|describe, yet most golfers understand it. Feel doesn’t just mean how the putter physically feels to the touch or when stroking a putt. It’s the response you gets when holding the putter, taking a practice stroke, drawing the putter back, and making contact with the ball. Feel takes the putting stroke and transforms the act from science to art. For sure, much of this takes place between the ears, but the right putter can certainly help. Head materials, head designs, and grips are just a few of the tools club makers use to achieve the right feel.
The greatest variations in putter design are in the head itself. From blade, to mallet, to oversize, the putter head has included all things great and small. The blade appears thin when you look down from the top, and it has no material behind it. A traditional blade putter head is about the thickness of your finger. This type of putter is less forgiving on off-center hits, but provides accuracy. Many blades now retain a thin top line appearance, but have material on the back of the putter head that’s been hollowed out in a cavity-back design to reduce twisting at contact.
A mallet is larger and wider than a blade, often having a broad surface that contacts the ground.
Some models include alignment lines to assist in lining up a putt. They can be as simple as a notch in the center of the top line of the putter, or as elaborate as a system of lines and arrows pointing in the direction that you’ll be hitting the ball. Some people find them distracting, but these lines used in conjunction with the trademark on the ball can aid putts tremendously.
Most putter heads are made of stainless or carbon steel. Bronze and brass are also used, and provide a softer feel. Aluminum is also used for a soft feel and lightweight. Graphite, polymers and other plastics are used to make a putter head that is very resilient and very light. These materials generally make the head more expensive.
Putter heads have been the focus of a lot of experimentation in materials. Some have lightweight composite inserts in the face, which, by ratio, places more weight in the toe and heel. Inserts are a relatively new design element in putters. They’re intended to provide greater response at contact. Most inserts are a synthetic material; although, some are a softer metal such as aluminum. Some companies have experimented with rubber faces, aluminum honeycomb-like structures, and the like. The insert conforms to the ball on contact and generates a softer feel through the shaft and to your hands. The result is a more controlled roll. Sometimes, the face of metal putter heads are milled–material is cut away to achieve an extremely flat surface and maximized feel.
Weight is the greatest contributor to how the putter feels in your hands. You notice it the moment you pick it up. A putter head that is too light contributes to a “handsy” putting style where the hands control the stroke, making the putter head pass through the contact zone too quickly. This usually causes putts to run long. A heavy putter head creates drag in the stroke. The putter head passes through the contact zone too slowly, causing putts to come up short.
In general, a mallet putter is somewhat heavier. Steel putter heads are lighter than bronze, brass, or aluminum models. Overall, it’s better to err on the side of a lighter putter. A heavier putter is less consistent for you over the course of 18 holes.
When a putter head is balanced, it resists twisting at impact, which helps impart a more consistent roll to the ball. To test this, balance a putter on your finger by placing your finger under the shaft near the putter head. With a face-balanced putter, the clubface remains nearly parallel to the ground. A face-balanced putter can be achieved through a cavity-back design, where more weight is placed in the heel and toe.
Length should be determined by your putting stance. The more you crouch over the ball, the shorter the putter needs to be. The more you stand up, the longer the putter should be. Most putters are 34 or 35 inches long. Try one of each. Keep in mind that a longer putter is more difficult to control and may not impart as much feel.
As much as it appears that the face of a putter is straight up and down, there is a slight degree of loft on every putter–usually about four degrees. Loft helps the ball to roll properly. On the putting stroke, the ball is actually lifted slightly at impact, skids a bit due to backspin, and then begins to roll over and toward the target.
Putters can either be center shafted (the shaft connects near the middle of the putter head) or heel shafted (the shaft connects near the heel). An offset shaft helps set up a proper stroke. In this design, a bend in the hosel (where the shaft enters the clubhead) or shaft helps keep your hands ahead of the ball, promoting a smoother stroke. Shafts can also be in hosel (the hosel surrounds the shaft) or over hosel (the shaft surround the hosel). With some models, there is no hosel. These are mostly aesthetic concerns.
Grips are different, too. Most putter grips are larger than those on your other clubs. This helps promote a lighter grip pressure and prevents the wrists from breaking too easily.