Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Putters Buyer's Guide 2006That 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.
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.
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).
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