There is no doubting that the one area of the game that causes everyday golfers the most amount of stress is putting. Many golf careers have ended suddenly after yet another three putt and there are few sports that can offer the frustration to match putting.
Around 50% of all our shots are putts and the putter is by far the most used club in your bag. If you look at any professional tournament, it is almost always the player that putts the best that wins and not usually the one who can drive it consistently over 300 yards.
However, putter technology like all golf technology is advancing to help us all. New types of putter are re-inventing many golfers games and helping them lead a stress free golfing life.
The following information will inform you on recent technology and help you discover which putter may save you shots on the green.
Types Of Putter
Face Balanced Putters
Face balanced putters are those whose face faces upwards when you balance the shaft on your finger. This will mean that the centre of gravity is directly below the axis of the shaft. Basically meaning it will straighten a putting stroke on the forward motion. This type of balance will suit those who have a straight stroke that goes 'back and through'.
Toe Balanced Putters
Toe balanced putters are those whose toe was points to the ground when you balance the shaft on your finger. This means the centre of gravity is not directly below the shaft axis. This type of balance will suit a player with a in to out to in stroke.
Whichever style you prefer, you will find when you are switching putters it is better to stay with the type of face balance you are using as they require different types of strokes. However, with all this technology, if a putter feels good to you then you should use it, because the most important part of putting is confidence.
Putter Head Designs
The oldest and most traditional type of putter is the blade. Using a relatively small head, its classic design is widely used by players worldwide. The simple flat look offers a large degree of confidence to a player and the soft hit produced is likable on many types of greens.
The safe choice when it comes to putters, they are traditional suited to hard, faster greens that require soft control. Blade putters tend to be face balanced, meaning they will suit a player with a straight putting stroke.
Peripheral Weighted Putters
The peripheral weighted or heel-toe weighted putter is known as the 'Ping-Anser' look after the original version of this style. A common choice with professionals and amateurs the peripheral weighted putter has more of head to it than a blade putter, but this also means it is not face balanced. If you balanced the peripheral weighted putter, the toe would face the ground. Suited to players who have an in to out stroke.
The alternative to the blade putter for many years has been the mallet headed putter. Heavier than a blade putter due to its size, the mallet putter more closely resembles a wood than a conventional putter.
The deep design of the putter's head allows manufacturers to have a lower and deeper centre of gravity that is far away from the face, reducing backspin on your putts. Often with an insert on the face, they promote a soft hit from a large head. Most mallet had putters are face-balanced and would suit a straight through and back stroke.
Putter Faces And Inserts
The type of face that you want on a putter depends on what ball you use and the speed of greens you are used to putting on. For instance, you would not want to use a hard feeling golf ball on fast greens with a hard hitting metal faced putter. You have to try and find the right combination of ball and putter face to match the greens to which you putt on.
Inserts have been added to putter faces in recent technological developments to offer putters a softer feel. The main goal of putter faces is to increase the 'Moment of Inertia (MOI). The MOI is the term applied to a clubhead's resistance to twisting when the ball is struck. For example, your swing is a little off and you hit the ball on the toe of the clubhead. A clubhead with a higher MOI will twist less as a result of the mishit, creating a better chance that the ball will still go straight (or at least not be affected as greatly by the mishit). Each insert or face material has its own benefits and the following section describes exactly what they are:
Metal Faced Putters
The traditional putter face material is steel. Other types of metals have been used in the past and many are still used today: bronze, aluminium, brass, copper, zinc and titanium. The extremely strong and heavy nature of metal suits putter faces very well. Steel has a reputation for soft and responsive feedback giving the putters solid, controlled feel.
One great benefit on a metal-faced putter is the noise feedback you gain. Immediately you can hear the type of connection you made on the ball and this allows you to feel and hear where the centre of your putter is. Softer materials limit this sound.
One new type of putter design involves grooves in a metal-faced putter. The downward C grooves on the face grip the ball when stuck and produce a smoother over-the-top action. Still relatively modern in design, look out for the putter in the future.
Insert Faced Putters
Insert putters are basically metal putters with the metal face replace with a light-weight non-metal insert material. The main advantage of using such a light insert means the weight of the putter can be redistributed elsewhere on the putter face. Therefore the weight is added to the heel and toe of the putter offering a wider area for pure strikes, hence more forgiveness. The insert gives putts a much smoother roll, rather than a hop or a skid by boosting the MOI.
There are many types of insert materials, but essentially they all do the same job. Some are there to reduce the MOI, others to promote a softer feel for use with harder longer distance golf ball to get the same feel as a metal faced putter and a softer golf ball.
The drawback of these types of soft inserts is that they do not produce the sound of a metal and therefore you do not get the sound feedback that a metal putter may offer. Try putting ear plugs or headphones in when practicing your putting to see how important sound feedback is and decide how important that is for you.
Groove Faced Putters
A recent development has been the appearance of grooves on the face of a putter. This may seem to be the last thing you want but there is a reason for this
On any putt, on any green, a putter's impact on the golf ball often results in skidding, sliding, back spinning, and even hopping before the ball can begin rolling on the green. Even when struck on the right line, these effects are the principal causes of missed putts. Therefore, the key to more accurate putting is to achieve forward rolling motion immediately upon striking the ball.
The grooves on a putter face can help achieve this forward motion and keep the ball online. Upon impact with the golf ball the grooves grip the surface of the ball and simultaneously lift the ball out of its resting position and impart an over-the-top rolling action.
Just to complicate matters grooved putters are usually metal faced, but there are now some insert putters that have grooves too. As with all putters, trial and error is the only way to decides what is right for you!
Putter Shafts & Hosels
Putters almost always have steel shafts for maximum feel. Where the shaft meets the putter head is the hosel and there are a few options:
Meaning the shaft connects the putter at the heel (or inside) of the head
Meaning the shaft connects at the centre of the putterhead.
This is a personal preference decision. All golfers pay close attention to the hosel of the putter and some like to have the hosel at the centre to lead the ball towards the hole, others prefer heel-shafted putters that let them guide the putt with the putterhead.
Another variation in some putters is an offset at the hosel. This is when the hosel is bends backwards to move the bottom of the shaft ahead of the face of the putter to draw a player's hands ahead of the ball through impact. Virtually all putters have some degree of offset in them (as do most golf clubs), but the example below is your standard offset, whereas the examples of centre and heel shafted putters shown below have little or no offset.
Finding the right length of putter for your height and stroke is key to producing quality putts. The wrong length of putter can lead to bad posture and inconsistent contact, which is serious trouble when it comes to putting. Recent times have created a debate and divide within golfing circles as to what is the correct or acceptable length of a putter. Putter length is measured from the sole of the putter below the hosel to the top of the shaft. The rules state that a putter must be at least 18 inches long, but other than that there is no maximum limit. Professionals and amateurs alike have tested with everything from small putter, to chest putters, to putters that rest on your chin and to the most common oddly sized one in today's game, the belly putter. The following information suggests the possible advantages of different lengths of putter.
Traditional Length (32-36 inches)
Still the most common length of putter although not as dominant as it has been, the standard 33-36 inch putter helps create a pendulum swing in your putting stroke. Acting as an extension of your arms, it should be the perfect height to allow you arms to simply hang down and grip. This enhances a player's ability to use a pendulum-like stroke to give the putt as true a roll as possible.
Belly Putter (41-46 inches)
The latest craze in the golf world has definitely been the introduction of belly length putters. The belly putters bring stability to the putt by creating a third point of contact. The three points are the two hands and the belly. The putter can be anchored against the body, thereby not changing the posture of the golfer. The wrist action is easier to control as the dynamic of the swinging motion is altered by the length of the putter. The main disadvantages with a belly putter are centred on distance control and feel. It requires the golfer to use more large muscles and fewer small muscles during the putting stroke. This typically requires additional practice to develop the necessary feel for distance control.
Long Putters (48-52 inches)
By far the least common of the three is the long or 'broomhandle' putter. Varying between resting above the belly button, the chest, or even the chin these putters differ from even the belly putter. They require a complete change in grip to belly putters and traditional putters which can be used with the normal putting grip. Most players grip the club with their left hand holding the putter into their body (thumb up) and the right hand working as a claw in the middle section of the putter to pull and push through the line of the putt, like a pendulum. This makes the entire stroke of long putter in the power of the right hand. This is a tough skill to master and one that is increasingly hard to perform in the wind. Which is probably why we only see a few top-level pros adopting this method.
Anchoring of Putters
None of the above putter lengths will become illegal from 1 January 2016, but to anchor them against your body will be. Read our blog for more information on the change in anchoring rules for putters.
Unlike all other clubs in your bag, many different grip options are available to your putter. The putter is the only grip that, under the rules of the game, can have a flat edge. Commonly this flat edge is placed facing away you body, to help guide you on exactly where your thumbs should be on your grip. Manufacturers have developed a host of materials available for putters.
Different sizes are also offered to improve your ability on the greens. A thicker grip helps take your hands and wrists out of the stroke, which is what golfers seek to do to improve their putting. The drawback of a thicker grip is that you wont get the feel of a thinner grip and if you are feel putter or have a stroke that involves a lot of wrist action, then you are more suited to a thin grip.