Your Most Used Club
At every level of golf, the putter is the most used club. Improving your putting is also the fastest, easiest way to knock strokes off your game. Why is it, then, that so few people are fit for their putters?
Many Methods, Many Objectives, Too Much Confusion
Part of the problem with putter fittings is that they don’t involve straightforward number crunching like a driver fitting does. Also, the objective is not as obvious. With a driver, the one that goes straightest and longest is best. With a putter, some people fit for the putter that you aim the best, others for the putter with the “best roll,” and others measure the stroke to choose the right flat stick. If so-called experts can’t even agree on what’s important, how can we expect average golfers to know?
A Common Sense Approach
The amount of variables in putter fitting can feel overwhelming: head shape, toe hang, weight, length, lie, alignment aids, and grip, just to name a handful. Where should you start?
When I fit someone for a putter, I start with a question everyone can answer: what kind of putter do you like to look at? In today’s golf market, you can find virtually any type of putter (various toe hangs, offsets, etc) with any kind of look, so there’s no reason to compromise. I also want to know what kind of feel a player prefers – some like soft inserts, some want a firmer metal face. These two player preferences eliminate a huge number of putters and put us well on our way to finding the best fit. From there, we find the length and lie that the player can use comfortably and set up with consistently. Then, we can proceed in a high tech or low tech way.
High Tech: If you have the ability to be fit on a SAM Puttlab, I would recommend it. Puttlab is like Trackman for putting. It measures all the things the putter does during the stroke from tempo to rotation to impact location. Try three or four different putters on Puttlab, and see what produces the best, most consistent results.
Puttlab puts out a fantastic amount of data, so much that it can even overwhelm fitters, so you want to key on a couple data points. I would rate rotational consistency as one of the most important factors. Others to keep an eye on are stroke shape (you want a consistent shape) and impact location.
Low Tech: If you can’t access Puttlab, or if you’re some kind of Luddite, you can take a low tech approach to your final putter selection. Take the three or four putter that you are interested in and…putt. Making or missing putts is the result of many things, so I would suggest that you pay less attention to what the ball does and more attention to how the putter feels when you’re swinging it. Does it feel like the putter is working with or against your stroke? Do you have to fight the putter to get the ball on line or does it swing easily? Does it feel too heavy or too light? When you find the putter that allows you swing naturally and consistently starts the ball on line, you’ve found your best fit.
Things to Avoid
You’ll notice that in my putter fitting, there was no talk of where your eyes have to be, what kind of stroke you must make, or “getting the ball rolling sooner.” None of these things will help you make more putts. Here’s why:
“Your eyes must be over the ball”
Complete garbage. As my friend and instructor Bruce Rearick explains thoroughly in his instructional blog (HERE), great players have putted well with their eyes inside, over, and outside the ball. Find a position that helps you see the line well and stick to it.
“You must make ____ kind of stroke”
More garbage. Make the stroke that you can repeat. There have been great players with very arced and relatively straight club paths, very short and very long strokes. Find what works for you.
“You need to put a ‘better roll’ on the ball”
I’m not going to bother discussing whether or not it’s possible for one putter to make the ball roll sooner, better, or “purer” than another. I’m simply going to ask you this: is there any empirical data showing that “better roll” leads to more putts made? Sure it seems like common sense that “better roll” is a good thing, but until there’s proof that it will lower scores, count me out.
While the putter is often the most hated club in the bag, it’s also the one that can unlock lower scores faster than any other. If you’re interested in dropping strokes and winning more bets, put some serious time and thought into finding the best flat stick for your game.
As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.
Building Your Best Bag
Part 4: The Putter
Part 5: The Irons
Part 6: The Wedges
Part 7: The Long Game
Part 8: Specialty Clubs
Part 9: Maintenance