The Ultimate Guide to Golf Putters
Doubtless, you’ll agree that the green is one of the most stress-inducing parts of any round on any golf course. So, when you’re on the proverbial dance floor, success will depend mostly on you and your preparedness, but having the best gear also helps (if for nothing else, then at least to make you more confident in your abilities). To help you in this regard, we decided to make the ultimate guide to golf putters and help you three-putt less.
Be advised, however, if you’re a seasoned veteran, you might find the start of it a bit dry, since it’s intended for the absolute novices. So, if you feel you don’t need the basics, feel free to skip to juicier sections down below. Enjoy the read!
What is a Golf Putter?
A putter is a club used by golfers to play short and low speed strokes. Golf putters play the sole purpose of helping golfers roll the ball into the hole from a relatively short distance. The putter is also one of the very vital clubs in a golfer’s bag.
Types of Golf Putters
We can divide golf putters in a number of ways, but the most obvious place to start is according to their head design (this is something even absolute novices and non-adepts can wrap their heads around).
There are two main types – blades and mallets. The number increases to four if we count the peripheral-weighted and mid-mallets, which are merely subtypes of the blades and mallets.
Another way to categorize putters is according to where their Centre of Gravity (CG) lies. If we go by this criterion, there are two types of flat sticks – face-balanced putters and heel-balanced putters.
We’ll kick off this guide with explaining the different putter head designs and how they impact your short game. As mentioned above, there are four (technically, only two) types – blades, peripheral-weighted, mallets, and mid-mallets.
Whether you go for one type or the other will depend largely on your stroke. Painting with a broad brush, there are two types of strokes here – SBST (or straight-back-straight-through, aka “screen door”) and arc (aka “pendulum” swing), as well as a myriad of in-betweens.
Blade putters get their name from their shape – they feature a small head quite reminiscent of a blade. Obviously, this is the oldest and the most traditional type of putters.
If you’ve ever played any mini-golf course with the sorry excuse for flatstick you’re issued there, you have a pretty good idea what a blade putter is. Admittedly, this is a rather simplistic take on it, as blade putters can come with some pretty sophisticated technology and high performance to them.
This type is more popular with golf traditionalists and/or folks who prefer arc strokes and feedback over forgiveness. Also, more often than not, a blade putter will be face-balanced (it’s exactly what it sounds like, more on that shortly), which is helpful if your stroke is straight.
This type of flatstick features a blade-shaped head, which promotes a soft and gentle touch. However, unlike traditional blades, peripheral-weighted putters also feature additional weight in the heel and toe parts of the head, which allows them to give you more consistency on your strokes, as well as enhanced forgiveness (to a degree).
Thanks to their design, these flatsticks lend themselves to alterations that make them suitable to all stroke types.
Just like blades, mallet putters derive their name from their shape. However, the key distinction, besides the looks, is the increased forgiveness. Of course, one mustn’t forget the fact that the large head of a mallet will invariably look more confidence-instilling than the thin blade head.
On that note, the larger heads also lend themselves particularly well to all manner of alignment aids, which makes the look at address even more reassuring.
Mallet putters owe the increase in forgiveness largely to the head shape, which goes a long way to lowering the Centre of Gravity and moving it to the back. This, coupled with the increased MOI (Moment Of Inertia), allows them to reduce backspins and make even off-centre hits usable. Traditionally, mallets are face-balanced to better complement a straight stroke.
Mid-mallets are exactly what it reads on the tin – smaller-size mallets. They’re not quite as high-MOI as full mallets, but they do come with a nice balance between feel and forgiveness, at the same time having enough space for a decent amount of visual cues to help with aligning the putt.
Another way to categorize putters is according to where their Centre of Gravity lies, as we mentioned earlier. According to this criterion, there are two types (and a number of in-betweens) – face-balanced and toe-balanced putters.
Face-balanced putters are designed for golfers who take straight putt shots, with little or no arc. The reason for this is that due to their design (the CG is right below the shaft axis) they tend to stay squared through the stroke, opening less on back-swings and closing less on follow-throughs.
How do you know if you have a face-balanced putter on your hands? Well, conveniently enough, by holding it in your hands. Try to balance the shaft, with it running parallel to the ground. To find the balance point, simply move your finger up and down the shaft until you find it, and then check out the clubface. If it’s flat and facing skyward, then the flatstick is face-balanced.
Unlike their face-balanced counterparts, toe-balanced putters are much better used for arced strokes and should appeal to more advanced players. This is because their Centre of Gravity is shifted from below the shaft axis, which promotes the ability to open it on back-swing and close it on the follow-through.
The way you check if your flatstick is indeed toe-balanced is by literally balancing it on your index finger and checking out which way the clubface is pointing. If it faces anywhere but upwards, you have a toe-balanced putter. Some will face downward only slightly, others more fully, and the degree to which they do will tell you how much they open/close through the stroke.
Anatomy of a Golf Putter
Much like any other golf club, the putter too comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, with numerous features. In fact, the variation of golf putters on the market today outweighs all the other golf clubs. If you’re new to golf or just want to brush up on the topic, feel free to read on.
When shopping for a new putter, your first instinct will probably be to look at the clubhead (after looking at the price tag, of course). All jokes aside, though, the head is indeed the most crucial component when it comes to putters and golf clubs in general, so it’ll feature the most sophisticated technology.
Typically when discussing the weight of a putter, we’re actually talking about its head. Some golfers may refer to the weight of the shaft and grip as “dead weight”, and it’ll contribute a relatively small portion of the overall weight.
Again typically, a putter head will weigh in anywhere between 330 and 380 grams (about 11.6 to 13.4 in ounces), though there are specialty putters that weigh well over that number.
The rule of the thumb here is that the more weight, the calmer your hands and wrists get. Also, though it sounds counterintuitive, heavier putters actually perform better on faster greens than their lighter and standard counterparts.
As far as the clubface goes, putters will have a standard loft of about 3.5 degrees (though, interestingly enough, many PGA tour pros have started playing higher lofts). However, the true magic isn’t in the loft angle, but the material of the face, and there are three major categories according to this criterion – metal face putters, insert putters, and grooved putters.
Metal face putters are pretty much what it reads on the tin (no pun intended) – they’re the oldest and most traditional type out there. More often than not, the face will be made of steel (usually 303 stainless to maximise its longevity), but the OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) will occasionally use other metals and alloys, such as aluminium, brass, bronze, copper, titanium, or zinc.
Such faces are invariably hard and quite responsive, which appeals to more advanced players. On that note, they’re also quite a bit louder, which might put off some golfers. They’re also somewhat less forgiving on mishits than the other two types, but that’s the part and parcel of playing with a putter where feedback is preferred over forgiveness.
Insert putters are pretty much the same as metal putters, only with one key distinction – instead of having a solid metal face, they feature some sort of insert. These days, the most popular choice is a composite insert with a layer of the same elastomer that goes into making soles on top-performing athletic shoes.
Inserts go a long way to increasing the putter’s MOI by redistributing weight to the periphery, thereby increasing forgiveness by a considerable margin. That said, the sound at impact is oftentimes rather dull and not much informative, especially in non-metal inserts.
Grooved faces are the newest kid on the block, so to speak, and they’re exactly what they sound like. There are as many groove patterns as there are OEMs, but they all have the same purpose – to keep the ball from skidding and backspinning, as well as keeping its speed consistent across the face so as to increase forgiveness and optimize distance control.
It’s worth noting that Odyssey has developed an even newer type of putter face, called microhinge. This face consists of about a hundred tiny little hinges (hence the name) which grab the ball and send it rolling faster.
The shaft is arguably the second most important part of the putter, but the considerations about features and specs are more straightforward than is the case with putter heads.
The first thing you’ll notice about a putter shaft is the length. Most OEMs will make three types – standard putters, belly putters, and long putters (aka broomstick). The former range from 31 to 34.5 inches in length and should suit all manner of golfers in regards to height. The latter two are somewhat longer, with belly putters ranging from 38.5 to 54 inches and broomsticks running anywhere from 45 to 54 inches.
Now, you may well be aware of the anchoring ban that came into effect in January 2016, which forbids, well, anchoring the putter on your belly, chest, or any other part of your body, for that matter. However, this still doesn’t mean that belly and long putters are illegal – it’s the method that’s banned, and not the putter.
Shaft weight depends largely upon the material that is used in making it, and will be closely related to its flex for this reason (flex being the shaft’s ability to bend when force is applied). Speaking in sweeping categories, there are two types of shafts in this regard – steel and graphite, with the former still massively outnumbering the latter.
Steel shafts will be more informative, albeit it somewhat heavier than their graphite counterparts. Conversely, graphite shafts are considerably lighter, which is great as it allows the manufacturer to pack more weight in the head and keep the overall weight within optimal limits.
Graphite shafts are also stiffer and less responsive, which isn’t necessarily something you’d want in a putter. Either way you go about it, you’ll have to make a trade-off, so consider your stroke and what it needs.
As you probably already know, the vast majority of putter shafts connect to the head near the heel, but there is a growing market of putters where the shaft is connected near or at the center of the head.
Shaft position in a putter is more or less a matter of personal preference – if you play SBST strokes, you might want to go for a center-shafted model, but if you’re more of an arc putter, you’ll find more use in a heel-shafted one.
Typically, the shaft will be connected to the head via the hosel, which is a part of the clubhead and integrated into it. The way the shaft connects to the head is by sliding into the hosel, which is then sealed using epoxy.
There are several types of these connections, which impinge upon the amount of offset the putter has. For example, the famed plumber-neck or plumber’s neck is characterized by a single horizontal bend at the point where the hosel and the shaft meet. It typically brings medium offset, which helps with keeping the hands ahead of the ball (promotes forward lean).
Another type of connection is the so-called flare-tip, or shaft-over, which means the shaft covers the hosel at the point where the two meet. Putters with this connection will usually have slight to no offset, and should appeal to golfers who prefer rotating the putter open on the backswing and shutting it on the follow-through.
You’d be surprised how many golfers consider putter grips more of an afterthought than a crucial feature of their flatstick. According to the USGA regulations, putter grips are the only ones that can feature a flat edge, which will as a rule be fitted so as to face away from your torso. This way, the grip itself guides your thumbs to a natural position.
There are many different types of putter grips, but painting it with a broad brush, we can divide them into paddle and pistol grips according to the shape, slim, standard, and oversized according to the thickness, or wrap, corded, and rubber according to the material they’re made of.
As far as recommendations go, suffice it to say that if you’re a little bit too handsy/wristy at impact, you might want to check out thicker grips. The drawback here is that thicker grips are less responsive than their thinner counterparts, so if feedback is important to your stroke, go for standard.
Finally, we’ve come to the end of the ultimate guide to golf putters. We hope now you know more about putters and how to pick one to suit your stroke, or that you at least found this article useful for brushing up on different features and specs.
If there’s anything you think we missed or could have explained in more detail, feel free to leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to discuss it. Until then, keep calm and sink the putt!