Ahh the putter..the flat stick…the great stroke saver. Everyone knows that the golf club putter is the most used club in the bag. It’s used more than twice as much as any other club. But somehow it doesn’t receive the attention or buzz factor that the big headed drivers and hybrids are getting these days.
Putting is also the ultimate feel action in golf. The target is close and clearly in view and the physical requirements are not as demanding, so visualization and imagination play a bigger roll than in other parts of the game. The best putters are not always the golfers with the best mechanics or technique. Typically the best putters are the ones who can really focus on getting the ball in the hole.
So why care about the details of the putter design or manufacturing. Why…because they do effect feel. Also, like any human physical activity, we may not perform the action perfectly every time. Why not understand how putters help compensate for our limitations. As in many things in golf the science can help the psychology.
Actually, putters have changed as much in the last 10 years as any other club. The new batch of large headed mallet putters use space age design and major moment of inertia (MOI) features that help them work better than ever. These new putters clearly offer stroke saving advances for the averge golfer and pro alike.
The Personal Touch
Putters are very personal. Like no other club, putters offer the most variety in terms of head style, length and feel. There are as many types and styles of putters as there are putting strokes. Clearly what may work for Tiger may not work at all for you. So new designs and styles are introduced all the time.
Things have changed a lot since the Bulls Eye, Calamity Jane and Cash In putters of the 30s, 40s and 50s. These “blade” putters were wonderful but were prone to twisting on mishits. Today’s putters, with their perimeter weighting and large long heads have put those early blade putters in the garage with all the other obsolete golf clubs.
Got Putting Problems?
Ya we all do sometimes. Here’s a putting instruction course I like. It helps make me be a more consistant putter.
Like the perimeter weighted irons developed in the the early eighties, the first perimeter weighted putter came from our friend Karsten Solheim at Ping. His Anser putter in 1967, although originally ignored, eventually caused a stir in golf. Today, almost any serious golfer has used a Ping putter at some time in their golfing life. My putter for the last 15 years has been a Ping Anser 4 circa mid 80s. I’ve made a ton of important putts with that putter. It will never leave my bag…maybe.
In the last the 40 years, the Ping Anser putter and it’s brothers and sisters have been the most copied putters in the history of golf. The very popular Scotty Cameron putters of today (Tiger Woods uses one) owes it’s look and technology to those early Ping putters. In fact, if you take a look at the pack of blade style putters they all look very much like some model of an earlier Ping putter.
Popular Putters on Tour
In terms of popularity and success on the tours, the Scotty Cameron by Titleist led the way on the PGA Tour in 2005 with 14 wins (thanks to Tiger), followed by Odyssey (13), Never Compromise (5), TaylorMade (5), MacGregor/Bobby Grace (4) and Ping (3).
On the Champions Tour, Titleist had seven wins, including two by Mark McNulty’s original Bulls Eye putter. Ping (5), TaylorMade (5), Odyssey (4) and Guerin Rife (2) followed.
On the LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam’s 10 wins powered the Odyssey Two Ball to 17 wins. Ping was a distant second with six.
By far the most popular of the new mallet style putters in the last 10 years has been the
ODYSSEY White Steel 2 Ball
. It really popularized that large, long mallet style of putter. On the LPGA you’ll see that putter used by many of the women. It’s primary feature is the compelling alignment aid provided by the two balls that you see as you look down. It was one of the first putters to optimize its MOI. There are now many variations on that theme available from other manufacturers.
When the original Two Ball made it’s appearance in 2001 it caused a stir. When Rocco Mediate won with it, its buzz facor went way up. In 2002 one of every 3 putters sold was a 2-Ball Putter. Today there are new models with variations on that original design. The new
ODYSSEY Tri-Ball SRT Putter
takes the concept to the next level. It uses a 3 ball alignment aid and special weighting to increase that MOI.
Blade Versus Mallet Design
The two main design categories of putters are blade and mallet. A blade putter has all of it’s mass and center of gravity closer to the ball and the shaft. A mallet style, with its weight farther back, moves the COG back and away from the ball. In theory, a mallet should have a greater moment of inertia (MOI). Does that mean it’s better than a blade? I guess that depends on how many putts you make with it. It really comes down to how it works for you. If you look on tour you’ll see the votes pretty evenly divided between blade and mallet style. Although mallet use seems to increase with a golfers age.
Putter design and manufacturing
Today’s putters, for the most part, use the investment casting method of manufacturing. This allows for the wide variety of head styles you see. Advanced perimeter weighting which helps move the center of gravity to more optimum locations on the putter requires the flexibility of this method. Mallet putters achieve their high MOI by moving the center of gravity low and back from the putter face.
Putter loft is also important. To help the ball get rolling quickly on top of the grass there needs to be enough loft on the putter face. For slower greens and longer grass more loft is required. This helps get the ball rolling and not skidding. Having a low center of gravity would also help get this to happen.
Every putt skids for some amount of time before it starts rolling. While the ball is skidding it does not have the inertia that the rolling phase offers. During that time it is prone to being pushed offline by impediments on the line. Putters that minimize the skidding phase are bound to help your putting.
The key to reducing skid is to give the ball as much topspin as possible before it leaves the putter face. Although a golfer could top the ball, that would be hard to control. How the face of the putter interacts with the ball is a big factor. That moment when the “rubber hits the road” has a big effect on your putting.Various types of face inserts have come along to help with that important impact point.
The new face inserts take a big step in the right direction with their high coefficient of friction. The theory is that the more traction the face offers the more control the putter head will have on the ball. This makes the loft of the putter work that much more effectively. Sort of similar to how baseball pitchers like to scuff up the ball to give it a better grip.
Which putters offer the most effective face inserts? Well that’s up to you. It’s once again a matter of feel. The Odyssey line uses a urethane insert and it’s hard to argue with the success they’ve had. Other putter inserts are made of a polymer material.
The other hot mallet putters you see out there and the ones rated highly by Golf Digest’s Hot List include the
TAYLORMADE Monza Corza Putter
, and the
PING G5I Craz-e Putter
. For blade type putters the
TAYLORMADE Rossa CGB Putter w/AGSI Insert
YES GOLF C-Groove Series Putter
. There’s lots of great putters out there. Check ’em out.