The other day, I was reading through a club company's literature and saw that they were offering 15 different putter models for their 2011 line. How great is that, I thought–that there are so many flatsticks to choose from! But then I thought that, for the average golfer, it could be slightly confusing. With so many models to choose from, how do you know what's best for you? Of course, the best way to find your next putter is to get out on the practice green and start rolling putts. But it's also important to keep in mind what kind of putter you are. What do I mean? Read on and find out–and find your next blade or mallet!
1. Choose A Putter That's Right For Your Stroke
It may surprise you that different putter styles yield different stroke paths. Consider the three images you see here. In the upper-left-hand corner, I'm putting with a blade putter; in the one directly above, I'm putting with a mallet; and to the left, 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/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.
2. Determine Your Putter Length By Your Setup
When putting, you want your arms to hang freely, so they don't bow out. I'm pretty tall–6' 4"–so I use a fairly long putter–35.5 inches. If I was, say, Ian Woosnam, who stands 5' 4", and used the same putter, my arms would bow out and form a diamond shape. In that position, it's virtually impossible to make a consistent, fluid stroke.
Take a look at this training grip that I'm using. If I just let my arms hang freely, and if my eyes look directly down at the ball, I can look at its tape measure and see exactly what length I need. Before you go out and buy a new putter, make sure you use one of these measurement aids. Knowing exactly how long a putter you need is part of the battle!
To get some helpful information, visit odysseygolf.com and check out their Putter Fitting Module.
Putt For Perfection
3. Adjust The Clubhead Weight Accordingly
If you play with a shorter putter, you have to add weight to the clubhead to keep the swing weight consistent. (Most putter companies do this automatically, but double-check to make sure they do.) Conversely, if you use a longer putter, you should use a lighter clubhead.
If you cut down your shaft, and the putter feels too light, consider the old school remedy of adding lead tape to the putter's clubhead. Every two inches of tape equals one swing weight (approximately two grams). Apply the tape evenly to the bottom of the putter until you feel as though you've built the putter that feels best to you.
4. Accelerate Better With The Odyssey Backstryke
I'm a certified putter fitter with Odyssey Golf here at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Last year, the company introduced the Backstryke putter, which is one of the most revolutionary new putters to hit the market in years. What makes it so special? It's built with an ingrained forward press, one of the qualities most great putters naturally incorporate into their strokes, but most amateurs don't. Using the Backstryke will help you make an accelerating stroke without losing loft. Try it at your local golf course and see how it improves your roll. Better yet, come visit us at Troon North–we'd love to help you.
5. Stabilize Your Off-Center Hits
Because larger mallet clubheads are face balanced, they're much more forgiving than blades on off-center hits. Notice the nine photos above. I didn't strike the ball particularly well; in fact, I toed it, which if I had used a blade putter, the ball would have skidded to the right. However, with the mallet, it stayed right on the line, and I jarred it. If you struggle making consistent contact, pick up a mallet and straighten out your misses.
6. Align It!
These days, there's no excuse for not being properly aligned before you make your stroke. If you look at the photo here, you'll see that I've drawn a line on my ball, and aimed it at the hole. From there, I used the alignment aids on the top of my 2-ball putter to ensure that everything is heading in the right direction. If I've read the putt correctly, and I make a good straight-back and straight-through stroke, there's no reason this ball won't go in the hole. The key to alignment and new alignment-aid putters is to eliminate all the things that could go wrong. Once you've done that, it's up to you, your stroke and the grass between your ball and the cup.
Doug Hammer is a Class A PGA Professional and Director of Instruction at Troon North Golf Club, in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information, visit www.troongolf.com.