2012 Buyer’s Guide Putters

Will you switch to a long putter this year?

CHOOSE A PUTTER THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOUR STROKE By Doug Hammer, PGA

It may surprise you that different putter styles yield different stroke paths. Con-sider the three images you see here. In the left photo, I'm putting with a blade putter; in the center image, I'm putting with a mallet; and on the right, I'm using a long putter. Notice how the path differs between the blade and mallets?

To be honest, it's sort of a chicken-and-egg kind of thing. If you use a mallet, you'll be more likely to make a square-to-square stroke because it's a face-balanced putter, meaning that the CG is below the shaft's axis. That said, if you feel more comfortable swinging on a straighter path (every stroke arcs somewhat), and you're currently using a blade putter, I suggest you switch. In fact, I bet it's pretty difficult for you to make a straight-to-straight stroke with your blade because it's heel balanced, meaning that when you balance it, the putter's toe points to the ground.

Of course, the most radical move, and one that few players use, is the long putter, which creates a very straight stroke path. But you have to be comfortable with the added length before you put one of those in play. As a general rule, decide how you feel about the stroke before you choose a model.

IN 2011, PROFESSIONAL GOLFERS gravitated to belly putters in a big way. Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship using one, and Webb Simpson notched two victories (and three runner-ups) using his long putter. So it's no surprise that manufacturers are trying to capitalize on the trend. At this year's PGA Merchandise Show, longer sticks were everywhere. But, of course, they weren't the only new putters filling the Orange County Convention Center. To check out the rest, simply flip through the following pages.

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Golf Tips Legend

Axis1 Umbra Belly

Key Feature: After having made a big splash with their uniquely shaped putters, Axis1 is back with a new belly length version of the Umbra. The makers say it's the world's first perfectly balanced belly putter. Who could argue with that? Who It's For: Golfers who like unorthodox-shaped putters and want to try one out in belly length. Players who have trouble squaring up the putter's face. Specs: Available in 43- and 45-inch lengths. The Umbra also comes in standard-length models, too. axis1golf.com | $299 Bettinardi Studio Stock 9

Key Feature: The SS9 is a wide-body, heel-toe design with a double-bend shaft that promotes a slight quarter-toe hang. What does that mean? It's super easy to use and swing on an arcing putter path. Better yet, there are a handful more designs in the Studio Stock line that have the same milled-carbon-steel look and feel. Wow, these putters sure are pretty. And we love that lime-green grip. Who It's For: Fans of Bob Bettinardi's commitment to incredible craftsmanship and outside-the-box thinking. Specs: There are four SS models, all weighing 350 grams. bettinardigolf.com | $375 Boccieri Tour Collection

Key Feature: These premium offerings from the Heavy Putter line feature two models (blade and mallet) that are 100% CNC milled. Who It's For: Like your putter heavy? They don't get any weightier than these. Specs: Comes in five different stock lengths (32-36 inches) with head weights approximately 400 grams. An additional 200 grams is placed in the grip end. Two head styles. Want a longer putter? These can be converted to belly and long putter length. boccierigolf.com | $199 Clearview  

Key Feature: Its transparent design functions as an alignment aid to get your ball rolling on the right track. It was easy to line up correctly, and the stats say that 90% of us struggle with alignment. Not anymore. Who It's For: Golfers who struggle to consistently line up their putts correctly. People who aren't afraid to try something a little unorthodox on the greens. Specs: Offset and center-shafted models. Right- and left-handed, and a variety of lie and length options, including broomstick and belly. clearviewputter.com | $170

Cleveland T-Frame

Key Feature: More than 70 grams of weight was redistributed to the rear of this high-MOI model, which increases forgiveness on off-center hits. It incorporates a dominant "T" feature as you look down on it, which facilitates proper alignment. It's also a cinch to swing back and through, not to mention its butter-soft feel. Who It's For: Players seeking a steel mallet who need help lining up putts. Specs: Offered with three lie-angle options (68_¡, 70_¡ and 72_¡) in a glare-reducing satin finish. clevelandgolf.com | $119 Cleveland Black Platinum

Key Feature: These putters minimize glare and enhance alignment and feature a CNC-milled face that produces a soft, solid feel at impact. Boasts a traditional heel-toe weighting that maximizes MOI so you don't lose distance on off-center strikes. We likey! Who It's For: Holy bargain, Batman! With these affordable offerings, it's back to black, baby! Specs: Nine models (three mallets and six blades), including belly length. Head weight ranges from 340 to 400 grams. Lengths range from 33 to 35 inches. clevelandgolf.com | $80 Dead Aim  

Key Feature: An optically engineered, raised, three-hole top line that makes it easy to know when your eyes are lined up over the ball. The company claims it's the only putter that provides both lie and loft feedback. Who It's For: Golfers who have a hard time aligning their eyes over the ball and keeping the putterface square. Specs: Two models are available in standard and belly lengths. Both come in black and silver/white finishes. An optional laser-training device ($30) attaches to the top of the putter and helps ensure a square face. deadaimputters.com | $150-$220 Edel DeVicenzo Series

Key Feature: Named for former British Open champ (and a man who, amazingly, won 231 tournaments) Roberto DeVicenzo, this new series was developed to minimize face rotation in the stroke. How'd they do it? By balancing the face so the toe doesn't open up. Who It's For: Players who tend to push the ball off the putter face. Fans of DeVicenzo. Specs: Available in standard, belly and long lengths. Two models: Series 18 (named for his National Open victories) and Series 231 (see above). edelgolf.com | $350 Never Compromise Limited Connoisseur

Key Feature: Forged from 303 stainless steel and CNC-milled to ensure incredible precision during production. The combination of soft metal and forged-grain structure provides exceptional feel at impact. Who It's For: Engineered for players who seek perfection on the green. Premium putter devotees. Specs: Comes in two lengths (34 and 35 inches) and a head weight of 340 grams. Winn grip, plumber-neck hosel. nevercompromise.com | $300 Nike Method Core Drone Putter

Key Feature: Its quirky high-MOI shape takes some getting used to, but once you swing it a few times, you'll feel just how steady it really is. Another nice feature is its polymer and aluminum grooves. When the ball comes off the face, it feels soft, and the result is a sweet, pure roll. Who It's For: Golfers who aren't afraid to put a space-age mallet into play and who like to make stable strokes that never veer offline. Specs: Available in 33-, 34- and 35-inch models. Belly length for righties only. nikegolf.com | $170 Odyssey ProType Tour Series

Key Feature: A head milled from soft 1025 Carbon Steel, and a face with a deeper, sharper milling pattern that increases interaction between it and the ball. Who It's For: Wannabe Tour pros. Each model has been used by a Tour player en route to a victory. Specs: Six models available, including a two-ball model. Clubheads vary between 340 and 360 grams. For an additional $30, you can get yours customized (six different colors for your grip and head paint fill) through a retailer. odysseygolf.com | $270-$300 Odyssey Metal-X

Key Feature: A dual-layered insert that creates a soft feel at impact. The textured face has ovals that help propel the ball forward faster and lower. Nice. Who It's For: There are a lot of styles available, so if you like the urethane dampening layer, you'll find a model that works for you. Tend to pop the ball off the face? These should remedy that. Specs: Eight head types including four blades, three mallets and one mid-mallet. A number of length options are available, too, including long and belly. odysseygolf.com | $150-$180 Ping Anser Milled

Key Feature: There are seven different models, and each 303 stainless-steel clubhead features slight variations to the top lines, heel-toe length and toe radius. More than anything, we love their clean appearance and elegant satin-nickel finish. Who It's For: Better players who love the Anser lineup in a premium finish and dialed-in specifications. Specs: Seven different models each with its own subtle differences in hosel design that determines the putter's path and balance. ping.com | $299 Ping Scottsdale

Key Feature: Its dark finish stands in contrast to its white and maroon alignment aids, making the mallets easy to align. On the blades, the maroon is limited to a few lines on the white face insert. Who It's For: Something for everyone here, so if you're a PING fan, you'll find one of your favorite models, in a darker finish. Specs: 14 models to choose from, including the futuristic Wolverine model (shown). ping.com | $140-$180 Piretti Golf Forza Midnight Black

Key Feature: This heel-shafted beauty comes in two weights (365 and 375 grams) and boasts a stealthy black finish to its 11L17 Carbon Steel head. Who It's For: Golfers who love the traditional look and feel of a heel-shafted blade with a modern finish. With a heavy head, the Forza makes arcing strokes a breeze to keep on line. Specs: Comes in many length options (32-40 inches) and seven lie options. Three custom grips available, too. pirettigolf.com | $290 PLOP ICON 2

Key Feature: Milled from a piece of 303 stainless steel, this classic-style mallet looks as if it's heel-shafted, but actually the hosel floats through a topline hole at the heel and attaches to a vertical putter post at the head's center of gravity. This results in better feel at impact. Who It's For: Face-balanced mallet lovers who like the ICON 2's parallel gun-sight alignment system and crave great feel at impact. Specs: Custom-fitted for length, from 28 to 45 inches, including 38- to 45-inch belly putters. plopgolf.com | $250 Powerbilt ONE PUTT Belly

Key Feature: Measuring anywhere from 40 to 43 inches, the ONE PUTT belly putter comes in two models, blade and mallet. At its reasonable price, it's the perfect flatstick for someone jonesing to try a longer putter. Who It's For: Budget-minded golfers who want to jump on the belly-putter bandwagon. At only 90 bucks, the ONE PUTT is a steal! Specs: Comes with a 415-gram head made of stainless steel. Five shaft lengths available (40-43 inches), and a 21-inch one-piece compound grip. powerbilt.com | $90 Rife Island Series

Key Feature: First, let's just say how happy we are to see Rife back and moving full steam ahead. Look for the company's RollGroove Technology to grip the ball's face and generate a faster roll. Welcome back. Who It's For: This Island Series offers five different models, and in two different finishes. Feeling irie? Try the trippy tropical finish, mon. Specs: There are five different putters available in the line, and all come in either a standard silver matte finish or the new, cosmetically cool tropical rainbow look. rifeputters.com | $170 Seemore SB1 Platinum

Key Feature: This large mallet is 100% milled from 6061 aluminum aircraft material and boasts a platinum finish. Adjustable weights can bring the head weight up to 360 grams. We dig SeeMore's commitment to offering this putter in many lengths. Who It's For: Straight-back and straight-through putters and folks who want a long, heavy option to add to their arsenal. Great weight! Specs: Available in standard length, belly and broomstick versions. Head weight=335-360 grams. seemore.com | $250 SG Putterwood

Key Feature: Shaped like a driver and painted with an arctic-white finish, these new flatsticks boast a hollow core design that transfers energy from the clubhead to the ball and helps optimize roll. Who It's For: Golfers looking for a precise roll and who like its wood-like looks. Specs: Four standard models (3-wood, Hybrid, Hybrid-Blade and Blade) are available in lengths from 32 to 36 inches in 1/2-inch increments. Belly version is available in lengths from 40 to 44 inches in 1/2-inch increments. sorensongolf.com | $140 STX XForm

Key Feature: This striking new lineup from STX features two models that are 100% machine milled from 303 stainless steel. Who It's For: Golfers who love elegant, superbly-crafted flatsticks. Specs: Two models are available with either a stainless steel face or thermoset insert. Look for a mallet version called XForm3. Both blade models weigh 350 grams, while the mallet tips the scales at 355g. stxgolf.com | $249

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