If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times. Someone, trying to give a glowing review of a new flatsick to make others understand the new piece of equipment in its fullest, praises about how the putter has exceptionally “soft feel” at impact.

Ever wonder how a piece of steel could feel “soft?” I do.

Even though I know that steel is not truly soft–at least, not as compared to pretty much anything on this earth–I myself have used this phrase, as it’s understood in the vernacular of the golf industry to mean “that felt really good.”

The fact of the matter is that the hardness of the metal is fairly immaterial to whether a putter feels “soft.” There is one caveat–if the material is so soft that you can tell by feeling it with your finger that it’s soft, then it probably can affect the way the putter feels. However, that is not the case always, which leads me to the question–if someone could choose between a noticeably soft material and steel, why would anyone choose steel if the goal is “soft feel?”

The answer is that what “soft feel” really means is “how does this thing vibrate?” It is far more than just what your hands feel. It’s about resonance frequencies, amplitudes, and so much more.

The most often repeated myth about feel is that the hardness of the metal determines what is felt. I’ll explain shortly why that is incorrect. But a close second is the myth that “feel is ONLY sound.” I’ve heard this often from the great Scotty Cameron, and others, who claim that of you put headphones on and putted, then you would not be able to tell the difference between putters. This is inaccurate.

While sound does play a large role in the process, it is only because the sound is at the same frequency (or, in other words, same type of vibrations) as what you feel in your hands. You see, putters–like any other object–have a resonance frequency at which they vibrate. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon that all things, regardless of size, have a certain vibration that they like. Like striking a bell, a putter will “ring” at its resonance frequency by default. It’s pretty difficult to get a bell to ring at a pitch other than its resonance frequency…..same thing with putters. Like a holding a bell, what you hear in your ear will be vibration at the exact same rate as what you are holding in your hand. In other words, what you feel in your hands is the same as what you hear in your ears. It simply can’t occur any other way.

Now, some have said that the effect of what you feel in your hands is so little that the sound really is all that matters. To those folks, I challenge them to play baseball in the winter time with an aluminum bat and tell me there’s nothing to feel in your hands. What you perceive as tactile feedback is far more precise than what you hear. If you don’t believe that, run your hand over a bumpy surface and tell me what it feels like. Then, sing against it and tell me if you can pick up the bumps with your ears. There is a great deal to be felt with your hands.

If that’s true, then what exactly is it that “feels soft” when it comes to a putter–or any club–striking a golf ball?

The answer is that there are two ways to create “soft feel.” The perception that something is “soft” is based on the idea that impact to soft things is typically low energy. Low energy is typically associate with lower frequency vibrations or very low amplitude–or, in other words, quiet. High energy impacts are loud (high amplitude) and high-pitched (high frequency).

Low energy impact feels like you’re making contact with a pillow. It feels like what you’re hitting is “soft.” High energy impact feels like you’re making contact with a brick. So the way to make a putter feel “soft” is to have a low frequency (i.e., low pitch) or low amplitude (i.e., quiet) impact.

To achieve the low frequency impact, it is important to make a putter that has a particularly low resonance frequency (the resonance frequency being the “ringing” frequency, at which a putter rings like a bell, as discussed earlier). Typically, a dense material will have a low resonant frequency by its nature. However, when a putter is designed to incorporate other factors–like, for example, making a 350-gram head–the design of the putter itself may become a factor in how much the putter vibrates. For example, copper putters often feel ringy and loud because they typically are made with thinner faces. Copper is a dense material as compared to steel, so it is difficult to achieve a comparably-weighted putter head with a similar design to a steel head, which is what most golfers are familiar with. As such, putters made of copper often have thin faces or extra ground soles to try and remove weight where the player will not visually notice it. However, both of these design elements result in a higher resonance frequency. Even though most bells are made of brass, which is a very dense material, small, thin walled bells can resonate at high pitches while large, thicker-walled bells resonate at lower pitches. As such, the design has a lot to do with how a solid (i.e., no insert) putter resonates and with what the player feels.

So, designing a putter to have low frequency resonance is one element that allows a putter to “feel soft.” However, the other option is just to make a putter that doesn’t really vibrate that much. This results in a different feel, but not a materially different one. Because the low resonance frequencies are typically low energy, they don’t typically feel very different from a putter that has a high resonance with very low energy or just no resonance at all. As such, one way to get a putter not to resonate at all is to put a soft insert material in it, such as plastic (Odyssey) or something even softer, such as STX putters, which were made with a deformably soft material. No one thinks of plastic as being soft or associated with low resonance. If anything, plastics have very high resonance frequencies, as they are very low density (light weight) and hard as compared to their weight. However, they can be engineered so as not to transmit vibrations very easily. That means that, even if the insert material has a high pitched resonance, it never gets transmitted to the user because it is almost no energy.

The same thing works with grooved or deep milled putters. The reason they feel “so soft” is that they do not transmit a much energy, as the impact with the ball must travel through the relatively small contacts with the ball to be transmitted up to the user and ring the putter head. Even some of the old putters–like the Scotty Cameron TeI3 series–felt soft only because they had a layer of “elastomer” (rubber) between the insert and the rest of the putter head that dampened the vibrations.

But why do golfers want something that feels “soft?” There are many explanations, and none of them definitive. One is that a well-struck ball will always have a relatively low resonance frequency because–if the club is designed correctly–that is the point of most efficient energy transfer. When you hit the sweet spot, it feels good; when you don’t, it feels bad. That’s because hitting the sweet spot doesn’t waste energy on twisting the club head, making an odd sound, and vibrating–at least, if the club is designed correctly. Another explanation is that golf has changed over the years. In the “old days,” golf balls were made differently. The old balata covers were much softer as enjoyable to putt with as compared to today’s so-called “soft cover” balls that would only pass as an intermediate ball back in the days of yore. Although the performance and durability of modern golf balls make it worth the changeover, players seeking that “old time feel” must change the putter, not the ball, to achieve what they’re “used to.”

What you like is up to you. Most players will like a low-pitched and/or low energy impact, but some don’t. I personally have a slot cut in my putter that intentionally reduces the thickness of the face, making the putter resonate a little more, and giving me a little more feedback on how I struck the ball. I don’t want it to feel ringy, but I do want to be able to feel the impact, so I’ve selected a putter that I believe meets my personal preference for feel. Many Tour pros play Odyssey putters, even though golf purists tend to scoff at insert-based putters. Many purists say that insert putters are not responsive. There is some truth to this, as inserts are there to dampen vibrations, not to give feedback. However, if it’s good enough for Tour pros, I’m not sure what everyone is complaining about.

In the end, every putter will have its own signature sound and feel because very few are designed exactly alike, and even those that are designed alike are typically made of slightly different materials or with slightly different processes. However, knowing and understanding the differences will help you find what it is you like and what helps you feel the best about your putting, which is the key to gaining confidence on the course.

A lot has been made recently about the importance of “good roll.” Desperate to infuse technology into a club that is usually too simple to get too techy, golf companies sell “good roll” or “hole-seeking spin.” The promote technology that, they say, improves a golfer’s ability to putt a ball and have it hold its line.

While grooves can provide some benefits, they do not necessarily provide the type of benefits that a big company marketing department might try to sell you. The same benefits of a “grooved” style putter can be had with other equipment tweaks that, if you know them, can help expand your universe of putter options, assuming you were liking the way you putted with a grooved putter.

LG and I are big fans of Dr. Bob Rotella. Ask Dr. Bob about hole-hunting spin, and you’ll get a response that measures it as something along the lines of a Paul Bunyan tale. Ask the golf companies–and even some well-known pros–and you might get a different reaction, one full of buy-in. The truth, I’m afraid, is somewhere in the middle.

Golfers have been taking high speed video of putting for years. The purpose of this is to understand how the ball comes off the face of the putter. A ball that starts rolling earlier has a better chance of staying on line. This is physics.

OK, for those who want to tune out of the math discussion, now is the time

Have you ever noticed that it is extremely difficult to sit on a bicycle without moving? However, when you ride a bike, it’s much much easier to stay on the bike if you are already moving.

This is because of a gyroscopic effect produced by the rotation of the bicycle wheels. The wheels maintain their angular momentum unless acted upon by an outside force. However, when the wheels aren’t in motion, there’s no angular momentum, so they fall much more easily. See below

For a physics explanation, see

It works the same way with a golf ball. The angular momentum created by starting a golf ball rolling earlier will keep it rolling unless acted upon by an outside force. If the ball starts by skidding, there is no angular momentum until the ball contacts the ground and starts to rotate.

OK, done for those skipping

So there is some merit to the idea that a golf ball that starts rotating sooner will hold its line. However, a golf ball that starts rolling sooner also will go further because it doesn’t lose as much energy turning a skidding motion into rolling. As such, when you hear about players hitting the ball further with better roll, it’s because they’re used to losing energy, so they instinctively swing harder than needed.

OEM putter makers who make putters with grooves will have you believe that a grooved putter will help you create this overspin. Just like grooves on an iron create backspin, the theory goes that the upward motion of the putter head at impact will allow the grooves to bite into the ball and cause it to spin forward.

This is hogwash, for a number of reasons.

First, a putter is not traveling fast enough in 99.99% of situations for the grooves to actually impact the ball. With iron shots, there is at least mild compression of the surface of the golf ball (and sometimes more than that) that causes the ball to spin. In most cases, large amounts of spin can be produced without grooves, at least in the fairway. Multiple tests have shown that an iron without grooves struck purely on a golf ball will have the same spin profile as an iron with grooves struck purely if the contact is efficient (i.e., from the fairway). Grooves on an iron help when there is a potential of inefficient contact, such as out of the rough, in giving a chance for the uneven surface of the face to make some contact with the ball. With putting, the club is not moving 60+ mph…it’s moving on the order of 10 mph. There is almost no compression of the golf ball, even on really, really long putts.

The second issue is that, for spin to occur, there must be some mismatch between the impact direction and the ball flight. With a wedge, it’s easy to see the ball pop out spinning because the club is moving in one direction and the ball must roll up the face by simple physics. There is no such effect on the golf ball with a putter. The only way to impart upward glancing blows on a golf ball with a putter is to perform an unnatural motion that requires some pretty faulty mechanics and lifting the putter up in the air at impact.

As such, regardless of the marketing, grooves on a putter DO NOT IMPACT THE ROLL.

So what does?

Dynamic loft–in other words, loft at the point of impact. It only makes sense that a putter with lower loft will cause the ball to jump up in the air less than a putter with higher loft. The sooner a ball contacts the ground, the sooner the ground starts to put friction on it and cause it to rotate. The only thing that causes a golf ball to roll forward is its friction with the ground.

Don’t believe me? Watch:

Here’s the rub–a typical off-the-shelf putter will have between 3 and 5 degrees of loft. Many grooved putter will have less than 2 degrees of static loft. So, for a player using the exact same stroke, the dynamic loft (loft at impact) will be lower, regardless of that player’s stroke. I dare say that if a player with a typical putter (e.g., a Scotty Cameron, which are typically 4 degrees) reduced the loft to 1 degree, he/she would see similar playing characteristics to most grooved putters. In other words, it’s not the grooves that promote good roll; it is just that the dynamic loft is lower.

So if grooves don’t actually help putting, what do they do? What are inserts for anyway?

In many cases, grooves, like inserts, can change the feel of a putter or make it possible to have a putter that feels a certain way made out of less costly materials. A Scotty Cameron milled putter is made of 303 stainless steel, milled on a precision CNC machine, the same as an engine block or an aircraft part. An Odyssey insert putter is made of cast 17-4 stainless steel (cheaper metal, cheaper processing), finished by rough bead blasting (cheap process), with a layer of plastic poured in the face, and maybe a quick mill pass on the face to make sure it’s all flat. This process is much cheaper, but it leads to a soft and responsive feeling putter. The end result, a player can get a much less expensive putter (Cameron is typically over $300, Odyssey is typically under $150) that is every bit professional quality equipment.

A lot of press has been put out there for deep milling the face of the putter. Particularly with the newest release of Scotty Cameron putters (see below), deep (or aggressive) milling on the face of the putter has become more popular as many people believe that it makes the putter feel softer.

Both grooves and deep milling alter the contact of the ball and the putter face. Effectively, grooves and deep milling give the ball fewer places to make contact with the face of the putter. Natural frequencies cannot be transmitted as efficiently through the putter head, up the shaft, and into the grip, so the feel changes a bit. Additionally, because the contact is smaller and more localized, there is less of a “ringing” effect, so the amplitude (or strength) of the sound emitting from the putter head is much lower. As a result, there is less vibrations, which makes the putter feel and sound muted. To many players, that is a “soft” feeling that helps them determine whether they made good impact. While this is generally personal preference, it is by and large desirable to have a “soft feeling” putter face to help understand where the impact was made.

So while grooves, inserts, and deep milling do not affect roll, they do affect putting. Your confidence depends at least in part on your making consistent impact, but it is also true that your making consistent impact depends at least in part on your confidence. Grooves, deep milling, and inserts can increase the chances that you will feel that “soft, pure” feeling of a good shot off the face of the putter, giving you confidence that you performed the shot correctly. So there is some good there. But to truly improve your roll, grooves, deep milling, and inserts will not help.

One side note before the finish: although these items do not help roll, position of the center of gravity within the putter head DOES affect roll. Direct placement of the COG on the impact point can greatly increase the efficiency of contact and lead to a lower flight off the face–in other words, the misalignment of the COG and the impact point can cause the ball to fly up in the air, while an aligned COG and impact point would obviate this reaction. However, almost all putters do not position the COG high on the face, and, thus, it is nearly impossible to find a model that does this. One such model is the MACHINE “prize” putter by Dave Billings, but there are not many of these around (see below).

Today we’re going to talk about weight. No, I won’t be telling you how unhealthy you are and how you need to work out. Rather, we’ll talk about weight as it relates to putters and how different weights affect the putting stroke.

In golf, there are two types of “weight”–actual weight (which is usually measured in grams) and swingweight (which is not really a weight but more-so a balance of weight). Both are important to putting, although personal theories vary about how much importance should be placed on one over the other.

Swingweight is simply a measure of balance of weight from the grip, shaft, and head of a putter–or any golf club for that matter. If a club has a light total weight, but 70% of its weight is in the head, then the club will feel relatively heavy and have a high swing weight. However, if a club is relatively heavy but has only 30% of its weight in the head, it will feel relatively light and have a low swing weight. As such, swingweight really tells you only about the balance of weight in the club, not the total weight. For putting, some commenters believe that swingweight is an important aspect. While it does play some role in how a putter feels, I have always felt that it is of relatively little importance because the hands do not hing in a putting stroke. If you have trouble preventing your hands from hinging, you may seek out a putter with a higher swingweight to try and make it more difficult for you to force the putter forward. However, it is unlikely that simply balancing the weight differently (i.e., by getting a lighter shaft and grip) will result in any material change.

The far more important feature is head weight. Head weight is exactly what it sounds–how much the putter head weighs without the shaft or grip attached. Putter head weight is typically measured in grams, and most technical spec sheets will say to the gram how much the head weight might be. Most production model putters are 330 or 335 grams. I say “most” because some recent models, such as the Odyssey Black series and some newer Scotty Cameron putters, actually have varying weights for varying lengths. This is an attempt by the putter maker to keep a consistent swingweight regardless of the putter length. Because one inch of shaft length is about the same (for swingweighting) as adding 10 grams of head weight, you will see that many putters now have a 10 gram relationship per inch of shaft length. Scotty Cameron’s 2010 models include interchangeable weights. 35 inch putters are 330g; 34 inch putters are 340g; 33 inch putters are 350g. Obviously, some putter manufacturers believe that swingweight is important, and they try to keep this consistent among the series.

However, how Scotty Cameron believes a putter should feel should not dictate what you like. Many players today are opting for heavier putter heads in general, realizing some of the benefits that “heavy” provides. What is “heavier?” Well, that’s up to you.

For starters, the standard for smaller, custom-made putter heads has risen to 350g. Most players using Sunset Beach, Kari Lajosi, Byron Morgan, Tom Slighter, and a host of other “custom” putter manufacturer’s models are opting for 350g as stock weight. In addition, many putter makers are going even heavier. Piretti offers putters heads at 370g stock weight, and LaMont Mann customs go upwards of 400g on occasion.

The trend in increased head weight can be attributed to a number of factors. Most notably, better greens mean faster greens, and faster greens need higher head weight.

wait…what did he say?

You read that right. Fast greens need heavier putters.

Many people don’t understand this. They inherently think that if a putter is heavier, it will automatically force a ball harder because of “conservation of momentum.” Well, first, there’s not really such a thing as conservation of momentum. But, even if you have a hard time following that, here’s how it works–there are two explanations; one is scientific, one is not. Either way, I think you can understand. But since I have an engineering degree, I’ll start with the science.

First, force is equal to mass times acceleration. Look up Sir Isaac Newton for more reading.

F=m * A

Next, kinetic energy of any object in motion is equal to one-half of the object’s mass multiplied by the square speed the object is traveling. See Newton, again, for reference.

E= 1/2 m * V^2

Energy must be conserved at all times, so the amount of kinetic energy the putter head travels with will be very important for determining how hard you hit the ball at impact.

so here’s how it works. Most people, mistakenly thinking that higher weight leads to a harder hit on a putter, believe that they will accelerate the putter with the same acceleration regardless of how heavy the putter is. Well, let’s try this out. Take a wiffle ball bat and try to swing it. Now take a cinder block and try to swing it the same speed. The amount of force you have to put in to accelerate the objects the same way is so great that it’s virtually impossible to do. Of course, this is an exaggeration to show the point, but it works the same with smaller differences in weight as well. Simply put, it is very difficult to change your force input on a putter to achieve consistent acceleration regardless of the weight.

So if acceleration isn’t constant, then what is? If we assume that force the user imparts on the club is the same from one stroke to another (which is much easier to accomplish), then a heavier putter head will lead to less acceleration (see F=m*a). If there’s less acceleration–and we’re starting from a still position, which we are in golf–then there is less velocity. Because velocity goes down, energy goes down (see E=0.5*m*V^2), but the energy goes down at a proportion squared to the decrease in velocity. Now, because we have higher mass, the energy will go up per the increased mass, but it only goes up directly with the increase in mass. In other words, velocity is much more important since any change in velocity will have a squared result on the energy. Thus, the increase in mass is easily negated by the decrease in velocity. This leads to less energy at impact, resulting in a slower ball speed coming off of the putter face.

science explanation over

For those who skipped below, the second (easier to understand) answer is that a heavier putter head is simply more difficult to move, which is what you want with a fast green. Fast greens require very small putting strokes to keep the ball from getting away from you. It is much easier to make small movements accurately with heavy weight, as lighter weight tends to float around and get jerky.

As such, the trend toward heavier weight has a lot to do with modern greenskeeping making even the local muni course run at speeds that would be tour-caliber just two decades ago.

As with all other sections we’ve described, it is very important that you don’t lock yourself into thinking that one weight is good and another is bad just because someone else says so. You must play with the equipment that gives you the best chance to play good golf. Mark O’Meara recently had a putter made that was 315 grams, an absurdly light weight by today’s standards. Why? His old PING Anser putter that he grew up with was right around that weight, and he felt most confident that he could make putts with that weight. That’s a full 35 grams difference (3.5 swingweight points for those that were paying attention) away from what I play, but if it helps him make putts, it’s the right move.

What this section is meant to show you is twofold. First, you must know that there are other options out there besides what you might see in a big box store. Take some time to test out different options. You might really like that new Scotty Cameron, but it might be that the only reason it feels so good is that it’s so much heavier than everything else on the rack (some new 2012 Scotty Camerons are as much as 360g head weight!). Even with your own putter, you can experiment by adding lead tape to increase the head weight. If the other specs of your putter are properly fit (as we’ve been discussing throughout this series), then you should be able to dial in the head weight without much fanfare.

However, the second point is that you should find weights that work for you, but be willing to mix it up if the green speed is dramatically different. I recently played on greens that ran upwards of 15 on the stimpmeter. I wish I had had a little extra lead tape in my bag to help me slow down the putter head for those greens. Similarly, when I play a particular muni down the street from my house, I always bring a back-up putter that’s a good 15 grams lighter than my current putter so that I can properly hit through the shaggy greens on the course.

Now, you may find you play better on slow greens with a heavier putter and vice versa for fast greens. If that’s the case, go with it, and understand that that is your game. This post, however, shows you the reason for the common knowledge as it stands today.

You may have asked yourself at some point in the last decade, “why am I seeing so many putters that look like space ships? I guess people are really into mallet putters.”

If you’ve said this to yourself, your observation is certainly accurate. In recent years, mallet putters have started to take greater and greater market share from more traditionally-styled putters like the PING Anser and Wilson 8802 styles. The reason? Well, that’s a bit more complex.

As pointed out in the last chapter (see https://thepowerfade.com/2012/09/17/understanding-putters-offset-face-progression-and-various-neck-styles/), traditional Calamity Jane style putters were heel-shafted blades, just like every other iron. This putter was used by virtually everyone–Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Walter Hagen, etc. Aside from the advances already mentioned in this series (toe hang, offset), the Calamity Jane style putter was, well, tough to hit. Anyone who’s tried to roll a heel-shafted blade (i.e., Wilson 8802) knows the feeling. You think you’ve hit a good putt, but the feel is like you missed the face, and the club twists so much in your hands it almost falls out. In all honesty, I personally have great admiration for anyone that can play well with the true blade style putter. It is an extremely difficult piece of equipment to use effectively.

In the late 50s, Karsten Solheim joined the game of golf. Perhaps his greatest contribution was in crafting the PING Anser. Karsten learned golf later in life, but was not good at putting. He did what golf equipment lovers everywhere have been searching to do since–fix the equipment rather than the stroke. Now, a good stroke works with a lot of putters, and every person who reads these posts is encouraged to take a putting lesson with a PGA pro just to make sure you’ve got everything right.. However, this entire series is about maximizing the stroke you have by choosing equipment to match it, so we agree with Karsten’s approach (at least to some degree).

With an engineering mind, Karsten reasoned that he could make putting easier if he changed the balance of weight on the putter. He reasoned that if he moved the weight from the center of the putter to the outside, the putter would not twist as much if it were not hit perfectly. His “Anser” was to make a putter with a cavity between two weight pads. It’s now the standard of design for putters:

What Karsten reasoned was actually a concept known in engineering as “Moment of Inertia”–“MOI” for short. Without getting too technical, MOI is an object’s ability to resist twisting based on its geometrical shape. Typically, this is achieved by rearranging weight. If you think of it this way, think of a bar with two 5 pound weights. Put the weights at the center and then try to turn it with your hand; it’s not too difficult. Now put the weights on the end of the bar and try to turn it. The task becomes more difficult. Even though nothing has gotten heavier or lighter (the weight is the same), you have made it harder to turn. Or, think of it this way: grab a club by the grip and try to swing it; then, grab a club by the head and try to swing it (with the butt end facing the ball). Which can you swing faster? The weight hasn’t changed. The arrangement of the weight has.

In engineering, MOI is the counterpart of mass in an angular analysis. When you’re pushing an object, the more mass, the harder it is to push. When you’re turning an object, the higher its MOI, the more difficult it is to turn. Mass plays a part in MOI, but the arrangement of the mass can greatly change the result.

So, you’re saying “OK, once again JK, what does this have to do with putters?”

If a club head is designed with higher MOI, it automatically becomes harder to turn than a club head with lower MOI. If it’s harder to turn, that means that a less-than-pure strike of the club will not cause as bad of a result. Here’s an example: let’s say two putters are identical except for the fact that putter A has a lower MOI than putter B. A player using either putter can strike either one purely and the result will be similar. But no one (not even the pros) hit every ball perfectly. So, let’s assume the player hits a putt one-half inch from the center of the putter face. This is where the difference shows up. Putter A will twist more, go further offline, and lose more energy than putter B in the same situation. Because putter B has a higher MOI, a miss is less costly than with putter A.

But what does this all have to do with odd-shaped putter heads?

Typically, putters with more weight balanced away from the center of gravity result in higher MOI. Since a typical putter is about 330 grams, a blade putter (like a Wilson 8802) is made of steel, with all the mass right beside the ball. Since there’s less volume, a relatively high density material (like steel) is needed to get enough weight to make the putter usable. See photo below:

With a typical mallet, the material might be aluminum, have plastic parts, or be some other lighter material with heavier weights positioned at extreme points on the putter head. For example, the TaylorMade Ghost Spider, LG’s putter:

Do you see how, looking from the bottom, the putter is hollow with some plastic (i.e., lightweight) material filled in? Do you see how the putter has air gaps in the middle of it? Do you see the two weights in the back? Those two weights are tungsten weights–they have very high density and represent a large part of the mass of the putter. The body of the putter is made of aluminum, which is very low density . All of this helps the putter resist twisting by increasing its MOI.

The reason why these putters are getting so big, therefore, is the attempt to move the weight to the perimeter of the club, as far away from the center as possible, to prevent twisting on off-center hits.

Many people mistakenly believe that a mallet putter has higher weight than a blade putter. Many people will buy them because they think they want something heavier than they’re used to. However, most mallet putters are about the same weight as blade putters–right in the 330-gram range. The reason for this is that the typical putter manufacturer wants most putters to feel about the same in the player’s hands regardless of head shape. The distribution of the mass, however, changes.

Now, none of this is meant to say that you’ll be a better player with a higher MOI putter. I personally use an Anser-style putter and prefer its look and feel to almost any mallet. However, for someone who may be having a bit of trouble making a consistent strike on the center of the putter, the following options may be helpful…

for those looking to learn more about MOI, please visit Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_of_inertia

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.

One aspect of putter fitting that was often misunderstood years ago but has recently gained some good press and understanding is the concept of toe hang and what it is there for. It seems like when I was growing up, every new putter coming out was face balanced, and advertised as such, as if face balancing were some sort of great thing that cured all ills of the putting stroke. In reality, little is further from the truth. Face balancing only helps people whose stroke fits a face balanced putter. We’ll talk more about this in a few minutes. What this doesn’t mean, however, is that a particular style of putter will work for everyone.

Now, we need to be clear on this: the theory posted below is only general theory. There is no hard and fast rule that someone follow the advice below. If you find something that works for you, go with it. However, the theory below will help you maximize the chance that your putter works for you. The thoughts below will help you select a putter that works with what you do rather than you trying to fit your stroke to make a certain putter work.

There are generally accepted three types of putting strokes: Straight Back Straight Through (SBST), Arc Stroke (or “gated”), and Inside Then Down The Line (IDTL). Although there are many different ways to swing a putter, these are the three that are most common and are most taught. Teachers like Dave Pelz advocate for the SBST stroke, which is exactly what it sounds like; the putter travels straight back on the backswing and straight through on the follow through, and the face stays square to the target at all times. Other teachers like Stan Utley advocate for the gated stroke, which is called “gated” or arc because it resembles a gate swinging on a hinge. The putter face opens and comes inside the line of the putt on the backstroke, closes until impact where it is square to the target and on the target line, and then closes and travels through impact to the inside of the line. IDTL may be the most used option (see e.g., poll at http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/646692-which-stroke-type-do-you-use/). For this stroke, the putter travels inside the line of the target on the backswing and then down the line on the follow-through. It allows the player to combine the best parts of the swinging gate and the arc stroke. Many good putters use this method. A comparison of stroke types is shown below (arc in red, SBST in green, IDTL in orange).

Which stroke type you choose is up to you, and this blog is not here to give instruction or to pick a preference for one stroke type over another. But, you might be asking: what does this have to do with face balancing?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: toe hang and “face balancing” should be chosen to match the stroke type you use.

But you might be asking “what is toe hang?” Toe hang is, simply put, a quantification of where the toe points if a putter is allowed to hang naturally. It gives the player an idea of where the shaft axis is located compared to the center of gravity of the putter head.

That’s a lot of jargon, so I’ll take it one at a time.

The Center of Gravity (COG) of any object (literally anything, not just a golf club) is just the center of its mass–or, in simpler terms, it’s the balance point. If you take an ink pen and try to balance it on your finger, the point where it balances is the COG. This is because the mass (or weight) of the ink pen is evenly distributed on both sides of that point. If there are 10 grams of weight to the right of your finger, there are 10 grams of weight to the left, and the ink pen balances perfectly at that point. If this is not true, there is no way the pen can balance on your finger. The imbalanced weight will make the pen rotate so that the heavier side dips and the lighter side raises up in the air until the pen falls off your finger.

While a pen is just a thin line, the COG can be found on any object. When you see a waiter balancing a set of plates on his arm, he has lined the COG of each plate directly over his arm (very skillfully) so that he can carry multiple plates. Just like the plates, a putter head has a COG, which is the point where the mass on the heel side is about balanced with the mass on the toe side. This point may not be in the exact center of the putter head in some cases.

The toe hang is a representation of how the COG of the putter head interacts with the axis of the shaft. When describing toe hang, the typical way of measuring it is based on how the putter head hangs as related to a clock. If the putter is face balanced, there is essentially no toe hang because the face points to the sky when it is allowed to sit freely. In other words, the toe of the putter does not hang down, meaning that the toe of the putter points to about 3:00. This occurs when the COG is in line with the shaft axis (more on this later). If a putter has toe hang, then the toe falls down so that the face does not point directly up when it is allowed to sit freely. In some cases, where toe hang is pronounced, the toe will point toward the ground and the face will point along the horizon. In other words, the toe points to about 6:00.

The picture below represents the toe hang of a putter:

(see, http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/402148-what-is-toe-hang/)

As you can see, when allowed to fall freely, this putter aligns itself so that there is about a 45 degree angle made. This is typically referred to as “1/4” toe hang or “4:30” because, if the putter head were the hand of a clock, it would point to 4:30 on the clock.

For a face balanced putter, the face will point directly to the sky, as seen below:

For a putter with toe hang, the face can point “1/4” as shown above or a number of other places. For example, the putters shown below have “full” toe hang, meaning they can’t hang any further, or nearly full toe hang (the putter on the right is about 5:00):

Putter makers have many different offerings of toe hang along the spectrum of what one might need, as seen below. One old Scotty Cameron putter even had some HEEL hang, meaning it was beyond face balanced!

(see http://media.titleist.com/images/titleist/pdfs/US/2012/sales/2012_Art_of_Putters.pdf)

The way toe hang occurs is that the shaft axis is offset from the COG. If the shaft axis and the COG are aligned, the putter is face balanced. If the shaft axis and the COG are misaligned, some toe hang will occur. The extent of the misalignment determines the amount of toe hang.

This makes sense, if you think about it. No matter what object you hold, if you let it go freely, it will fall in a way that the center of mass points toward the ground. As seen with reference to the 1/4 toe hang picture above, if the COG is offset from the shaft, the COG tries to get underneath the shaft when it is allowed to fall freely. As such, when the COG is aligned with the shaft, it is already under it and the toe of the putter does not need to hang down to align the shaft and the COG. If the COG is misaligned with the shaft, then some rotation occurs when the putter is allowed to fall freely so that the COG can line up with the shaft axis. (don’t worry if you don’t understand this explanation–it’s not necessary to understand this part).

So what does this have to do with putting?

Well, as we reviewed earlier, players using various stroke types should select putters with different toe hang to match their strokes. If you putt SBST, a face balanced putter will help you make your SBST stroke. An SBST player will not want to feel any torque in the putter head due to the offset of the shaft and the COG. The SBST player won’t know what to do with this information. It will only tell him that he’s doing the putting stroke wrong, when really he is not. Having the shaft axis aligned with the COG prevents the SBST player from feeling torque which would be negative feedback for the type of stroke he is using.

Meanwhile, a player that swings the putter with a strong arc stroke should select a putter with more toe hang. A strong arc player wants to know that the face of the putter is opening and closing during the stroke. The torque the player experiences by virtue of the shaft being offset from the COG tells that player that the face is moving, which is what that player wants to know during the stroke. If a strong arc player uses a face balanced putter, he will get no feedback on the location of the face. As such, he’ll be lost in the stroke and won’t know how fast the face is opening or closing. This lack of knowledge will prevent him from timing the release of the face with impact to the ball. Players between SBST and strong arc (for example, IDTL and weaker arc players) should choose putters with less toe hang but not fully face balanced.

As stated earlier, the whole point is to get the ball in the hole. If you are an SBST player and use a heel shafted blade (like a Wilson 8802, which has a lot of toe hang), you can surely putt with that putter AND be successful. Likewise, if you have a strong arc and use a face balanced putter, nothing says you must follow the rules. However, if you are looking for a putter and don’t know what to select, the best advice you can get is to select a putter with toe hang that matches your stroke so that you maximize the chance of finding a putter that works best for you.

Comments are welcome.

Perhaps one of the most commonly-referenced (but still misunderstood) aspects of a putter is the “L,L,L”–also known as the loft, length and lie. Multiple theories abound for what these numbers should be. Although many theories exist, one always must keep in mind that there is no single right answer when it comes to putters. Ultimately, the thing that works best for you is what should be used. However, the theories surrounding putters should point someone with little or no knowledge in the right direction, and should provide a person with the greatest chance of success in a given set of circumstances.

The common varieties of putter lengths (for standard putting) are 33 inches to 35 inches, but there is a catch. Not everyone measures putter length the same way. Some measure the length to the ground while others measure to the sweet spot; some measure to the end of the grip cap, others to the end of the shaft. Moreover, even though these lengths are common, there is no hard and fast rule about someone using a set length putter. Robert Garrigus on the PGA Tour used to use a 26-inch putter. Angel Cabrera won the masters with a 39-inch putter. Neither of these players is abnormally tall or short, but they used what they felt gave them the best chance of making putts.

Why are these numbers important? A putter that is the “wrong” length will put your hands in an uncomfortable position and will increase the chance that you try to correct your discomfort with wrist movement. Common advice in any putting stroke is that wrist movement causes inconsistencies when putting. Most putting theory states that the putting stroke is, essentially, a very simple action. The putting stroke can be accomplished without a great deal of hinging. It is so simple–and low energy–that a simple rotation of the shoulders can propel the ball the required distance. As such, common teaching holds that a player should seek to putt using the “big muscles”–such as the back and shoulders–rather than “little muscles”–like those in the wrists and hands–because it is easier to consistently rotate about a spine than to consistently twitch a pair of wrists. As such, a putter length that is comfortable is a key part of the analysis. A comfortable putter length can help a player remove any corrections that might be needed from a player twitching wrists. If a putter is too short, the player’s hands will be far away from his body; if a putter is too long, the player’s hands will feel cramped up against his body.

However, what is “comfortable” is in the eye of the beholder. Most instruction on putting says that the player should have his eyes directly over the ball or just inside the line of the ball (illustrated by the green dotted line below). It is also best if the forearms make a straight line with the putter shaft when viewed from the back (illustrated by the red solid line below). How this fits you depends entirely on our personal dimensions (arm length, height) as well as how you approach the ball (standing taller, more crouched over, etc).

Moreover, the lie angle plays a big part in how a player sets up to the ball. As LG pointed out in his post about getting fit for iron lie angles (here: https://thepowerfade.com/2012/07/10/review-lie-fitting-with-brian-razzari/), an improper lie angle can cause misses to one side or another depending on whether the lie is too upright or too flat. Although the “standard” lie angle is around 70-71 degrees, players are all over the board on lie angle, and I have personally heard everything from 64 to 76 degrees. In no event may a lie angle be more upright than 80 degrees, however, according to USGA rules. Much like length, the lie angle you choose depends entirely on how you approach the ball.

Finally, the loft of a putter can be a tricky topic in some circumstances. Scotty Cameron designs all of his putters with 4 degrees of loft, and this has become the standard loft largely because he is the most successful putter seller of all time. However, the loft depends entirely on the player, and “standard” is not standard. Scotty Cameron states that 4 degrees of loft is needed because of the weight of the ball. When the ball is at rest, he states, it forms a depression on the green, and 4 degrees of loft is needed to lift the ball out of the depression at impact so that the depression does not affect the roll.

While this may have been true 20-30 years ago, it is probably not too true today. Modern greens are typically much firmer and faster than those of the early 90s (when Cameron started his own putter-making business). Modern greenskeeping has done wonders for even the muni golf player. In reality, the ball on modern greens typically will not sit down into a deep depression. As such, putters as low as 2 degrees stock (such as Piretti putters) are now surfacing and gaining great market share for the “great roll” they put on the ball (we’ll touch on this in a later chapter).

However, like length and lie, the loft of a putter is something that is unique to each player. Many pro golfers “forward press” their putts, meaning their hands are in front of the ball when they start (and finish) their strokes (see photo below of Phil Mickelson’s forward press). Forward pressing serves to “de-loft” the putter face, meaning that these players must account for the loft that they are losing by changing the static loft of their putters. (For those that may not know, “static loft” is the loft of the putter as measured. This is to be contrasted with “dynamic loft,” which is the loft of the putter when used. A player who forward presses will have a “dynamic loft” that is less than the static loft because he is effectively de-lofting the putter face). On the other side, a player like Zach Johnson (see image below) actually needs negative loft on his putter because he reverse-presses the shaft at address and impact. As such, his dynamic loft is higher than his static loft.

The main point here is that there is no one way to set up your L,L,L. You need a static loft that matches your stroke (whether you reverse or forward press), a length that makes you comfortable, and a lie that matches your setup. The best way to ensure you get all of these facets right is to get fit for a putter. Science And Motion (aka “SAM”) putter fitting is probably the most expansive putter fitting, but there are many other ways to be fit. Edel fitting has been described as a fairly comprehensive way to measure your alignment before the putt. PING makes a putter app that can be used on any iPhone or Android phone. And many local pros are competent to fit putters even without scientific instruments or fancy calculations.

In the end, it’s all about finding something that works best for you, and, even if you don’t go to a pro for a fitting, a trial and error with various different lofts, lengths, and lies can do wonders for your putting stroke. I encourage you to take some time to examine your stroke and figure out what equipment setup would help you the most.

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.”

This post is an introduction to a new series we’ll be offering here on the PF in the coming months: Understanding Putters. Putting is perhaps the most important aspect of the game of golf. It’s where at least 1/3 of your strokes will be played, and it can account for a tremendous success or a horrible failure.

Unfortunately, many classics of golf literature give too scant attention to putting in general. Even the ones that discuss putting fail to discuss how the equipment one might select affects one’s putting performance. Many average golfers are unaware that there are even different types of putting strokes for which different equipment is suggested.

This program will not attempt to teach a putting stroke. Neither LG nor I am qualified to do that. However, we will discuss various theories behind putters, the purpose of different equipment specs, and how the theory integrates with the equipment. Hopefully, with more knowledge, the golfer reading these posts can select the putter that gives him or her the best chance to succeed.