There is one club that gets used more than any other during a round of golf, but also is possibly the most overlooked when it comes to practice, and club fitting. Any thoughts on which club that may be?
You guessed it. It’s your putter. On average, you will use your putter for 30-40% of your shots in a given round of golf. Now, let’s think back to how you picked out your putter versus your driver or irons. Most golfers won’t hesitate to go through full fittings for their irons, woods and wedges. But when it comes to putters, the majority will either go with the model their favorite player uses, or pick up a putter off the rack, roll a few on the green in the store, decide it feels fine and just “go with it”. But why go through all the effort with your other clubs and skip the fitting on the one club that you will use more than any other?
When it comes to putter fittings there are five main factors to look at, with the ultimate goal of getting the clubface square at impact:
- Head Shape
- Lie Angle
Head shape is easily the most noticeable aspect of a putter that has changed over the past few years with all the new spaceship-looking mallet putters that boast high MOI (moment of inertia) and forgiveness. While having a high MOI is great because it will help on miss-hits, those giant mallet putters aren’t the best choice for everyone. The ideal head shape and hosel type will be based on your swing path – whether your path is straight back and through or you have an arced path. Typically, those big mallets will fit a straight back and through stroke, while a more traditional blade will better fit an arced stroke. We could probably write an entire post about head shapes, so this is merely a brief overview. One big aspect of putter heads is that is has to look good to your eye. If it doesn’t look good, you will be less confident and will not putt as well as you could.
Just as in a fitting for other clubs, loft and launch angle are extremely important with your putter. The standard putters out now come with three or four degrees of loft, which will usually be okay for most. But narrowing down loft comes down to your hand and ball position at impact. If you play the ball farther back in your stance or forward press your hands, you will most likely need to add some loft. Conversely, if you play the ball forward in your stance, you may need to decrease loft in order to minimize how much the ball bounces and to get it rolling smoothly.
Lie angle is another aspect that comes into play with your putter just like your other clubs, and just like those other clubs, if your lie is too flat or upright there can be an effect on how the putt will roll. Stock putters off the shelf will usually come with a lie angle of 70 degrees, which is a fine starting point, although most people will need that adjusted up or down a little bit. At impact, having the toe of the putter upright or flat within the 0-2 degree range is considered “acceptable.” Most people will tend to have a putter that is too upright at impact, but it’s not the end of the world and easily fixed.
The average golfer on the PGA Tour is roughly 6’ tall and the average length putter is 33.5”. A very interesting statistic, considering that the average stock putter is either 34” or 35”, and with that in mind most golfers use a putter that is too long. A very basic way to get a ball park length is to stand upright with your arms hanging at your side. With a measuring stick, determine the distance from your wrist joint to the floor. That distance will be a good starting point. From there, when you set up to the ball you want your hips over your ankles, hands under shoulders with a slight bend in your elbows, and your eyes over the ball to slightly inside the ball. With that stance you can then fine-tune the length, and you may be surprised at what you find out.
The weight of a putter can be broken into two separate categories, head weight and overall weight. Head weight can have an effect on how well you can square the clubface at impact. Too heavy and you may not be able to get it back to square in time. Too light and you may over rotate and close the face too early. There are multiple ways to change the weight of a putter, from adding lead tape to the head, to putting a weight plug in the shaft near the hosel, or installing a counter weight in the grip. All of these will affect the club head weighting in different ways, so it is important to work with a fitter that understands those effects and can help you determine which method will work best for what you need.
This is just a brief overview of the importance of a putter fitting. Each component listed above could be an article on its own, but the ultimate goal is to combine all these factors into the putter that will enable you to make more consistent strokes and make more putts. We hope that by knowing this, you will reach out to your local club fitter and get your putter checked. You may be shocked at what you learn.