The last time you went golf shopping, how much time did you spend researching drivers? Probably a lot more time than when you got your putter, right? True, drivers are a lot more complicated (and expensive) than putters. And while drivers have a huge impact on our golf egos (we all want to be longest off the tee), it is our putter that will have a much bigger impact on our scores.
For a scratch golfer, about half of his or her strokes are on the green. And while the ratio may be lower for high handicappers, the importance of putting can’t be overstated. You can recover from a bad drive—not so for a missed putt.
Putting technology has changed dramatically since the days of Bobby Jones’ famous wood-shafted “Calamity Jane” (still a very good putter, by the way). The advancements have all sought to improve that ephemeral “feel” that all golfers need on the green. Regardless of the head design—blade, peripheral-weighted or mallet, you can take advantage of high tech enhancements.
Inserts are added to the face of a putter. Technically, they increase the “Moment of Inertia” (MOI). Non-technically, that means there’s less chance the head of the putter will twist, causing the ball to go places you don’t want it—say, anywhere besides the hole. Steel is the traditional insert and it usually gives soft and responsive feedback for a solid, controlled feel. Various other metals are also available—bronze, aluminum, brass, copper, zinc, titanium—all with their own distinctive “feel.”
Lightweight non-metal inserts allow the weight of the putter to be redistributed elsewhere on the putter face. The MOI increases, as does the “forgiveness” (at least in theory). The downside of non-metal inserts is they produce less sound than metal, reducing the feedback, which for some golfers means less “feel”.
The key to accurate putting is to achieve forward rolling motion immediately upon striking the ball. Grooves on a putter can help achieve this motion and keep the ball on line. At impact, the grooves grip the surface of the ball and simultaneously lift the ball out of its resting position and give an over-the-top rolling action.
Putting Is Personal
Finding the right putter is definitely a trial-and-error process. When your putter is working well, you are on top of your game. When it’s not, well—time to go shopping again.
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