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.
The putter is by far the most used club in your bag and if you look at any professional tournament, it is almost always the player that putts the best that wins.
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 describes putters that have a face that 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. Face balanced putters will tend to open less on the backswing and close less on the follow-through, which is why they are recommended to players with a straight putting stroke.
Toe Balanced Putters
Toe Balanced putters are putters whose toe wants 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. Toe balanced putters are more inclined to open and close throughout the stroke and are therefore better suited to players with an arc in their putting stroke.
Not all putters are designed to be either face or balanced. Many putters fall somewhere in between, with some degree of toe hang. Golfers will find if they can match their stroke type to the correct balance of putter, they will be more consistent on the greens.
You can find out which type of stroke you have by visiting a golf professional or using a training aid like the iPing putting app.
Putter Head Designs
The oldest and most traditional type of putter is the blade. Using a relatively small head, its classic design was immensely popular in golf from 1900 to 1990 and is still used by players today.
The simple, flat look was easy to produce in the early days of golf club production and the soft hit a blade produced was likable on many types of greens. Traditionally suited to harder, faster greens that require a more delicate touch, 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 was the natural evolution of the blade putter. Long and thin at address, the design was could still be soft and delicate but with added weight in the heel and toe portions adding more consistency and forgiveness.
Made famous by the Ping Anser design of 1966, this shape of putter revolutionized the game and is still used by many of the top players in the world.
Traditionally toe-balanced, the length and design of the hosel means it can be altered to suit almost any stroke type.
Much like large heads in driver design made tee shots more consistent and forgiving, the mallet shaped putter offered the same benefits on the green. With more size to play with, manufacturers often employ various alignments aids and shapes on the rear of the head to help players align to putts better.
The deep design of the putter's head allows manufacturers to have a lower and deeper centre of gravity as well as increasing the Moment of Inertia (MOI), which reduces spins and improves performance on off-centre putts. Therefore mallet putters are usually face balanced and suited to straight strokes
Putter Faces And Inserts
The type of face that you want on a putter depends on what feel your prefer, what ball you use and the speed of greens you typically putt on. For instance, you would not want to use a hard feeling golf ball on fast greens with a firmer 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.
Feel with putting can sometimes be interpreted as sound. To find out how important sound is to you, try putting ear plugs or headphones in when practicing your putting and see how you react to not hearing the sound of the strike. If you prefer less noise, a soft insert may be for you.
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 a hard, yet responsive strike giving the those putters a solid, controlled feel.
One great benefit on a metal-faced putter is the louder noise it produces. 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.
Some metal faced putters also feature milling on the face which makes them feel and sound softer as there is less material in contact with the ball. It may sound odd to have a rough face but it does aid performance, even if the feel is not usually as soft as an insert putter.
Insert Faced Putters
Insert putters are basically metal putters with the metal face replaced with a light-weight non-metal insert. The main advantage of using a light insert is that the weight of the putter can be redistributed and added to the heel and toe of the putter, increasing the MOI and offering more forgiveness.
Many believe the drawback of these types of soft inserts is that they do not produce the sound of a metal face. The majority of insert faces are designed to promote a softer feel than traditional steel, although some modern inserts are designed to replicate the metallic sound and feel of steel in a lighter-weight insert.
The positive side of inserts is that they enable you to play with a firmer cover ball and still have the same level of feel as if you were using a softer ball with a metal face.
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 to allow for a consistent, strong feel. Where the shaft meets the putter head is the hosel and there are a few options:
On heel-shafted putters, the shaft connects directly with the putter head on the end nearest to the golfer.
Centre-shafted putters connect in the same way however they meet the putter in the centre of the head lengthwise. Choosing a centre-shafted putter is largely down to personal preference. 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 strikes and consistent putting. The wrong length of putter can lead to bad posture and inconsistent contact.
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 shaft 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.
In 2013 the R&A and USGA deemed belly or anchored putting methods as illegal and as of January 1st, 2016, this style will not be legal in any sanctioned competition.
It is however important to understand that the technique of anchoring is illegal, not the length of the putter. Many players still prefer to use a longer putter, however using it in a non-anchored technique.
To combat the anchoring ban, some manufacturers have added weight to the grip of longer putters, creating a counterbalanced performance that mirrors closely the advantages of anchoring, however it is legal (for now!).
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.
This method of putting is considered anchoring and thus will also be banned from 2016 onwards.
Unlike all other clubs in your bag, many different grip options are available to your putter. Under the rules of the game, the putter is the only grip that can have a flat edge. Commonly this flat edge is placed facing away from your body, to help guide you to exactly where your thumbs should be on your grip. Manufacturers have developed a host of materials available for putters.
Different sizes or diameters 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 won't get the same level of feel of a standard grip as the vibrations coming up the shaft will be dampened down. So if you are a feel putter or have a stroke that involves a lot of wrist action, then you are more suited to a standard grip.
For more information see our Golf Grip Buying Guide.