When it comes to scoring in golf, there's nothing that replaces making putts to truly lower your score. Sure, you should practice, but are you using the correct putter to make it easier to roll that ball into the hole? Golf Tips asked one of the leading putter designers, Vikash Sanyal, for some help in making sure you have the correct specifications for your putter.
The putter length is important in establishing a proper setup. Golfers naturally place their hands in the meat of the putter grip and typically adjust to a putter's length in that manner. Based on the actual length, a golfer's hands may be higher or lower than optimal if they're adjusting their setup to a putter with an incorrect length for them. The Happy putters are assembled to 35 inches in length, but have incorporated a 34- and 33-inch reference ring at the end of the grip to help golfers facilitate their proper hand placement. While length is important for a sound setup, it's also important to consider for hand-eye coordination. Most Tour professionals play with putters that are shorter than the putters used by amateur golfers. Amateurs should take the Tour pros' lead and see how their putting improves with their hands closer to the head.
Optimizing loft helps to stabilize the golf ball into a quicker overspin. Loft is necessary on the putter to lift it from the slight depression it makes on the green. While loft isn't necessary for tap-ins, it becomes an important element in all other lengths of putts. The loft lifts the ball from the ground and immediately imparts backspin on the ball. As the ball makes contact with the ground, it skids because of the backspin. Having the correct loft shortens the amount of skidding on the green and allows the ball to correct itself into an overspin sooner. Because golfers set up differently from one another, the amount of loft required on a putter can vary because of influential elements such as a forward-press (de-lofting of the putter) or ball position in the stance (which increases loft more forward and less loft farther back). Knowing that 3.5 degrees is an optimum trajectory for the ball to come off of the putterface, the Brainstorm Golf fitting club senses what the golfer is doing to the face and recommends the loft setting that yields the optimized launch condition at impact.
From a physics standpoint, a putter's lie angle has the least amount of influence of sidespin on a ball due to the putter's low-lofted face. However, from a human standpoint, the perception of adjustment to an improper lie angle can affect a golfer's setup and subsequent stroke. By adjusting the putter's lie angle to the golfer's natural setup, compensations are avoided.
The amount of offset in a putter has both a dynamics influence and a visual influence to the golfer. For starters, a golfer who has a preference for offset is going to gravitate naturally to the appropriate look they prefer regardless of dynamics. However, different putter designs typically yield different preferences in offset for a golfer. Where a golfer may prefer the look of a full-shaft offset in a blade, that same golfer may find a mallet with no offset completely acceptable. Visually, it's a case-by-case basis. However, from a dynamics standpoint, offset can have an influence on putting results. For golfers who tend to leave the face slightly open at impact, greater offset is recommended to help square up the face more easily. The opposite is true for the golfer who tends to shut the face closed at impact, subsequently leaving misses to the left of the hole. Going with less offset is the remedy to correct those putts.
The weight of the putterhead is a critical influence on the golfer's ability to control the club. Too light, and the golfer may find their putter swerving off-line on the takeaway and followthrough. Adding more head weight helps to stabilize the putting stroke from a jerky motion to a smoother path. Weight is also a factor on distance control and the ability to lag the ball in different green conditions. Faster greens warrant lighter head weight, and heavier weights assist in slower greens. If a golfer has a tendency to miss putts toward the toe or heel side from center, additional weight is recommended in the direction of the mis-hit tendency to help stabilize the off-center impacts.
The style and size of a putter grip can be a very personal thing. There's a wider range of putter grip styles than there are swinging grips. And while golfers may have a preference for specific putter grip designs, the most important element in fitting a putter grip pertains to size. The larger the putter grip, the less a golfer's hands are able to break at the wrists and manipulate the putter. As the fingers become more spread out in grasping the putter grip, they become more "quiet," locking the wrists and elbows into place, and engaging the golfer's arms and shoulders to control the putter. Using the larger muscle groups leads to repetitiveness in stroke and consistency in control.
Vikash Sanyal is CEO of Brainstorm Golf. He helped start Odyssey and Never Compromise. Jeff Sheets is the lead designer at Brainstorm Golf. To learn more, visit www.brainstormgolf.com.
The Making Of A Putting Company
Selling to Tour pros
By Vikash Sanyal
Did you know that Tour players have used adjustable putters for decades? It's true. As the first person to ever take Odyssey putters on Tour, I was exposed to the psychology of Tour players and how much they focus on every detail to make sure they can always perform at the highest level. A big part of this is continually monitoring their equipment (in my case, putters) and making adjustments to accommodate changes in their putting strokes or their playing conditions.
So, what would I hear? Things like, "I'm playing Bermuda greens this week instead of bent greens, so I want more loft on my putter," or, "I'm trying a new putting stance and I'm going to stand closer to the ball, so I need my putter to be more upright," or, "I'm pulling my putts, so I need a putter with different offset to get my putterface square at impact." Tour players want a perfect putter every time they play, and in their search, they can ask for a new putter every week and a golf manufacturer will gladly give them this equipment for free.
That begs the question, what is a perfect putter? I guess the perfect putter is the one that makes every putt, but the reality is that the perfect putter is the one that's set up properly for your stroke and playing conditions on that given day. While it stinks to miss putts, it stinks even more when you make a good stroke, but the putt doesn't have a chance to go in because the putter wasn't set up properly.
I like to joke that there's no lonelier job in the golf industry than a Tour rep for a start-up company. My career has gone full circle, starting with Odyssey on a putting green at a Senior Tour event in Rancho Murieta in 1991. Now I find myself on putting greens at PGA and LPGA events, and once again, I feel like I have an infectious disease, as Tour players avoid eye contact with me at all costs. I look around the practice putting green and gain comfort seeing the Odyssey bag, remembering that a decade and a half ago, the Odyssey putter was in the same position as the Happy Putter, a new product with an innovative technology and a unique look. Players and caddies alike gaze with curiosity at the blue Happy Putter with the adjustable technology that smacks you in the face, but it's easy to see that they're taken aback at the odd appearance. I remind myself that the definition of revolutionary is that it hasn't been done before, and that every great product—the first metalwood from TaylorMade, Callaway's Big Bertha, the PING Anser, the Odyssey two-ball putter—looked very different, but now they're considered "game changers" in the golf industry and some of the most innovative products ever launched.
The takeaway lesson is this: It's the technology that matters, and when it's real, it will endure and become the new tradition. As an old Tour rep, I know Tour players have benefitted from adjustable putters for decades, and now consumers can also benefit from this game-changing technology. The hours go by, the legs get much stiffer much quicker than they did 14 years ago, but this is the game I've elected to play. Let's hope we can win again.