Understanding Putters: Anatomy of a Putter

August 20, 2012

In prepping for the first chapter in this series, it became apparent to me that some of the terminology I use might not be fully known by all of our readership. As such, I’m hopeful that I can provide in this post a simple explanation of what I’m talking about when I refer to specific aspects of a putter. This post isn’t meant to be an in-depth review of any one area–each area will be discussed in more depth later. This post is meant to be an overview that will allow our readers to understand what the terms “toe hang,” “swingweight,” “lie angle,” or other various aspects actually mean. Of course, if anything is unclear or there are things I forget, please do mention in the comments so we can make sure they get added to the post.

1. Loft: the angle the putter face makes with respect to the ground when the shaft is straight (not pressed forward or leaning back).

2. Lie: the angle the shaft makes with respect to the ground. LG explained lie angle with respect to irons in his post about getting fit, here: https://thepowerfade.com/2012/07/10/review-lie-fitting-with-brian-razzari/. Putter lie is exactly the same.

3. Length: the length of the putter shaft as measured from the end of the grip to the ground. Note, the actual length of the shaft is likely less than this, as most putters do not have the shaft extend all the way into the head and down to the ground.

4. Hosel: in any club, the hosel is the joint at which the shaft meets the head. In putters, this is often called a “neck.”

5. Head weight: usually expressed in grams, it is the weight of the putter head without the shaft. A typical head weight ranges from 320 or so grams to 360 or so grams.

6. Swingweight: swingweight is the measure of how heavy the club head is with respect to the other components of the club. It gives the player an idea of how the club is balanced irrespective of how much it weighs in total. Swingweight is measured on a strange scale with a letter followed by a number such that “C-9” is followed by “D-0.” Typically, neutral swingweight is about D-0 for most clubs. Swingweight depends greatly on club length and head weight.

7. Toe hang: toe hang is a quantification of how the face of the putter is aligned when the putter is allowed to sit horizontally and unrestrained. Typically, this is determined by laying the putter on a flat surface (such as table) such that the shaft and grip of the club are on the table but the head hangs off the side. This allows the putter to rotate freely while the shaft lays flat and horizontally. Where the face points is then referred to based on its relation to a clock. “Face Balanced” is the putter pointing at 3:00. “Full toe hang” is the putter pointing at 6:00. “1/4 toe hang” is the putter pointing at about 4:30. All measures inbetween are typically referred to based on where they point on the clock. An illustration is included below:

8. Milling: most “high end” putters nowadays are made of a one-piece milled construction. Milling is essentially a process where a machine cuts metal from a block until it is the shape of the putter. This process results in a much more consistent end-product than typical forged (smashing a hot blank of metal until it’s the desired shape) or cast (pouring molten metal into a mold and allowing it to cool in the desired shape) constructions of previous generations. Milling may be coarse or fine, and in some putters, the mill marks may be very obvious, whereas it may be unnoticeable in others.

9. Grooves: some putters are made with patterns on the face that resemble grooves on an iron. The theory behind these is to provide “better roll.” Whether this is actually the case will be discussed in a post about grooves.

10. Alignment Aid: a line or dot (or anything else) on the putter head designed to aid the player in lining up his putter with the ball to some degree.

11. Offset: the progression of the face with respect to the shaft. Typically, “neutral” is considered 1/2 shaft offset. If the face of the putter is aligned with the center of the shaft, that is considered a neutral position. If the face is further to the right (for a right handed golfer), the putter is offset. If the face is further to the left, the putter has “negative offset.” In common vernacular, this is referred to as “face progression.” An illustration of offset is below:

12. Moment of Inertia: Often referred to as “MOI,” moment of inertia is a club head’s resistance to twisting based on its shape. This will be discussed in greater detail later, but there are certain head styles that are far better at avoiding twisting on off-center hits than others.

13. Green Speed: typically referred to as a number between 7 and 15, green speed is a measure of how many feet a ball rolls when coming off a Stimpmeter. A Stimpmeter is nothing more than a yard stick with a notch in it. A course superintendent will measure his green speed by laying the Stimpmeter flat on the ground, putting a ball into the notch, and then lifting one end of the Stimpmeter until the ball comes out of the notch. It rolls down the meter stick and then continues until friction stops it. The length that that ball rolls quantifies how fast the greens run that day. “10” is a good representation of an average course for public play. “13” would be unusually fast and extremely difficult for most golfers. “7” would feel very shaggy and slow to most golfers.

14. Head Style: There are generally two types of head styles: mallet and blade. There are, of course, degrees to each, but a mallet is generally a head that has substantial matter behind the point of contact (much like looking at a driver/fairway wood). A blade is a putter that has a single line of metal behind the point of contact (much like looking at an iron). As stated, there are variants, but these are the general styles.

15. “Anser”: The original design by Karsten Solheim, founder of PING Golf, that first introduced perimeter weighting to the golf industry.

16. “Pistol”: Also known as a “paddle,” it’s the style of grip most used by players today, where the front side of the grip is flat in line with the line of putt and the back of the grip is tapered to give the hands some feel of the direction of the face. The much less popular style of grip is simply “round.”

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