Putters are a unique club in your bag. Putting technique is different from any other club. There is room for creativity & personality when you putt.
Certain principles still apply to maximizing your putting consistency and accuracy.
Extensive studies have determined the way you aim a putter is as individual as you are. Everybody processes the way they see the putter aim differently. In the golf industry’s attempt to create a solution for putter sales, they have mass produced putters that are sold off the rack and not properly fit to the way you see aim.
Why struggle to adjust your stroke to your putter when you can have a putter that fits you? Finding the correct putter is a process. Much like choosing the correct tool you need for any job, it is important to look at all the variables before making a decision.
Head shape influences aim. Mallet styles tend to cause your aim to be to the right and thin blade styles tend to make you aim farther left. There is also personal preference – what looks right to you.
The angle your ball starts from the face of your putter determines how soon and how well it will get rolling smoothly. Heavier greens require more loft. In addition, if your putting style has your hands ahead of the putter head at impact, that effectively reduces the loft of your putter. It increases the amount of loft your putter must have.
Just as putter head shape influences the direction you hit the ball, hosel shape also does the same thing. A more offset hosel tends to allow the face to close more before impact, causing the ball to go farther left. A putter with no offset will tend to send your putt farther right.
As with all clubs, it is preferable for the club sole to be parallel to the ground when you stroke the ball in the way that is most comfortable to you. If it is toe down, the ball will tend to go right and if toe up will tend to go left.
The head weight of a putter affects the speed of your stroke. With most people, the heavier the putter head, the slower your stroke will be. The speed of the head when it strikes the ball determines the distance the ball will go before stopping. Faster greens require a heavier putter so that you hit the ball easier. Slower greens require a lighter putter for a fast stroke. This is counter-intuitive.
There are a few people for whom this isn’t true. I am one of them. With a heavy putter, I hit the ball harder – not good on fast greens. I do better with a putter with a light head. It is back-weighted – more on that below.
If you play on many types of greens, some putters have changeable weights so you can change the putter weight to suit the greens where you are playing. The alternative is to either have multiple putters of various weights, or to spend a lot of time on the practice green before each round to get used to the greens on the course you are playing that day.
Shaft Weight and Backweighting
Shaft weight affects the balance and feel of your putter. Weights can be placed inside the shaft at various points or at the grip end of your putter. More weight in the end of the shaft can slow down overactive hands. It can also greatly improve distance control (lag putting). I have a heavy weight in the end of the shaft/grip because I tend to be to “handsy.” It works well. My lag putting improved immediately. I now have tap-ins instead of 5 (or more) foot putts for par after a first putt from 30 feet up to the rare time I have a 60 foot putt. I have these weights available. They can be installed in a minute or two and you can experiment with various size weights to see which works the best for you. Putting technique is discussed here.
Another factor affecting feel and distance control is the flex of the putter shaft. Some say a stiff shaft gives you more feel because almost all of the energy traveling from the head gets to your hands. You can feel exactly how you have contacted the ball. Others prefer a softer shaft to absorb the shock of impact. A graphite shaft will also absorb some of the shock of impact. I am in the latter category. I use a very flexible graphite shaft in my putter. With a light head (see above), the shaft doesn’t flex too much.
Angle of Your Stroke
When your move your putter into the ball, you can have it moving level to the ground, on an upward angle, or strike the ball with a downward hit. Each of those motions affect the way the ball comes off the putter face. On greens with any bumpiness, hitting up on the ball will result in a smoother roll with less bounding, especially early in your putt.
Your ability to adjust to changing green speeds is affected by head weight, shaft weight, loft, and, to a lesser extent, shaft flex, all discussed above.
Factors Affecting Putting Accuracy
Factor Reduction in Error
Acceleration thru ball 63%
Impact lie angle 41%
Face Angle 30%
Impact lean angle 27%
Forward radius 25%
Forward path angle 21%
Aim Survey (185 students)
Custom Putter Fitting System
Shown below are some of the various putter heads, faces with various lofts, hosels, weights, and shaft extenders used to custom fit a putter. There are also numerous shafts variations. The system shown is from Edel Golf. With the various options shown, as well as shaft options, grip options, weighting options – end of shaft and down the shaft, choice of paint fill color(s), choice of text on the putter, etc., there are millions of combinations available.