Amateur golfers buy new putters as part performance and part psychology, as opposed to pros who will be forced to due to recent rule changes. Every year, equipment manufacturers use new materials and designs to attract the business of customers. But by focusing on a few specific details, golfers can avoid being overwhelmed and find the right putter for them.
Brad Redding, a PGA master professional and a Golf magazine top 100 teacher, says the best way to find the right putter is to be fitted by a PGA professional. "I would call up a local pro and interview him," suggests Redding. "You'll find out right away if putting is a real passion for him."
Unlike salespeople at sporting good stores, PGA pros are trained to help you find the right putter for your build and swing. If you don't have a pro's guidance, however, Redding says to "pick up a putter off the rack and make four or five strokes on the practice green. It looks good, you feel good and you fall in love with it. But if it's not a putter that fits you and your stroke, it's not a long-term solution."
Next, Redding says players should know which factors are crucial and which are optional. Redding considers putter length "the most important factor." A standard putter is 35 inches long, but Redding carries putters that range from 33 to 37 inches. He will have players follow a series of actions in order to teach them the proper way to address the ball when putting. Only after that series is complete, will he take a measurement. Putters that are too short or too long will pull a player out of proper alignment.
Whether your putter has lines, stripes or varied colors is a matter of "personal preference," according to Redding. Tomo Bystedt, director of product creation for irons, putters and wedges at TaylorMade-adidas Golf, concurs, adding, "Alignment features and visual appeal of the putter is part science, part art and design. A golfer has to feel confident that the putter is aligned correctly on the target line and that the other visual cues of the putter further boost their confidence factor."
The next thing to consider is toe balance versus face balance and blade style versus mallet style. Typically, strokes fall into one of two categories: a straight back-and-forth or an arcing swing. Redding says players with straight swings can benefit from face-balanced and blade-style putters, whereas players with arcing swings can benefit from toe-balanced and mallet-style putters. If several models fit the bill, he says "a bigger head will make more solid contact with the ball." And according to Bystedt, "larger mallets tend to provide higher MOI (moment of inertia) in addition to stability and larger visual-alignment features."
Finally, players should consider whether they might benefit from new materials and tweaks to this year's models, but opinions on this matter are split. Bystedt says, "Modern putter designs can provide additional performance benefits such as higher stability through counterbalancing or better forward roll through the use of a high-performance face insert." He notes that this year's counterbalanced putters -- the Daddy Long Legs, Spider Blade and Spider Mallet -- "keep the stroke on path and keep putts on line with proper speed even on mis-hits." Redding, however, cautions, "I think that (manufacturers have) tried putting inserts into putters and the impact feels very different to golfers. They might like that feel. But as far as performance, it doesn't change the performance at all. No matter what manufacturers say, there's no putter made where the ball purely rolls off the putter face and has overspin."
Many golfers will tell you that golf is a mixture of the physical, the technical and the psychological. Therefore, choosing the perfect putter will require a mixture of these three fields. How a putter is built, what it looks like and how it makes you feel can affect your game. Treat buying a putter as an investment. Spend the time and money to determine which putter is perfect for you. And when your score drops, it will have been worth every penny.