In its simplest context, putting is nothing more than consistent distance and directional control of the golf ball. This is easier to accomplish if you know the facts about proper putter fitting. I have a method of explanation that makes this very easy to understand. The next easy step is for you to go out and do something about it.
Should I consider a putter fitting? Is it worth it?
In my opinion, the answer to the question is "Most Definitely!" Custom putter fitting is the quickest way for golfers to lower their scores.
In more than 15 years experience as a Golf Equipment Professional, I have noticed that a putter fitting is the least understood and utilized optimization, yet it is the most critically important process for any club in your bag. Golfers have focused more on a driver fitting and then possibly their irons. The biggest bang for your buck is definitely getting a perfect putter outfitted for you!
Golfers use the putter more than any other club in the bag, yet putter fitting doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s not as glamorous as a driver fitting. But here’s some food for thought. Most golfers use their driver about 12 - 14 times a round. That’s roughly 15% of the strokes per game by the average golfer. Yet 43% of the average golfer’s shots are struck with the putter. We use the putter 2.5 times more than any other club in the bag. Pretty convincing that we need to consider fitting our putter when we use it so often.
We have studied hundreds of golfers and their putters. Only 2% of them had a putter that was properly suited for them. At the very least, you should consider getting your existing putter properly readjusted to best fit you.
Why get fit when buying a new putter?
Let’s answer this with a rhetorical question. How do most golfers buy a putter? By trial and error, with the emphasis put almost entirely on the “look” or the design features of the putter head. Instead, you need to consider the 5 critical putter fitting elements which, if properly fit, could strip strokes off your score.
Granted, it’s a fact – if you're not confident with the look of the putter behind the ball, you won’t have the confidence or the ability to accurately line up the putt. On the other hand, if the putter’s length, loft, lie, overall weight balance & aim are not matched to your individual style of putting, there is little chance the putter will lower your score.
FIVE KEYS TO A PROPERLY FITTED PUTTER
There are 5 important keys of a properly fitted putter that I would like to pass along to you. These key variables have a major impact on putter distance and control.
The five keys?
- Loft Angle
- Lie Angle
- Head Design & Shape
- Weight & Heft
1. What’s so important about putter length?
When you think that golfers are so different in their height, arm length and putting posture, it’s logical to think that the length of the putter must be custom fit to ensure a smooth putting stroke. Arms scrunched up into the body, or stretched out to the point of tension while stroking the putt, doesn't help you with putting consistency. The proper length putter assists with good posture; it also helps get your eyes directly over, or just slightly inside the ball.
2. Putter loft is not that important, is it?
Putter loft is needed to get the ball out of the small depression that occurs when the ball comes to rest on the green. When the blades of grass are longer, (on slower greens), a deeper cupping action is created as they are pressed down by the weight of the golf ball. Slower greens need more putter loft than faster greens to get the ball out of the deeper depression and rolling smoothly thereafter. So the initial starting point for putter loft should be based on the greens that you play most often.
The loft of the putter must also be matched to your hand position at impact to ensure the ball rolls smoothly. Putts that initially bounce, lose too much energy and often deflect off the target line. Do you apply a forward press to start your stroke or position the ball back of center in your stance? If so, you need more loft. Are you a wristy putter or do you position the ball ahead of the center to front portion of your stance? If so, you may need less loft.
3. Okay, we’ve covered putter loft, so what’s up with putter lie angle?
Since putters do have loft, that means if the toe or the heel of the putter is off the ground at impact, the face is pointing somewhere other than the intended target line. For consistent accuracy, the putter’s lie angle must be adjusted for each golfer so the putter sits perfectly in the center of the sole from heel to toe. If a putter with 4 degrees of loft has an incorrect lie angle of 4 degrees it will start the ball off-line, even with a square face angle! You will lose a fraction of the hole because of the misalignment. For a 33 foot putt, 41% of the hole is out of play, a 22 foot putt eliminates 27% of the hole, and an 11 foot putt obscures 14% of the hole. So an incorrect lie angle compounds an aiming problem.
4. Putter Aim
Okay, the proper length and lie angle have been established. However, if the putter cannot be aimed properly, there is very little chance of sinking putts beyond 3 feet in length.
Earlier, I mentioned a "Rule of Thumb", on the shaft fitting page. I wrote about the contribution of face angle versus path to the starting direction of the golf ball. It was 85% face angle and 15% path. With such a low lofted club as a putter, the ball direction’s ratio is even higher. Putting direction is 92% face angle to only 8% path. So, don’t let people tell you that your putter path is causing your missed putts. It’s more likely the face angle's the bigger problem. Aiming the putter is CRITICAL as well as it's face rotation just before impact.
Here are a few numbers to let you know how important and sensitive aim is. At 5 feet distance, anything greater than 2.1 degrees off a square face angle will not go in the hole on a straight putt! That face angle difference is tiny and proves how really important putter aim is!
Just about all elements of putter design – different head and sole shapes, hosels, aim lines, shaft lengths, and other design variables – can promote different patterns of aim and keep you from being able to aim a putter at a target. We laser test your aim with different head shapes, the presence or non-presence of alignment lines, and differing offset, length, lie and other variables.
5. What are the benefits of putter weight and weight balance?
There are both a static weight and a weight balance for putters that will allow every golfer to be more consistent. An interesting development in modern putter fitting is to add some weight in the grip end of the putter. We can use a system like the Tour Lock counterweights shown in the nearby picture.
Counter-weighting or counter-balancing as it is called, with some additional amount of weighting installed in the grip end of the shaft, can help allow many golfers to develop a better stroke. That results in more on-center hits with the putter, better head-speed control, and hence better distance control.
Remember about the 2 degrees mis-alignment at 5 feet? Counter-balancing can also assist you with better face angle control by "quieting" your hands.
With the Tour Lock Opti-Vibe we can still optimize the overall static weight of the putter. It goes multiple steps further than the Tour Lock butt weight system. The Optivibe can precisely reposition the balance point of your putter to best suit your feel and performance preferences. With optimizing the static weight and balance point of the putter, we often can better enhance your feel, stability and control of the putter during putting strokes.
Our experience and eyes give us a tremendous amount of feedback when we watch you initially hit putts. Low tech devices such as string lines, mirrors and alignment sticks assist you to feel proper posture We have high tech gadgets too: high speed video, Zenio, SkyPro and iClub Putter Analysis monitors, specialized putting fitting tools, laser alignments, dew boards and more. We can combine all of these tools to produce the ultimate putter fitting. You have the opportunity to get the largest improvement in scoring with a complete putter fitting.
Dynamically Measuring Loft and Lie Angles
Most electronic/digital analyzers measure angles at impact relative to the starting position at address. However most cannot define what the shaft's starting orientation actually is in relation to a level ground surface. Is it vertical; is it leaning too much or too little? These are all vital points that need to be established to learn more about impact conditions.
We have shown a picture of Ralph Maltby fitting a putter and there are a couple of inclined and upright devices with white lines on them. At Engineered Golf, we use those putter fixtures to visually record where your shaft is located. We can use high speed video and/or high definition photography to exactly measure the shaft lean and the shaft lie angle both at address and at impact. Along with recording and measuring putter path, face angle and club head rotation, this takes any guess work out of exactly setting the proper lie and loft angles on your putter.
Do you want to arrange for a putter fitting? Drop us a line today!