Pick your Weapon: How to Choose a Putter

Dan Gold
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Choosing a Putter – 3 Easy Steps

In the last post, I discussed the importance of having the right golf putter as part of your game. By now you’ve done the research, you’ve scrolled through some of the top rated putters on Amazon, read more than a few reviews, and you’re most likely insanely confused. It’s one of the most confusing steps in learning how to choose a putter. How to narrow it down to just one?

Luckily for you, I’ve put in the work for you.

Yes, I play a lot of golf in the back yard. But I’m just a normal guy and I’ve learned my lessons the hard way. What I’ve done is pulled out 11 of the most popular putters out there, listed the pros and cons of every one of them, and shared my personal take on them.

Putter selection is important. A comfortable putter will get the job done better than ones you can’t adjust to.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Style of Putting

The first thing you want to figure out when picking a putter is figure out how you like to putt. The three main styles are:

Ball-first: The ball-first putter places the ball over the dominant eye. When the putter face is square, the ball will be at the top of the inclined plane.

Face-first: The face-first putter places the putter face over the dominant eye. This is the same plane regardless of whether the putter is on its heel or toe.

Stroke-first: The stroke-first putter makes the club fixed with the shaft parallel to the inclined plane. This style has the ball and putter face on the same plane.

Random putters are those that don’t conform to any of the above styles.

Identifying Your Putting Stroke

Swinging a putter to a smooth, pure and reliable roll is an art. It is also a struggle. The sensation and feeling of it is difficult to explain and only a few can grasp it.

But you probably want to be in that group. You know, the ones laughing at the others while they wait on the putting green. I know I am.

Swinging a putter is a touchy subject. It feels good to learn that some of the best putter golfers fail 50% of the time. And that some golfers practice more putting than they play.

And that even the best golfers in the world have an unexplainable spell during which they feel like a rookie.

Then again, if you are a pro, the first time you hear that your putting stroke is anything but perfect, will not be a good time, I assure you.

So, what is the right putting stroke? How should you initiate your stroke? And how short should your putting stroke be?

The short answers are:

There is no right putter putting stroke because there is no single type of putter putting stroke.

Your putter stroke should be as short as possible (as a golf fan might say, “Keep the stroke long!”).

Arc Stroke

Putter face loft is the most critical factor when it comes to choosing the right putter. It is the angle of the putter face to the ground at address.

Putter face loft is commonly expressed as a number. A higher number indicates a higher loft. For example, a putterface loft of 2 has a much higher loft than a putterface loft of 4. You can find putterface loft numbers on the heads of putters these days.

The loft of your putterface determines the type of ball release that you get. An arc stroke produces a high arcing ball release that sees the ball climb on its way into the hole. A roll stroke produces a low arcing ball release that sees the ball kissing the ground on the way into the hole.

Higher putterface loft (6 and 8) produces a roll stroke, lower loft (2 and 3) produces an arc stroke.

Here’s a quick visual guide to understand putterface loft:

Be sure to take note of the stance that each player uses in the image above. A higher putterface loft is used to maintain a certain ball position at the bottom-of-the-stroke and to achieve the preferred arc-to-roll ratio. It is also worth noting that your putterface loft should become flatter as you move from the back of the green to the hole.

Straight Back – Straight Through

When choosing a driver, you usually take several factors into account. You want one that suits your eye, gives you the distance you need, and is conducive to your game. But a putter is a different story. You can’t decide what your game needs when you have yet to develop it.

The key word is consistency. A good putter should help you make consistent and solid contact with the ball. What’s the sense of shooting a low score if you do it on one lucky day and then routinely shoot higher scores the rest of the time?

A good putter will help complete your basic bag set and give you some consistency, so that your game can develop. When it comes to putters, the best advice is to keep it simple. Stick with a straight back, straight through putter if you’re starting out. Once your game improves, you can start looking at more advanced putters.

Step 2: Pick The Right Head Shape

The shape of the putter head is essentially what gives putters their personality. However, rather than looking like something out of a cartoon, the head’s profile is what ought to determine a putter’s personality.

The most widely recognized profiles are blade-shaped, mallet-shaped and the rounded off, or “small” head. Here’s a quick run-down of what each profile offers you:

Bladeheaded putters (Fig 1)

The shape of blade-headed putters is long and thin and gives you an in-line alignment. They are most commonly paired with a heel-toe putter shaft for increased stability and keep your posture as straight as possible. The idea is to feel the stroke as a continuation of the set up.

Mallet-Bodied Putters (Fig 2)

The mallet-shaped putter head accelerates the roll and makes the ball pivot around its lowest point on the face. One of the things that make the club head feel bigger is its large size, which helps aim naturally.

In relation to the short putters becoming so prevalent in the present game, the mallets are still the better of the long putters to aim and they can work well on the back nine where distances are more challenging.

Blade

The design of a putter blade is often the reason why people prefer one over the other. You can broadly classify them into two types.

Balls

The design of these is similar to the blade of a ball. The face is almost flat. They are considered the easiest to use. You just need to close your eyes and swing, and you’re good to go!

These putters are mostly used for putting practice. They are less used for long putts. Balls are sometimes used in Europe.

The design of these is similar to the blade of a ball. The face is almost flat. They are considered the easiest to use. You just need to close your eyes and swing, and you’re good to go! These putters are mostly used for putting practice. They are less used for long putts. Balls are sometimes used in Europe. Blades

These putters are really used for long putts. They are designed to give you better control and precision. The face is more curved and sometimes has grooves. The groove is used to guide the ball and add control to the ball.

Blades are preferred by professional golfers and hence, Blades are usually used in professional games!

Mallet

Start by placing the bead on the end of the shaft and applying a thin coat of epoxy. When the epoxy dries (typically about 15 minutes), you can begin to putt the shaft into the head. Align the shaft so that the putter’s toe is pointed straight toward the ground, and align the front edge of the head with the back edge of the shaft.

Spray the shaft and the back of the putter head with your bottle of contact cement. Let the cement dry for the recommended drying period, and then begin pushing the shaft into the head. Take your time as you push the head onto the shaft. If you are inexperienced at putting together putters, you may want someone to help you hold the shaft and head together while the glue dries.

High MOI

High MOI putters provide stability by increasing the moment of inertia (MOI), or the resistance to a change in the club head’s direction.

This is done by increasing the club head’s mass or by reducing the flexibility of the shaft.

High MOI putters essentially have larger heads than traditional mallet heads, but many blade designs also come with a centrally located counterweight, which is often paired with a long hosel-adjusted shaft and a large aluminum face insert.

Using these putters allow you to feel your hands and arms directly engaged with the ball when you hit it. This type of putter is designed to deliver a more powerful hit and to improve ball accuracy.

Step 3: Find the Right Putter Shaft

With so many putter options available, your search for a new putter might seem to have no end. Now let’s focus on how to find the ideal length for your putter.

Pick a Length that Fits You

The first consideration when searching for the right putter is your personal height and length. While the length rules are pretty simple, you can choose from a variety of lengths. A few simple rules to follow when selecting your putter length:

Generally, the shorter the putter length, the more precision and control you will have, while the longer the putter length, the more control and stability you will have.

Longer putters are more forgiving on your hands, which makes them the choice of experienced players.

High handicaps should read a putter that’s 1 to 2 inches shorter than traditional lengths. Long putters can help in compensating for lower-body movements that often occur with higher handicaps.

Lastly, don’t fear length. Just like shirts that are one or two sizes bigger, some golfers prefer to use longer putters because it allows for a few extra inches to steady their hands.

Center Shaft Putters vs. Heel Shaft

If you are a long-time golfer, you might find it interesting to know that the center shaft putter design has been around for over 150 years. The very first center spinning putter design was the heel-toeing, which was produced over 150 years ago.

This design was used for a long time across the world but gradually went away, until it was revived by the American Golf Company in the latter half of the 20th Century.

However, as the heel shaft putters gained popularity, the center shaft putters were again phased out. It was, therefore, not surprising that the center shaft putters started to look outdated – a design that was not as functional as can be.

But around the 1970s, some designers started to tinker with the design of center shaft putters until it became one of the most preferred models in golf.

So, What's the Difference Between the Center Shaft and Heel Shaft Putters?

The heel shaft putter design is where the grip of the club is attached to the long end of the shaft, which is known as the head of the club. On the other hand, the center shaft putter design is where the grip is attached to the short end of the shaft, which is known as the handle.

Length

You will always see putters in three different sizes. If you are getting a conventional putter, the one with a mallet head, then you will see they come in 3 lengths Small mallet, Large mallet and the mid mallet.

It all comes down to the size of your palm. The larger your palm the bigger putter you can grip. The smaller your palm then the smaller putter you can use.

Different sizes of putters will have different functional heads. A large head is used for sinkers and wind putts. A middle head is used for straight line putts, and a smaller head is used for running putts.

With so many styles of putters out there it all comes down to personal preference. If you are just starting out then I would recommend going to a pro shop and try a few out for yourself before you buy.

Other Factors

The price of the putter is a definite factor to bear in mind. Most people don’t want to break the bank on a new putter. You don’t always have to be wary of cheaper putters as there are many high-quality models that are priced well and will get the job done for most.

A nice weighting is also desirable. As mentioned before, your putter should be weighted towards the heel so it is balanced evenly. However, the weighting of the putter does not only apply to the actual putter.

The shaft weight also plays a part in this as well. Weighted putters, typically allow for heavier shafts, and if you don’t mind the extra weight, it comes in handy for those who don’t have the golf strength to swing the more lightweight putters.

Then there is the material of the shaft. Graphite, steel, and composite shafts are available, and each of them has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Graphite is a very light material, but it also puts some golfers off as it feels plastic-like. On one hand, composite shafts are very pleasing to hit, but it is also vulnerable to breaking.

Then there is the one material that is advantageous to most amateur golfers … the steel shaft.

Putter Face

The center of gravity in a golf putter will always be offset to some degree. The way the weight is distributed in the head of the putter, the type of head construction (things such as a steel or composite face), and the type of shaft are probably the key variables that lead to the center of gravity in a putter head.

Face balance is another factor that, when combined with the center of gravity, lead to the type of feel a golfer finds on a particular putter.

The words "face to lead" are used to describe a putter head that is not perfectly balanced. This means that the majority of the weight is in the face of the putter when the putter is standing upright. Conversely, a putter is described as "face to toe" when the majority of the weight is balanced so the head is upright with the toe resting on the ground.

Long Putter vs. Short Putter?

If you look at professional golfers hitting putts, you’ll notice one thing: their stroke is similar with every club.

No matter what they are hitting … driver, fairway wood, hybrid, 3 wood … they all have a slight knee bend, and they all use the putting stroke.

So how is it possible to play the short game differently with a putter as opposed to other clubs?

There are two general rules of thumb for putting that we’ll discuss.

{1}. On long putts, you will address the ball with your feet set and your hands ahead of the ball.
{2}. On short putts, you will address the ball with your hands ahead.

Most people who try to play the short game with a putting stroke instead of simply aiming have a difficult time making the swing fluidly.

However, this is a good way to experiment with the putting stroke so you know what it feels like.

For most people, it’s best to simply think about the putting stroke as a normal swing, but one that’s over quickly.

Tapping your feet as you walk through your putt and taking a few practice strokes will help you get the hang of it.

Loft and Lie Angle

Just as there is a relationship between your height and leg length, there is a relationship between what you’re comfortable with and what comes naturally to you. The same is true for the angle of the putter and the length of your putter.

A good tip to keep in mind is to always check the specs of the putter before going with comfort.

The long drivers used for almost every type of drive are usually around 45-degrees.

So if you are more comfortable with a club that falls about 45-degrees, you should try a putter that falls around that same degree.

The lie angle is the angle between the neck and the shaft.

Essentially, lie angle measures how straight a clubhead is. The greater the lie, the straighter the club, though it will reduce control.

When you’re putting, control is the difference between a long lag putting stroke and sinking the putt. It’s therefore best to find a putter with a slightly greater lie angle of 1-4 degrees to give you more stability.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a higher degree of lie angle that is designed to let you swing a putterhead through a larger arc, giving you more distance.

Alignment (Target Line)

The target line is the aim of the golfer. It points straight to the hole. Most players align their putter face along the target line to the point where they want their ball to go, as long as it's within the width of the club. That's normally a good strategy; however, in no-limit stroke play, a scoring expert and instructor, Dick Renner, prefers a right-to-left alignment along the target line to help prevent the clubface from opening during the stroke.

To implement his method, place the putter face to the right of the target line. That lets force you to swing the putter back to the left to create a directionally closed clubface that can't help but stay square to the ball at impact.

There's not much important if you align the putter face on a target line or you create a right-to-left alignment as long as you're consistent. However, a strictly left-handed golfer will have difficulty to align the putter face to the right of the target line because the left arm will hamper the right arm movement.

Weighting

Putters vs. Putters with Lie-Shape

You should always base your choice of putter on the putter’s face angle, length, and weight. Lie-shape has little to no role in how a putter performs.

Often, you will see putters with a square face and other with a heel-and-toe design. Both are ergonomically designed to reduce stress on the hands and wrist by distributing the weight across the entire length. And putting with both layouts feels different. The heel-toe design is a square, but shallower face with rounded edges. The term heel-toe refers to a horizontal line created by the center of the club face.

And there is also a different feel between the heel-toe design and the traditional blade that comes with a square face.

While heel-toe putters look cool, the traditional blade design is more consistent, especially if you have the proper technique.

If you train with the same putting technique with your blade putter, you should be able to make great contact using a heel-toe design.

There are also some intentionally heel and toe putters that feature a little more heel and toe piece of metal sticking up from the base of the heel-toe face.

The higher heel results in an even steeper angle allowing the ball to start rolling earlier.

FAQs

Whether you are a PGA or amateur, here are some frequently asked questions on putting.

How long should I practice my putting every day?

If you want to be a PGA player in the nearest future, you need to practice putting 3 to 4 hours every day.

However, if you are not in the golf tour and want to play golf just for fun and leisure, then you can practice putting 15 to 20 minutes per day.

How often do I need to readjust my putting stroke?

If you notice your ball not going to the hole smoothly, or you just feel your putting stroke is off track, it is advisable to start practicing from the beginning. Do not tackle putting again right away if you feel the stroke is not smooth.

After playing a 9 or 18 holes of golf, should I readjust my putting stroke?

After you finish the 18 holes of game, do not readjust your stroke, but try to feel the stroke that you did in the second or third hole. This can help you notice if you are gripping the putter hard or if you are too strong in your stroke.

What practice routine can I do in the morning before I play?

What is the best putter for an average golfer?

While you can build a whole bag of clubs around one type of putter, most golfers in the U.S. use more than one type.

Using the right putter for the right shot is equally important as picking the proper putter for your stroke.

Based on your playing style and overall game, you should choose the putter that best suits you.

While it’s important for new golfers to learn how to use a mallet putter for a smoother stroke, an average golfer should choose the right putter that brings down the number of putts they make.

Golfers who use a mallet putter should choose the right mallet putter:

If your stroke is extremely smooth and you’re able to hit the ball within a limited area, the advantage of a mallet putter is that it gives you a consistent contact no matter where the head is pointed.

But if you have poor striking skills or you cannot restrict your contact area, mallet putters can make your game worse. They can make your hand, wrist, and forearm muscles weak because it’s easier to use one motion “ the bigger muscles of the shoulders and chest ” to make contact.

What is the proper putter length for my height?

To choose a putter, you need to take a close look at the hole you’re playing and your playing style. Is the distance short and straight-forward, or do you need to make a tricky downhill putt?

How far will you need to make a putt?

Do you rely more on your accuracy or power?

Do you prefer hitting putts face-on or do you prefer angling a little bit?

Now you know the important details you can use to pick the ideal putter length for you.

The standard putter length is 35”. Now if you are, say, 5’3” tall, you are going to have a hard time using a 35” putter. Stepping over it will be a struggle. And using a very short putter (30”) will have a more negative impact on your putting than a positive one.

Correct putter length should feel just right, neither too short nor too long. The adjustable length feature on newer putters allows you to set the length to the length that’s best for you.

What’s the best putter for beginners?

If you are a beginner golfer, your fund will not extend to a state of the art putter. But how do you get a good putter without spending a lot of money?

You could very well walk into a sporting goods store and blindly pick the first putter you see. But let’s be honest: just because it’s shiny and beautifully designed, doesn’t mean it’s the best putter for your needs.

Think about your skill level and the way you play before starting shopping. Once you have it figured out, you can proceed to the next step.

If you want to spend borderline professional money, you should probably do some research about the putters you are considering. For example you might want to try a putter at different times of the day to figure out whether it’s a true feel putter.

Another factor you can take into account is whether or not you have a low backswing or a high backswing and if you’re a right or left handed player. This is something you want to keep into consideration when you’re looking for your first putter before deciding if you should buy it.

Should you use a fat grip?

I’m a big fan of training with a fat grip. If your hands get small calluses (they’re supposed to; it’s indicative of increased hand strength) then it all feels a bit “un-natural” at first.

Over time though, your hands build up and your grip strength and, most importantly, your muscle memory adjusts.

I have made the switch to the fat grip and now play with a standard 100% grip, where I have always played before with a 70% grip. I am fully acclimated to the fat grip. It’s my suggestion that you give it a solid try if you’re having trouble gripping your club.

Don’t let the club slip.

Once you find a grip that works for you, don’t let the club slip. This is a common problem among golfers. They’re holding the club and their hands are gripping the handles, but their grip is less than solid.

When this happens the individual will start to grip and release more than is required. When this motion continues for a long period of time, it will create an injury to the golfer.

Are mallet putters more forgiving?

One of the most controversial topics in golf today is mallet putters. In my almost 10 years of playing with a mallet, I’ve put in more work on getting used to it—and developing skills with it—than any other club in my bag.

Is the mallet putter really more forgiving?

To answer this question, we need to take a look at what makes a golf putt a success. The ability to arrive at the ball with the putter on a nice, straight line is the most important factor.

The width of the stance also has a direct impact on the chances of achieving a straight stroke. When you take a wide stance, it is very difficult to keep the putter on a straight line.

On the other hand, with a long stance, keeping your putter on a straight line is much easier to achieve. This is why most people find the mallet putter to be more forgiving.

Another advantage of a mallet putter is that it allows you to line up your putt while being inside the putting circle. This comes in very handy when you are lining it up on the putting green.

What is a stand alone putter?

If you watch some of the top of the line pro golfers around the world, some of the best ones are using putters that are totally different from the ones that they started with. In fact, some are using putters that you might think they got custom made for what they use them for. These putters are totally different from what you would see in the local golf shop. Callaway, Lamkin, TaylorMade Pings, and others are coming out with putters that are made for one thing. They are made to have less milled area and more weight.

Do expensive putters make a difference?

If you want to be a successful golfer, you need to master the short game. The short game is used on 50 to 60 percent of each drive. In addition to that, putting accounts for more than half of the strokes in a round of golf.

That’s why building a good short game is both important and difficult. You need not only be able to sink a lot of short putts, but you also need to learn how to make long putts effectively.

So if you want to get better at golf, what is the first thing you should learn?

Many golfers think it is chipping or pitching. They are wrong. While it is one of the important aspects of the game, anyone can learn chipping and pitching quickly.

Next comes one of the most underappreciated and overlooked aspects: putting.

If you have played golf before, you know how important putting is. It is the one aspect of golf that anyone can get better at, and it only takes a few sessions on the driving range or putting green.

The way I look at it, you can either spend a lot of money on expensive lessons with your pro, or you can spend the same money on a putter which should help you finish your round on the green every time.

After all, it makes no sense to spend hours chipping and pitching only to lose it on the green.

Wrapping Up

The best way to learn the golf swing is to receive help from an experienced golf teacher. That’s why it’s important to scout out golf schools in your area if you’re just starting out.

Just like anything else, the more you practice, the better you’re going to be. The more time you spend practicing, the more money you’re going to be spending on balls and golf tees. And the more money you waste on golf balls, the more pressure you’re going to feel to start improving.

The joy of golf comes from spending the time outdoors. It’s a peaceful and relaxing sport that can help you socialize with friends. As you’re getting better, golf is going to become more competitive. That’s fine because you’re striving to improve.

As you learn how to practice, it’s important to practice first for getting better and then practice when you need to prepare for a tournament. If you gauge your practice based on how much time you need to prepare, you’ll never have fun playing golf.