12 Simple Rules for Buying a New Putter
“The putter is the most used and most important golf club in your bag. Let me help you buy the best putter for your golf game”
Buying the Best Putter for Your Game: Why I Can Help
During my 26 years as Technical Director of the USGA and working intimately with the R&A Golf Club of St Andrews, I was not only responsible for writing and/or rewriting all the Rules, and developing standards governing equipment (Clubs, Balls, Devices etc.) but made decisions on at least six thousand submissions to determine their conformity to the Rules of Golf. Of these decisions at least one third were related to new putter designs.
Subsequently and after researching the science of putting, I have been exposed to more information about putter design than most designers. I am pleased to be able to share this information with those who are looking for more information whether they are skilled, intermediate or beginner golfers when making a choice about the most used and most important club in the bag — “The Putter”.
Once you have read this article, we have a Free Putting Guide that you can consult that you will find extremely helpful.
Please enjoy and I hope this will provide you with the information you need to make a wise decision. Have fun and putt well.
Rule #1 Do You Really Need a New Putter?
This is tough question because we are inclined to believe that a new putter will solve most of our problems. Ask yourself, “Do I really need another (new) putter or should I learn how to use the one that is presently in my bag?” It is always easier to blame our putter for its erratic or bad performance than it is to be honest about how it is being used.
Some people believe that a putter is an animate object which, has feelings, is temperamental and sometimes misbehaves. We also know that the putter would like to take its rightful place in the bag at all times and be praised for performing well on the green.
With this in mind, when your putter misbehaves; finding a place in the closet for a week — or more – will instill a little discipline resulting in better behavior –in most cases — next time out.
Dragging your putter behind the car on the way back from the course is a little too harsh and may be considered capital punishment, never giving this seemingly innocent implement, a chance to make amends.
If you have never putted well, and don’t get a good vibe whenever you approach the green, this is tragic because up to 45% of your score, and about the same amount of your time takes place on the putting green. We don’t need to go through this distress when we should be enjoying ourselves.
If you decide to buy a new putter
For this reason if you decide to buy a new putter – which I will help you with — you should also consider learning how to use it. I do recommend that a putting lesson may be in order BUT please be careful to make sure this lesson is from a PGA/Frankly Certified Putting Instructor or else you may be adding to your woes rather than resolving them.
If you are unable to find a Certified Putting Instructor (CPI) in your area then consider getting The Fundamentals of Putting (FOP) , book which I wrote, which is a brief but all-inclusive book covering most of what the CPI has learned in becoming certified to teach you how to putt.
I will make frequent reference to this book while helping you choose your putter design and specifically to Chapter 15 “Understanding Your Putter” which covers some issues in more detail than in this writing.
Rule #2 Make Sure your Putter is the Correct Length
Firstly make sure that your putter is correctly fitted. Fitting is simple because 95% of the fitting process is making sure the putter is the correct length.
Set up in your normal comfortable putting posture, bent at the waist with your upper body bent over at about 45 degrees and your eyes directly over the ball. Your arms should be hanging vertically down, straight but not stiff. In this position, grip the putter, and measure the correct length from about ½-inch above your upper hand to the mid-point of the putter sole.
An easy way to check this is to get into your correct posture – eyes over the ball — then make an extreme bend at the waist and grip the putter on the shaft. Slide your hands slowly up the shaft with your arms straight (relaxed not stiff) until you get back into the comfortable putting posture. Gripping the club at this point is the correct length for you. Don’t let your arms bend, because if they do then you have moved too high on the grip.
Most putters off the shelf are about 34 or 35-inches long. The average male golfer should be using a putter between 32 and 34-inches long, and the average female between 30 and 33 inches.
Rule #3 Choose A Head Shape for Forgiveness
With the assumption that you have been playing golf for some time and have a number of putters in the closet – teaching them a lesson – OR you are a beginner, OR getting back into the game and want to make an informed decision about your potential new purchase, you need to understand how the general head shape affects performance.
There are basically three head shapes for conventional length putters.
a) The Blade; b) The Mid mallet; and c) The Mallet (see images below of the Frankly Frog Putters I designed available in each shape)
The Blade is relatively narrow from the face to the back. It is popular for those who have few miss-hits. It is relatively forgiving across the face but not very forgiving on miss-hits up and down the face.
The Mid-mallet has a flange or weight positioned farther back from the face, to move the center of gravity backward. This increases the MOI (Moment of Inertia) about the toe/heel axis and makes this style more forgiving than the blade up and down the face and about the same forgiveness across the face.(Moment of Inertia is a measure of the resistance to angular acceleration –forgiveness)
The full Mallet has much of the weight as far back as possible away from the face either directly behind the face or splitting the weight to the two back corners of the head. The split weights are the most efficient designs, because of the ability to optimize the MOI about two or three axes.
I recommended that you consider a Mallet putter as it has fewer potential sources of error than the Blade style. We don’t need to add sources of error to our putting stroke
Rule #4 Importance of Face Loft
If you were playing golf with Bobby Jones in 1930 when the putting green speeds were – I estimate — about 4-foot on the Stimpmeter then you would need a loft of 8-degrees on your putter like Bobby Jones’ putter called “Calamity Jane”.
(I redesigned a clever device — developed in 1936 to measure the speed of a green — and introduced it in 1977 calling it the Stimpmeter after the individual, Eddie Stimpson, who came up with the concept forty years earlier.)
Today most green speeds are from 7- to 10-feet, so the most effective loft for the putter is between 3 & 4-degrees. This allows you to launch the ball out of the depression it will inevitably find on the green – never mind making its own very slight depression — and prevents it from bouncing off the side of that depression
(Fun Fact: Did you know that after every putt is struck, the ball skids and slides for about 15% of the putt distance before it acquires pure rolling spin.) There is no way that a putt can leave the putter face with pure rolling spin, no matter what some manufacturers imply in their marketing)
Rule #5 Select the Right Lie Angle
Don’t rush into altering the putter’s lie angle to accommodate your putting style or posture. This will prevent you from ever getting into the correct posture and making a good putting stroke.
To fix your stroke, a well-fitted putter with a consistent lie angle of about 72 degrees is crucial, regardless of your height.
The lie angle will be different for a long putter (about 79-degrees) or in some cases a side saddle putter depending on the side saddle style.
Rule #6 Pay Attention to the Sole
Most well designed putters will have a slight radius on the sole from toe to heel. This has proven to be most effective because it prevents the toe or heel of the putter from snagging on an undulating green when the ball is higher or lower than your feet. The radius will also allow the putter to sit at slightly different angles +/- a degree or two, to adapt to slight variations in lie angle due to unusual hand position.
If the putter’s sole lacks a radius or has very little radius, you may tend to place the putter flat on the green, leaving no margin for variations in green contours. This can lead to toe or heel contact with the green surface during the stroke or prevent slight adjustments to maintain a comfortable posture and hand position.
Rule #7 Consider Alignment Lines on Your Putter
Alignment lines are a very good feature to look for when selecting your putter. Most putters have some sort of line or dot on the top-line of the putter to indicate the preferred point — i.e. the sweet spot — opposite which to position the ball at address and hopefully return the head to this position at impact.
Some lines –on blade style putters — are at right angles to the target because there is not enough room to go backward on this style of putter.
Most of us can easily see that a picture is hanging a little skew on the wall. So the right angled line on the top of the putter is helpful.
This line from the toe to heel, does help because we can square the face by positioning this line, at right at right-angles to the target line.
However, the most helpful lines combine a line parallel to the face (as discussed above) with a line at right angles to the face, which you can align directly toward the target. Both mallet and mid-mallet putters will have room for both sets of lines.
Rule #8 Find the Right Weight Putter
The overall weight for a standard length putter is about 530-grams. The head is made of about 350 grams, and the shaft and grip together weigh about 180 grams.
Some designers have tried to convince golfers to use an extremely heavy putter, loaded with weight at the butt end or even with sand down the shaft.
This concept has undergone many trials over the last 75 years. As far as I can remember, having cataloged putter designs since 1948, none of them have endured for an extended period. A change to a “sledge hammer” will slow down your swing and provide more consistency BUT you lose all feel for distance control. As an aside it is also too heavy to carry in your Sunday bag.
There has been a recent trend to back weighting or counter-balancing putters but there is little solid evidence that in improves performance other than for the short lived placebo effect. Generally these putters are about three to five inches longer than the standard 35-inch version and have a longer than a standard grip allowing the golfer to choke down.
If we stick to the standard weight putter that golfers have successfully used for about 300 years, we cannot go too far wrong.
Rule # 9 Grip size and Your New Putter
Grips sizes have changed from what feels comfortable in your hands to larger tennis racquet size grips without a taper. These larger no taper grips are becoming popular but again don’t be caught up in fashion but go for comfort and performance.
This larger non-tapered grip is inclined –because of its size — will help the golfer reduce their grip pressure. This is a good thing, if they can’t take a light grip using the standard pistol grip which fits the contour of the hands better.
A classic pistol grip – fairly thick from top to the underside at the butt end tapering down to shaft size at the bottom. These grips are about 10-inches in length and have stood the test of time. They have a flat side on the top which helps with alignment by feel — a tactile sense.
Most of all the putter grip must feel comfortable in your hands but remember a good stroke will be one with a good rhythm and a light grip pressure will help promote good rhythm (see the book FOP for more details.)
Rule #10 Consider the Cost of Your New Putter
Don’t let the name on the putter influence you. Instead, seek a technically sound design that will assist you in making a better stroke.
Some putters which claim to be handmade will not perform any better than some CNC computer controlled machined versions. It is not the method by which it is made but the design itself.
You should expect to spend about $300 for a good putter, but paying more than $400—unless it’s a very limited edition or bought purely as a collector’s item—is too much, unless you’re getting a custom fit for specific putting styles like the long putter. Cost doesn’t necessarily correlate with performance..
Rule #11 Putter Balance
Unlike other clubs in your bag, a putter has different balance requirements, such as swing weight, MOI balancing, or frequency matching. The putting stroke is unique and doesn’t need to match your other clubs.
The key rule is to use a standard or close-to-standard weight putter. Don’t worry too much about how length adjustments affect balance. Head weight, within a range of 50 grams from 330 to 380 grams, is crucial for performance.
It’s generally easier to adapt to a standard weight putter than to constantly adjust it for your changing physical or psychological factors.
Keep in mind that after 500 years, we should have a good idea of the ideal putter weight.
We have a Free Putting Guide that you will find extremely helpful and you can consult to get you started.
Rule #12 Putter Design and Stroke Path
This is something that you have probably heard people talk about for some time and there are some myths about how to match your putter head balance (toe-down or face-balanced) to your putting path style, such a straight back and through or the arc.
A toe-down putter means that when the putter is placed over two arms of a chair it will settle with the toe pointing down at some angle to the vertical. This will vary depending on the off-set and where the shaft enters the head i.e., heel or center. Most Blade putters will be toe-down to some degree.
The face balanced putter is one which, if placed over the arms of a chair will have the face pointing directly upward toward the sky. If you have a choice, it is suggested that you select a Face balanced putter.
When some manufacturers talk about the swing path, they have some questionable explanations about whether one should use a toe-down balanced putter or a face balanced putter.
My article in the March 2015 issue of Golf Digest exposes for the first time the swing plane in putting. It also explains that the putter should always be square to this plane. It doesn’t matter if the putter is face-balanced or toe-down the fact that it is swinging in this plane and remains square to this plane, is all that matters.
- These 12 Simple Rules for Buying a Putter can guide your next purchase.
- Once you’ve chosen a new putter, improve your skills with “The Fundamentals of Putting.”
- Treat your putter like a fine instrument; keep it covered to prevent damage from other clubs. Wear can affect its appearance and your confidence during putts.
- I’ve advised our students, especially those with a Frankly Frog, to use their putters like a Ferrari, not a tractor.
Have fun and Putt well