Understanding Putters: Offset, Face Progression, and Various Neck Styles

September 17, 2012

Piggybacking on our discussion of toe hang, this section will describe another important aspect of the shaft and head interaction: offset and face progression.

“Offset” and “face progression” are the same thing but going in opposite directions. Many golfers have heard of offset because it is fairly prevalent in the golf industry. 50 years ago, golf clubs were made however the manufacturer could tie the shaft into the head. Usually, this involved the leading edge of the club aligned with the front of the shaft axis. In some cases, the face of the club progressed beyond the front of the shaft axis. For example, most persimmon woods included a shaft entering the club head somewhere near the center of the head (see below).

The same was true for irons and putters. For nearly all irons and putters, the shaft and club head met with the shaft entering the blade directly on the heel. There was no room for doing anything else. The prime example of such a design is the Calamity Jane putter.

When Karsten Solheim designed the PING Anser, it marked one of the most stark breakthroughs in the history of putter technology. Some features of this groundbreaking design will be discussed in later parts of this series. However, pertinent to the current discussion, Karsten Solheim’s design revolutionized the interaction of the shaft and the head of the putter (and, later, the golf club).

Karsten’s groundbreaking design was the “plumber’s neck,” which is given the name because of its resemblance to residential piping. The plumber’s neck putter provides a number of advantages over prior designs. First, it allows the shaft axis to be moved from the heel of the putter, allowing for some ability to modify the putter’s toe hang based on the placement of the plumber’s neck (see prior discussion regarding toe hang). More importantly for this discussion, it allowed for the concept of offset to be introduced to the golf world.

Karsten’s Original Anser:

A plumber’s neck by itself

don’t be confused, the plumber’s neck does not come separate for most putters; the photo above is included to allow the reader to see a detail view of what we’re calling the “plumber’s neck” on the original PING Anser

The plumber’s neck was a breakthrough, as stated already, because it allowed for the concept of offset to enter the putter world. Compare the two images below. What do you notice is different between these two putters?

If you look at the address pictures, you can tell a stark difference between the two putters. Even though the head shapes are fairly similar, the location of the face of the putter with respect to the shaft is remarkably different. In the first picture, the face of the putter aligns with the left edge of the shaft, as the shaft actually inserts into the center of the head (termed a “center-shafted” putter). In the second picture, the face of the putter aligns with or perhaps to the right of the right edge of the shaft. This occurs because the putter in the second picture has a plumber’s neck, which gives it offset.

So why is this beneficial or harmful? The answer has to do with your eye dominance.

Every person has an eye dominance that is usually (but not always) the same as that person’s dominant hand. As such, right-handed players are more often right-eye dominant and vice versa. However, the extent of the eye dominance may range from very slight to very strong. Many people don’t actually know what their eye dominance is, and there are not many reliable ways to tell. One way I’ve found is fairly reliable is what I’ve learned as the reading test. Begin reading a block of text with both eyes open. It helps if the text is small, repetitive, and relatively uninteresting, like credit card terms and conditions, or a printout of a cell phone call log, or one of LG’s PF posts (just kidding!). Read a few lines of text and then close one eye, taking note of how difficult it is to continue reading with that eye closed. Open both eyes and repeat the test, but this time with the other eye, taking note of how difficult it is to continue reading with that eye closed. Repeat as many times as you find necessary. Your eye dominance is whichever of the two eyes resulted in an easier read. For some people, the difference will be immediately noticeable. For others, the difference may be very hard to tell. There is no right answer–it’s only information.

However, where your eye dominance falls in the spectrum will determine if and how much offset or face progression/onset (the opposite of offset) you need. If you notice that you have about the same ease reading with either eye closed, your eye dominance is considered neutral. As such, you need a putter with a neutral offset position, meaning the face of the putter should be aligned with the center of the shaft. Assuming a right-handed putter (it would be backward for lefties), if you are left-eye dominant, you need a putter with the face progressing to the left of the shaft axis. In the pictures above, the center-shafted putter is a great option for a fairly strongly left-eye dominant player (assuming the toe hang is correct for your stroke type) because the face of the putter is aligned with the left edge of the shaft axis, which is a fair amount of face progression. Some putters–for example, some SeeMore putters and the Odyssey Backstryke–actually have progression of the face BEYOND the left edge of the shaft, accommodating a strongly left-eye dominant player. Similarly, if you are right-eye dominant, the plumber’s neck option will work better for you. In the pictures above, the face of the putter is aligned with the right edge of the shaft.

Why is this important? When setting up for the putting stroke, your dominant eye will guide your alignment. If the ball is not under your dominant eye, your setup will twist and torque to try to get it back in line. This will lead to improper setup alignment and missed putts. A left-eye dominant player playing too much offset will usually pull his putts; a right-eye dominant player playing too much face progression will usually push his putts.

In essence, we want every player to set up the same way: with the putter set up so that the hands are at the bottom of the stroke at impact. For most people, this occurs when the hands are in the center of their stroke. As such, the player should set up with the hands roughly in the center of his stroke. A putter with face progression will allow the left-eye dominant player to set up with his hands in the middle of the stroke and the ball toward his left foot, under his left eye. A putter with offset will allow the right-eye dominant player to set up with his hands in the middle of the stroke (just like the left-eye dominant player, promoting consistent mechanics between the two) but with the ball toward his right foot, under his right eye. As such, the amount of face progression/offset can be an important factor for getting the most consistent putting stroke in concert with your own individual eye dominance.

So how do we get this? Well, there are more options than just plumber’s necks. Here are some examples:

Heel Shafted:

Long Neck:

Center Shaft/Straight Shaft:

Goose Neck:

Flow Neck (aka Santa Fe or 1.5):

Double-Bend Shaft:

Single-Bend Shaft:

Modular Center Shaft:

And More!

Keep in mind, the location of the shaft affects not only the offset but also the toe hang of a putter, so many of these variations are attempts to get both an offset and a toe hang that matches a particular player’s specifications. However, the point here is that, if you know what you need, you’ll be better prepared when you take your game to the course.

Comments are welcome.


3 Responses to “Understanding Putters: Offset, Face Progression, and Various Neck Styles”

  1. […] pointed out in the last chapter (see https://thepowerfade.com/2012/09/17/understanding-putters-offset-face-progression-and-various-neck-st…), traditional Calamity Jane style putters were heel-shafted blades, just like every other iron. […]

  2. DC Dave Says:

    The entire assumption about eye dominance dictating the offset a player needs in a putter is false. Numerous studies have shown brain mapping to be completely individual and players will have a putter shape they naturally aim better, with eye dominance not a controlling factor. Golfers all believe it is a rule, but it’s false. Players have been laser fitted — a system that measures how well you can aim a putter — have tested out all over the place on which putters fit them. I am a RH player who is left-handed and am very left-eye dominant. I was told for years to use no-offset or center-shafted putters. Yet laser testing fit me in a full-shaft offset putter, with zero alignment aids, and I am very accurate at aiming that putter. My advice is to get a laser fitting and make no assumptions about offset as it relates to eye dominance. It simply does not hold up under scientific scrutiny.

    • JK Says:

      thanks for your comment. As stated in all these series many times, there is no one rule that works for everyone. That said, I’m not sure what scientific scrutiny you refer to; the fact that some guys who are left eye dominant do better lining up full-offset putters is a given. I’d love to see some reference to actual testing, but I believe the general rule still holds–it is much easier to aim when the ball is under your dominant eye. It may be that you (being left-eye dominant) have a very forward ball position relative to your eyes such that the ball is effectively in front of your left eye. If that’s the case, it might make sense to get a full offset to bring the ball closer to where it should be. The theory is about ball position relative to your eye location, and the offset (or onset, in some cases) is there to help you achieve the desired combination of ability to align yourself and ability to make a comfortable stroke.

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