet spot and less twist during the stroke. So before you go out and purchase a brand new putter, know what type of stroke you have in order to match up with the proper type of putter.
Face-balanced putters are better for a stroke that moves away from and back to the ball and the attended target line on a straight path. To help the player square up the clubhead at impact, a face-balanced head keeps the head from twisting as much as possible. Face-balanced putters are mainly mallet style, though there are some exceptions to the rule.
Toe-balanced, or toe-hang putters are better for players with a more swinging gate or arc type of putting stroke. This type of stroke opens the toe on the backswing and closes the toe on the forward swing. Toe-balanced putters vary by the amount of toe hang each one has. If you think of a clock, for a right handed player toe-hang putters can hang from 1 o’clock to 6 o’clock. The rule of thumb is the more arc that you have in your stroke, the more toe-hang you will need to help the putter release properly after impact. Toe-hang putters are mainly like the original Ping Anser type of putters and maximum toe-hang putters are mainly called blade or heel shafted putters, where the shaft tends to enter the head in the heel area.
Counterbalanced putters are fairly new to the market and were created as a replacement for belly and long putters, which could be banned in 2016. These putters tend to be longer than standard lengths and have a longer than normal grip. This grip weighs much more than a standard grip weighs, and some counterbalanced putters even have a much heavier head weight, too. So if you normally use a 35” putter, you would look at a 38” counterbalanced putter. Gripping the putter as normal or as close to normal as possible offers max stability during the stroke, and helps players to find a nice balance point between the head and the end of the grip.