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What To Consider When Selecting A Putter

The recreational woman golfer hits her putter more than any other club in her bag.  Yet it is often not the right club to have in their bag.

So you ask, how did it end up in my bag?  The reasons are many— it’s an expensive hand-me-down, it was a tee gift, or it is in the bag on the recommendation of your husband.  In more than a few cases you have it because you liked its looks, the brand name or price (I’ve done this).  Unfortunately, that doesn’t cut it — that’s just not how you go about selecting the most important club in your bag.  Think about it.  A putter is used for about 45% of the average woman’s shots every round, according to the studies I found.

In this post, I am going to explain the basics for getting the best putter possible in your hands. And, you’ll learn how to determine if you have the correct putter for your game in your bag now.

Here are some interesting facts I dug up:

Length Matters

Based on recent findings, well over 50% of golfers are using the wrong length putter – most of them are longer than they should be to achieve the best results.

“Shorter putters and more upright putters should be the rule of the day.  Oftentimes, poor putting is caused by using putters that other poor putters choose to use. Manufacturers are in the business of maximizing sales, not improving your game,” wrote putting guru Geoff Mangum on  The result:  “solid consistent contact (is) very problematic.”

On the professional the men’s tour, the average putter length is 33 to 33 ½ inches, but how many 33-inch putters have you seen on the racks in your pro shop, at Golf Galaxy, Dick’s or PGA Superstore?  Few, if any.  You can order them online, but most putters you find in retailers are 34 or 35 inches.

As putter fitting expert Ralph Maltby explains “Both men and women golfers will almost always (be custom fitted) into shorter lengths than those offered as standard.  The average seems to be about 33” for men.  The average standard length putter used on the PGA tour is 33” to 33 ½” for men.  Women will usually fit into 31” to 32 ½” lengths.  When fitting putters, length should always be the first fitting variable determined.”

The PGA of America suggests this to help determine if you have the right length putter now: “When you tilt from your hips, you want your eyes over the ball, hands under your shoulders, elbows bent but touching your rib cage, and hips over your heels.  The putter needs to fit this set-up.  If you grip a ‘standard’ length putter and find you’re gripping down the shaft, you will need a shorter putter.”  If you aren’t sure whether your eyes are over your ball, there’s a mirror you can buy so you can line up correctly.  The image to the left is an inexpensive example from Amazon.  This tool can also help you with your putting stroke as discussed next.


Pendulum v. Swinging Door

Now let’s discuss your putting stroke.  Do you take the putter straight back from the ball and then bring it it back straight through impact, like the pendulum of a clock?  Or, do you swing your putter on a bit of arc taking it slightly inside your target line going back bringing it back to square at impact and then closing the face after striking the ball?  The latter is often called a “swinging door” stroke.  Both work and are used by some of the greatest putters ever.  Tiger uses the swinging door and Nicklaus used the straight-back-and through-method.  What’s important to know is that you can’t use the same putter for both.

Toe-Balanced Putter

Face-Balanced Putter

If you use the swinging door, you need a “toe balanced” putter.  If you go straight back, you need what is called a “face balanced” putter.  Having the correct type ensures you more solid strikes. That means more of your putts will be on line and going the correct distance. The picture at the left shows these two types putters. As the PGA explains: “If you lay the shaft into your hand with the shaft parallel to the ground and the face is facing the sky, you have a face balanced putter. If the toe is hanging toward the ground, you have a toe-balanced putter.”

The final issue you will need to confront is putter weight.  If your putter is too long most experts warn against you just cutting it down a few inches hoping to make things correct.  Doing that that will reduce the putter’s overall weight.  Many experts Agee that distance control becomes an issue with a putter that is too light.  This is an issue to talk about with your course’s professional or your club fitter.  There is general agreement a putter should weigh in about 330-350 grams.  The pros and fitters have equipment (and lead tape) that can help you out.

Be patient as you try to find the best putter possible for your game.  Even the best players are noted for always searching for a better putter.  Arnold Palmer might have been the most notable case.  Even in his prime the King would take 10 to 12 putters with him to the practice green every day.  His legendary collection once hovered around 3,000 putters.

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