That closet in your house full of putters that never truly made the cut might soon have company, as the new flatstick pool houses a model that's far better than the one in your hands. _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê
When poet William Cowper coined the phrase "Variety is the spice of life," he obviously had putters in mind. Unlike every other club in the bag, which generally follow similar shape and size guidelines, putters are unquestionably the most unusual. Ranging from big to small, blade to mallet, light to heavy, cast to milled and so on, today's putters are anything but run-of-the-mill. Exciting advancements in metallurgy, polymers and weight science have enabled putter designers to push the envelope of MOI, skid reduction and feel to achieve a new breed of putters designed to accommodate the needs of all golfers. And if you find that they don't, a few models give you the freedom to self-adjust a putter to meet your own criteria.
As far as trends are concerned, oversized putters are holding court. These include models with improved alignment aids and weighting schemes to help the golfer produce more forward roll and less skid. Also, check for putters that position the CG behind the sweet spot but far away from the face.
Mallets are definitely here to stay, but '06 also welcomes a proliferation of classic putter styles with modern features that make them perform far better than the originals. Does all this technology signify the end of the so-called, traditional blade-style putter? We'll leave that up to you to decide.
Our Pro's Take On: Putters When it comes to purchasing a new putter, heed fundamentals: Lie–How the club sits relative to your hand and body position affects how well you putt. A putter that's too upright or too flat can cause it to drift off line, even if your mechanics are sound.
Length–The length of your putter directly affects your stance. If your putter is too long or short, your ability to create the desired forward and back pendulum movement can become almost impossible.
Grip–The size of your putter grip can change not only the way your arms and hands move during the swing, but also your setup and stroke. The best way to make sure you've got these three variables under control is to consult with a clubfitter. I promise you'll see better results. – Dr. David Wright, PGA Wright Balance Golf Academy
Hot Hosel Design When selecting a new putter, there's a lot to investigate, but don't forget about the hosel. This seemingly innocent design feature often has the most significant effect on how the club actually swings. Furthermore, knowing the difference between one hosel design and another can provide some insight into your stroke and what type of putter you are. Let's examine some of the more popular hosel configurations, using Odyssey's White Hot line as an example.
1. Plumber-Neck The plumber-neck is characterized by a horizontal bend just below where the end of the shaft and the hosel meet. This design, which generally provides a medium amount of offset, does a great job of keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead through impact. This tends to make the putter more forgiving and easier to use, which is the reason it's so popular. Putters with plumber-neck hosels tend to be somewhat toe-down in their weighting scheme, which encourages a slightly inside-square-inside stroke.
2. Flare-Tip The flare-tip is typically a "shaft-over" hosel, meaning the shaft covers the top of the hosel where the two connect. Putters with flare-tip hosels generally have less offset and are more blade-like in their design. These putters tend to be quite a bit toe-down in their weighting scheme and usually work best for golfers who like to rotate the blade open and shut through the stroke.
3. No Hosel Face-balanced putters often have no hosel, but instead an S-bend shaft that goes directly into the putterhead. These putters are designed specifically for golfers who want to take the club straight back and straight through in a piston-like motion. If you typically like to rotate the clubhead during your stroke, these types of putters probably won't work as well for you, although there are no absolutes in this regard.
4. Long Hosel These designs are usually elongated plumber-necks and are used to create face-balancing. Although they look very similar to the standard plumber-neck design, the extra length definitely creates a different feel, which you should take into consideration before selecting a putter with this type of hosel structure. Be aware that the elongated plumber-neck design doesn't always result in face-balancing; many, in fact, are toe-balanced.
5. Slant-Neck These hosels often are plumber-necks that bend back from the shaft line. Usually, this type of putter is used to create a more substantial amount of offset, which promotes more of an upward strike into the golf ball. Another beneficial aspect of the slant-neck design is the position it places the hands in just prior to, and through, impact–just slightly in front of the golf ball.
6. Center-Shaft The majority of putter models feature shafts that enter the putterhead near the heel. Some, however, feature a more centered shaft insert position. This design typically is associated with a flatter lie angle, promoting a low-hands position. Also, the center-shaft position places the swing axis closer to the golf ball, eliciting extra control and a feel many golfers prefer.
Material Matters: Aluminum The silvery-white alloy known as aluminum has become a popular ingredient in putters these days. Reason being, it's roughly one-third the weight of steel and easily machined, making it an attractive element for equipment manufacturers to explore radical putter shapes without weighing the putter down in areas where excess weight isn't desired. More important, aluminum's light weight gives putter creators freedom to add high-density materials to key areas and produce higher moments of inertia while keeping the overall head weight in the modern 350-gram range standard. Corrosion-resistant and durable, aluminum is the second most malleable alloy on earth (behind gold) and sixth in the ductile rankings. –Ryan M. Noll
Mill To Win One of the most popular methods of producing extremely high-quality putterfaces, like that found in MacGregor's The Fat Lady Swings, is CNC (computer numerical control) milling. This technique, which utilizes computer technology to precisely control milling cutters, typically produces the most exacting tolerances and best striking surfaces possible. Milled-face putters not only produce superior consistency due to their extreme flatness, but also tend to provide a superior feel. You can generally identify a milled face by the milling lines made during the cutting process.
Body Shop Just as insert materials are of the utmost importance when it comes to creating putters that feel and perform well, so, too, is the material used to create the putter's body. Throughout the history of golf club design, clubmakers have experimented with nearly every type of alloy in the attempt to make a better putter, and the results have been decidedly mixed. However, today's putter designers have seemingly come to the consensus that soft, strong materials tend to work best, as they lend themselves well to shaping, can be fitted with inserts and a variety of weights, and provide solid durability. Currently the most popular materials for putter head design are stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum. Of course, each of these materials come in a variety of hardness and quality, each of which provide a slightly different look and feel than the other.
Weigh Your Options Though most golfers probably don't realize it, putters need to be tuned to provide optimal launch conditions in a similar way to drivers and irons. If a given putter doesn't get the ball out of its own depression and rolling end over end in a speedy fashion, crooked rolls and missed putts are the likely result. To address this issue, many of today's putter designers, particularly those who produce mallets, position fixed weights low and deep in the clubhead to promote a high launch angle and low spin rate. Though this probably sounds like the recipe for a high, bouncing putt, the truth is this is the ideal combination for putts that get up and rolling quickly and smoothly.
Another popular use for sole weights, most of which are made of heavy tungsten, is to give golfers the opportunity to customize feel and performance by making the weights movable. For example, players who tend to miss to the left can add weight in the toe area, and those who miss to the right can add weight to the heel.
Face The Music The original Odyssey putters that were introduced in the mid-'90s, which featured polymer inserts the company called Stronomic, can be largely credited with the current popularity and success of putter insert technology.
The important thing to know about putter inserts is that they serve two basic functions: to provide a unique feel, and to move weight away from the putterface, which can then be repositioned to other areas, like the heel and toe, to provide enhanced forgiveness. Other than polymer, which is basically plastic, designers also favor materials like stainless steel, aluminum, ionomers and beryllium copper (as seen in MacGregor's The Fat Lady Swings).
Understanding Our Charts Features: The primary design elements that make the putter noteworthy. Advantages: How the primary design elements are meant to elevate the performance of the putter. What We Like: We have our preferences, too. A quick description of what impressed us in our review and testing. Lineup: The other models available from the manufacturer, listed from most expensive to least expensive. Putterhead: The primary material from which the body of the club is forged, cast or milled. Putterface: Indicates the material used for the strike area or if it has otherwise been altered to enhance performance. Check for putters with a milled face, as the process, if performed correctly, ensures a flatter contact area, which is key for consistency. Weight: The overall head weight of the model listed in grams. Most putters fall in the 325- to 350-gram range. Design(s): Here you'll find a description of the general shape of the club and its hosel structure. We limit the descriptions to either heel-toe blades (Anser style) or mallets. Also, face-balancing is noted as is the hosel/head connection point. If a putter is not labeled as face-balanced, it's considered toe-down.
Aserta The Monster www.asertasports.com (408) 251-7888 | $199
If medals were awarded to companies dedicated solely to preventing excessive putter backspin, Aserta Sports would take home the gold. Features: Inverted Mass Technology, which raises the putter's CG above the equator of the golf ball at impact for the absolute in backspin reduction. The higher CG is attained by designing the putter "upside down," with the majority of the weight on the top half of the putter. Advantages: According to Aserta, backspin is what derails putts off line and off speed, making it very difficult to maintain a consistent roll. What We Like: Aserta's genius answer to the riddle of why you come up short on one putt, then blow it two feet by on the next. Lineup: The Eclipse, The Monster, Cavity Back Putterhead: Aluminum (milled) Putterface: Stainless steel (milled) Weight: 350 grams Design(s): Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet (available LH)
Carbite TRi-Weight Series www.carbitegolf.com (800) 272-4325 | $79
A high MOI for extra stability and putts that track like they're supposed to. Features: The TRi-Weight putters feature Carbite's Polar Balanced technology, which takes the form of two tungsten weights–one each in the heel and toe sections of the putterface. A third weight is positioned deep behind the face. Advantages: The weighting scheme is said to increase MOI and yield a straighter and smoother stroke with less skid and greater stability. The three inserts add 6.5 times more weight than the aluminum they displace. What We Like: The visible sight lines and the weighting scheme. Putters available in either black or Carbite blue. Lineup: Tour Blade, TRi-Weight Series, Tour Classic, Z Series Putterhead: Aluminum (cast) Putterface: Same (milled) Weight: 360 grams Design(s): Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet (no LH)Cleveland "Designed By" Series www.clevelandgolf.com (800) 999-6263 | $165
Cleveland applies its soft-feeling Carbon Metal Matrix material to two throwback-style putters with modern tungsten weighting. Features: The 1948 pure blade and 1905 Calamity Jane putter (made famous by Bobby Jones, pictured) are milled from Cleveland's CMM and augmented with tungsten sole weights. Advantages: If you need a lot of help producing a pure, on-line stroke, these may not be your flatsticks. But if you're a feel putter, you'll love the "Designed By" sensation. What We Like: Putters that actually look like putters and adherence to classic putter design. The all-leather grip is a great touch and a perfect complement to these ultra-classy flatsticks. Lineup: "Designed By" Series Putterhead: Carbon Metal Matrix (milled) Putterface: Same Weight: N/A Design(s): 1948–Center-shafted blade; 1905–Heel-shafted blade (available LH) Guerin Rife Two-Bar www.guerinrife.com (800) 496-9373 | $199
Although still relatively new, Guerin Rife putters have quietly taken several professional tours by storm. Among the most favored is the popular Two-Bar. Features: With adjustable weighting, Roll Groove technology, a four-point weight scheme and a specially designed Lie Aline system, the Two-Bar has more adjustable features than perhaps any putter you can buy. Advantages: Basically, the milled Roll Groove face both lifts the ball from its depression on the green and imparts immediate forward roll, resulting in true, straight rolling putts. The weight system and Lie Aline mechanism let golfers choose the right putter schematics based on both stroke type and posture._Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê What We Like: Adjustable weighting is becoming more and more common, but the ability to adjust lie in seconds is the stuff of pure innovation. Lineup: Two-Bar Series, Aussie, Tour Blade Putterhead: Aluminum (forged) Putterface: Same (milled) Weight: 355 grams Design(s): Mallet, heel-toe blade (available LH)
Heavy Putter Matte Series www.heavyputter.com (888) PUTTER-4 | $229
The popular Heavy Putter receives a new matte finish in 2006. Features: The Heavy Putter flatsticks (about 100 to 200 grams heavier than common putters) boast an impressive list of features, the most notable of which is an innovative Weight Management System. This WMS, as the company calls it, consists of a 250-gram insert located in the upper portion of the shaft, which effectively prevents an early release of the putterhead and the accompanying wrist breakdown errors that lead to pushed and pulled putts. _Ê Advantages: The heavier weight encourages more use of the bigger muscles, not the tiny ones that can break down your stroke. What We Like: The industrial looks. Plus, the adjustable tip weights allow the user to closely control balance and feel. Lineup: Matte Series, Original Series Putterhead: Stainless steel (milled) Putterface: Same Weight: 450-550 grams Design(s): A3–Heel-shafted, face-balanced blade; B3–Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet (available LH)
Fisher Talon Tour Series www.fishergolf.com (800) 465-3473 | $179
A four-way insert and the ability to alter weight by as much as 100 grams? Yes. Features: The TS-1 (pictured) face insert features different contact materials on each of its four sides, from extra-soft to extra-firm. This allows the user to adapt to different green conditions (or dial in feel) without altering the stroke. Advantages: Customized feel is key, but so is the stability provided by the high-MOI design, complete with four different areas to adjust weight using three different metals. What We Like: If this putter was any more trick, it would require batteries. The TS-2 and TS-3 models feature reversible inserts but are no less prone to twisting on off-center hits. Lineup: Talon Tour Series, Cobalt Series Putterhead: Stainless steel (milled) Putterface: Kevflex polymer Weight: 375-475 grams Design(s): TS-1, TS-2, TS-3–Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet (available LH)
Delacruz PW Series www.delacruzgolf.com (877) 430-4653 | $99
The PW Series shows that Dick De La Cruz can make something special out of something as simple as stainless. Features: The PW-1 (pictured) features a rear perimeter-weighting bar that places more mass in just the right spot for a true end-over-end roll. Advantages: The weighting bar on the PW-3 putter includes a golf ball-sized alignment aid. Place a ball in the circle and practice rolling putts. The design allows you to improve alignment and grooves a smooth stroke by watching the ball's roll as you move back and through. What We Like: The PWs weigh in at a rather hefty 360+ grams, consistent with the current trend of heavy putters. Lineup: PW Series, Bolero Putterhead: Stainless steel (cast) Putterface: Same Weight: PW-1–350 grams; PW-3–365 grams Design(s): PW-1, PW-3–Heel-shafted, perimeter-weighted blade (available LH)
Gauge Design GAA Series www.gaugegolf.com (760) 591-9869 | $325
If you prefer top-tier quality and manufacturing and Tour-proven head shapes, then look no further than Gauge Design putters from master craftsman Dave Whitlam. Features: The name Gauge should give you a clue about the exacting tolerances to which these putters adhere, including the popular GAA Series. These stainless-steel beauties include Gauge's Aluinser insert structure, which creates a very solid feel and actually raises the CG to promote a quick forward roll. The unique hosel configuration is state-of-the-art. Advantages: The design of the GAA putters create Tour-level performance with a good dose of perimeter weighting. The new GAA3 ETBW (pictured) features tungsten heel-toe weighting. What We Like: Gauge's purity and performance. Lineup: J-Spec Series, GAA Series, Type M Putterhead: Stainless steel (milled) Putterface: Aluinser (milled) Weight: 350 grams _Ê Design(s): AA3, AA8–Heel-shafted heel-toe blade; AA8–Face-balanced mallet (available LH)Goolie BGS Series www.gooliegolf.com (858) 699-4331 | $179
A very sharp-looking and well-conceived design that earns the title "game-improvement putter." Features: Goolie artfully combines an aluminum body with two nickel-chromium sections. The nickel has a specific gravity three times that of aluminum, which creates a high polar MOI. Advantages: The resultant MOI and CG location (positioned directly in line with the strike area) successfully negates twisting during all segments of the stroke for more consistent contact. The CG also promotes more topspin for a truer roll. What We Like: We really like the look and shape of the Goolie. If you need directional control on the greens, the BGS will help (especially the larger BGS-Ex model, pictured). Lineup: BGS Series Putterhead: Aluminum, Nickel chromium (cast) Putterface: Aluminum (milled) Weight: 355 grams Design(s): BGS-33, BGS-Ex–Heel- or center-shafted, face-balanced mallet (no LH) Macgregor FLS www.macgregorgolf.com (800) 841-4358 | $179
One of the most popular names in putting in the mid-1990s returns with major technological upgrades and a greater potential to help you make more than your fair share of putts. Features: Bobby Grace's original Fat Lady Swings and its renegade shape paved the way for most modern mallets. Add to that classic profile some MacGregor ingenuity, including three-way weighting for a high polar MOI and user-adjustable heel-toe weighting, and you have one of the top flatsticks for 2006. Advantages: Excellent feel, controlled stability and ease of alignment. The FLS flat-out works! What We Like: MacGregor and Grace made magic with the GT line, and this is even better. Lineup: The Fat Lady Swings, GT Series, GT Mini, M-Series Putterhead: Aluminum (milled) Putterface: Beryllium copper (milled) Weight: 352 grams Design(s): Heel-shafted mallet (no LH)
Mizuno Bettinardi A Series www.mizunousa.com (800) 966-1211 | $179
Another modern classic from the mind of renowned putter creator Bob Bettinardi. Features: Mizuno is one of the top forgers in irons, so it makes sense it teamed with one of the great putter millers in Bob Bettinardi to create two face-balanced mallets with high-MOI properties (as well as heel-toe models in the B Series). Advantages: Purchase either the A-01 or A-02 (pictured) and you receive an artfully milled, high-performance putter with Bettinardi's classic Honeycomb face for consistent contact. How much quality can you expect? Every putter receives 20 checks against exacting tolerances. What We Like: The modern shape without all of the distractions–a clean, pure mallet. Lineup: Bettinardi A Series, Bettinardi B Series Putterhead: Aluminum steel (milled) Putterface: Same Weight: N/A Design(s): A-01, A-02–Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet (A-02 available LH)Never Compromise Milled Series www.nevercompromise.com (800) 999-6263 | $255
These premium putters are 100% milled from a single piece of high-grade Japanese carbon steel, which is among the softest and most consistent in the world. Features: A tungsten sole weight for not only an increased MOI, but a precisely centered sweet spot directly in front of the sight line. Each of the six heel-toe models has a different neck structure and design for varying putter preferences (#3 pictured). Advantages: The Milled Series offers proven, high-MOI performance plus the feel of a pure carbon-steel putter. What We Like: A lot of options and a lot of feel. Lineup: Gray Matter 2 Series, Milled Series, Speed Control Series Putterhead: Carbon steel (milled) Putterface: Same Weight: 335-345 grams Design(s): Milled Series 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7–Heel-shafted heel-toe blade; Milled Series 4–Heel-shafted half-mallet (available LH)
Nickent PIPE Series www.nickentgolf.com (888) NICKENT | $199
Nickent's breakthrough cylindrical design is now offered on two new blade-style heads. Features: The PIPE (PP/005 pictured) features a white cylindrical pipe that extends behind the face to facilitate a square setup by helping golfers better determine face alignment at address. Advantages: A rear tungsten weight plug increases MOI, while the polymer face insert helps distribute weight toward the heel and toe. The polymer face also is designed to reduce backspin and excessive skidding. What We Like: The two new blades elicit a better feel and are as easy to align as the originals. Lineup: PIPE Series Putterhead: Stainless steel (cast) Putterface: Polymer (milled) Weight: 345-357 grams Design(s): PP/001–Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet; PP/002–Center-shafted, face-balanced mallet; PP/003–Heel-shafted mallet; PP/004, PP/005–Heel-shafted heel-toe blade (PP/001 available LH)
Nike Golf Black OZ Series www.nikegolf.com $169
Multi-density materials and eye-catching shape have helped make the Black OZ putters some of the most talked about this season. Features: Each of the three models (Black OZ T100 pictured) are all about stroke improvement, with aluminum bodies paired with tungsten plugs to move weight away from the clubface for reduced skidding. Advantages: They're weighted to forgive, and the face-balancing helps. The soft polymer insert is even lighter than the aluminum used for the body, further enhancing the perimeter weighting. What We Like: The shape is round, but the design adds up to a squarer face at impact. Lineup: Black OZ Series Putterhead: Aluminum (milled) Putterface: Polymer (milled) Weight: N/A Design(s): Black OZ T100, Black OZ T160–Heel-shafted, face-balanced mallet; Black OZ T130–Center-shafted, face-balanced mallet (available LH)
Odyssey Dual Force 2 Series www.odysseygolf.com (800) 588-9836 | $110
Dual Force putters were some of the most popular of the past 15 years. In 2006, welcome back an old friend. Features: The original DFs never had a ton of technology in their favor, just a great number of shapes that were pleasing to the eye and, of course, the little insert that started the craze, Stronomic. With the DF2s (#2 pictured),