You probably get a custom-fitting or spend hours researching before you buy a set of irons or a driver, right? Well, it should be no different for selecting a putter. It might not have the same wow factor as a new driver, but you might find it has a bigger effect on your scores.
Modern putters are incredibly customizable to each individual golfer. There are the obvious differences in the putter head sizes and styles, but you also need to consider the shaft length and location, face material, weighting, loft and grip. We are going to take a look at why each of these factors are important and how you go about selecting the perfect putter for you.
All golfers will have either an 'arced' or 'straight-back-and-through' putting stroke. The difference is sometimes more pronounced, but knowing what type of stroke you have is an important step towards deciding your preferred putter style.
An arced putting stroke is one that moves around the body. The putter head will come inside the target line, but squares up at impact. Alternatively, straight-back-and-through strokes will stay parallel with the target line.
Unsure what putting stroke you have? Try this quick and simple drill:
Get two alignment sticks and place one each side of your putter head, running parallel with your intended target line. Start making your normal putting stroke, but stop at the end of your backswing. Now, take a look at the location of your putter. If you have come over the top of the alignment stick nearest to your feet, then you have an arced stroke. Or, if you have remained within the sticks, you have a straight-back-and-through stroke.
Many golfers have a misconception that a straight-back-and-through putting stroke is significantly better and you should always try to learn this method. This is not true. Instead, just putt using the method that feels most natural to you. After all, some of the best putters in the world have an arced putting stroke - Tiger Woods included!
Modern putters come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, as technology has allowed for manufacturers to experiment with new ways to optimize a putter performance. Most modern putters can fit into two loosely defined styles: blade and mallet.
The blade putter is the most traditional shape with a distinctive thin head. These putters are almost always toe-weighted. This design allows the face to slightly open and close through the stroke more naturally, making it best suited to golfers putting with an arc.
It is worth noting that these putters are less forgiving then larger mallet designs. If you have an arced putting stroke, but struggle with consistency, then you should look for a toe hanging mallet putter.
Any putter with a larger shape than the traditional blade is generally considered a mallet putter. These putters became popular in the 1990s and brands have been experimenting with different shapes ever since. There are seemingly endless options, so try to find one the suits your eye.
Beyond the style, it is actually more important to consider how it is weighted. Does the weight hang in the toe, face or somewhere in between? This is what determines whether it is likely to suit your stroke.
Not sure how a putter is weighted? Simply balance the shaft in the palm of your hand. If the toe of the putter is facing the ground, it is toe-weighted; if the face is pointing skywards, it is face-weighted; in between and it is mid-weighted.
The majority of mallet putters will be face-weighted. These are ideal for straight-back-and-through putting strokes. However, as golfers with an arced putting stroke have gone in search of more forgiveness, toe-weighted mallet putters have also become increasingly popular.
A larger putter head allows manufacturers to add additional perimeter weighting for maximum forgiveness. Plus, there is more room for a larger target line to improve your alignment.
One component of a putter worth considering is whether you prefer a milled putter or one with a face insert. The development of deep milling technology and improvement of face insert materials in recent years have lessened this debate somewhat, but it is still important to know if you have a preference.
Milled putters are made from a solid piece of metal. Some golfers prefer these putters for their firmer feel and noticeable feedback on mishit putts. They can be a good option for accurate putters and golfers that regularly play on fast greens.
Face insert putters replace the putter face with an insert of a different, often lighter, material. These putters will feel softer and be more forgiving. High handicappers that use firmer distance golf balls should definitely choose these putters.
There might not be quite the same options with putter shafts as with your other golf clubs, but knowing what length you need and where you want the hosel located are crucial when choosing the right putter.
Standard putter lengths are between 32-36 inches. There is no definitive guide, but the length is determined by your height, posture and technique. Try finding the length of shaft that allows you to comfortably address the putt with your eyes over the golf ball, but experiment with a few different options.
Some golfers may want to consider longer belly (40-45 inches) or broomhandle (45-52 inches) putter shafts. These alternatives are less popular nowadays, since the rules of golf banned the anchoring technique in 2016, but you will still occasionally see them used on the PGA Tour.
Differing from other golf club designs, putter shafts can be attached to the center of the clubface as well as the heel. Although less common, center shafted putters can help keep the putter face square for golfers with a straight-back-and-through stroke. If you have an arced putting stroke, avoid this style.
Another consideration with the hosel is the amount of offset. Some putters will have a large offset, which puts the shaft ahead of the putter. A large offset can help golfers that struggle with either breaking their wrists or aiming too far right.
Putter grips come in all different thickness and materials. Unlike with other golf clubs, putters are also allowed to have a flat edge for placing your thumbs.
Larger and thicker putting grips have become a popular choice in recent years. These grips are designed to reduce wrist movement within the stroke for better consistency. However, you can lose feel and make the putter head feel too light.
Choosing a putter is an incredibly personal decision. Hopefully we have given you some helpful tips for what might suit your putting stroke, but the most important characteristic for putting is feel. Golf is a mental game and no where is this more apparent than with putting.
Try out different styles, alignment guides, grips, weights and even lofts. Find what seems to work best and make sure you are confident with whatever putter you choose.