Putting is the simplest but most frustrating part of the game of golf. Wouldn’t you agree?
Think about it, you can hit a perfect drive 270+ yard down the fairway, hit a crisp iron shot from 150+ yards on the green, and still end up with a bogey. You can consistently hit it long and straight but if you can’t make a putt from a few feet, your score won’t reflect how well you’re hitting it.
Putting is what separates good from great players. If you look at your best rounds you’ve ever had, I would bet you also had the fewest putts.
The stroke itself isn’t difficult compared to a full swing but let’s face it, most golfers struggle on the greens.
In fact, the great Ben Hogan once suggested to eliminate putting from the game of golf! That’s right, arguably the best ball striker of all time wanted to completely get rid of that part of the game because he struggled with it so much. If this sounds like you, know that you aren’t alone.
If you’ve struggled with putting it could be for a few reasons – stroke, putter, posture, grip and more. But one thing that is wildly important to becoming a great putter is learning how to choose the right putter. Because the club you use on the greens has a massive impact on your ability to hole putts consistently.
In this post, we’re going to help you do just that so you can finally learn how to pick a flat stick that matches your stroke. This way, you can learn everything you need to make an educated buying decision without spending hundreds on a custom putter fitting session. Sorry if you’re a putter fitter but let’s dive in!
Choosing a Putter – 3 Easy Steps
Most golfers don’t spend nearly enough time buying the right putter for their game. Instead, almost everyone thinks drivers, irons, and wedges. But if you want to improve your game and consistently shoot lower scores, your putter is the secret weapon.
Use this simple three step process to find the right one for you.
Step 1: Figure Out Your Style of Putting
Golf’s a funny game – no two people play or swing the same way. Some golfers take it way inside and play an over the top fade. Other golfers play a push draw, and others hit it straight(ish). Some do a mix of both.
But with putting, there are really only two ways that make up about 99% of the golfing population. Golfers either use the arc stroke or the straight back, straight through method.
Whichever method you use greatly impacts the type of putters that you should select. Unfortunately, most golfers don’t think about this before selecting a putter. Instead, they choose one that looks good as opposed to the one that matches their putting stroke.
Identifying Your Putting Stroke
If you don’t know which style putting stroke you have, here is a quick drill to help you figure out our path. For this drill, you can do this at home on the carpet or on a putting green at the course.
- Grab two alignment rods, your putter, and a golf ball.
- Place two alignment sticks parallel to each other pointing in the direction of your intended target. The alignment sticks should be slightly wider than the width of your putter head.
- Place the ball between the alignment rods and take your normal backswing.
- Instead of finishing your stroke, pause on your backswing. Notice where your putter is in relation to the alignment rod that is closest to your feet.
If your putter is hanging over the rod then you’re likely an arc putter. But if the putter is directly between the rods as it was at address, you’re more of a straight back, straight through putter. Let’s explain how this works…
An arc stroke is where you take the putter back slightly inside and open the face on the way back. On the way through, you close the putter making an arc shape.
Probably one of the best examples of an arc stroke is 15-time major champion Tiger Woods. When you think of Tiger making putts at the most clutch moments, it’s his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter that is there for all the magic.
Arc putters benefit more from a blade or anser style than a mallet. Since there is more toe weighting, it allows the face to square at impact.
Straight Back – Straight Through
The other primary method is the straight back, straight through method. The name implies the style, your entire path is straight during your backstroke and followthrough.
While arc putters benefit from a blade style, straight back straight through golfers benefit more from a mallet. A mallet style is face balanced putter and naturally promotes a straighter stroke.
For more on putting strokes, click here.
Step 2: Pick The Right Head Shape
The second thing to consider when choosing a putter is the shape you prefer to look at. The main types are blade, mallet, and a high MOI head. Let’s start by understanding the blade vs. mallet putter debate as they are the two oldest styles.
The blade is the oldest type of putter in the game of golf. The blade style isn’t as common as it once was thanks to new technology that is much more forgiving for golfers.
The blade (or the anser style) has a simple design and is the equivalent of blade muscle back irons. Like the irons, if you can consistently hit it in the sweet spot, they perform great.
But if you can’t find the middle of the club with consistency, you’re making the game much harder on yourself. Typically, you will tend to find lower handicaps or scratch golfers using blades much more frequently than guys shooting in the 80s or 90s.
Technology doesn’t change much with blades as they’re so simple in design. These tend to be toe balanced (also known as toe hang) and allow the putter to open and close easily during your stroke. The putter toe hang is crucial if you have an arc stroke that we mentioned in the previous step.
Click here to read about our favorite blade putters.
The second main type is the mallet putter which is larger and has a much more forgiving face than the blade. As described above, the mallet putter is designed for golfers who take it straight back and straight through. The mallet putter really took off in the 90s when Odyssey Sports created the Rosse I and Rosse II model.
The sweet spot is much bigger than a blade and usually has a target line on the top to line up to each putt. While top club manufacturers still make new mallets, they’ve also lost some popularity in recent years like the blade.
Mallet putters have morphed into a new type of putter, commonly referred to as a high MOI style. This face balanced putter has changed the game forever!
But if your are looking for a true mallet style putter, read our full review of mallet putters.
The final types of putter heads are the high MOI which are usually different from mallet putters and have their own unique design. The head weight is usually more than a blade or mallet and this style is growing in popularity. High MOI putters are great putters for high handicap players but anyone can benefit from the technology.
Popular high MOI putters include the TaylorMade Spider product line and the latest from Odyssey. These are the most forgiving putters on the market and have become more popular with golfers worldwide.
Even amazing players on the PGA Tour use these instead of a standard blade or mallet style. Just look at guys like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and others.
I suggest that you do the same! For most golfers reading this post, I would suggest a high MOI to help your putting stroke.
Plus, the head shape blends the best of both worlds for an optimal putting experience. Whether you take it slightly inside (and need the toe hang) or take it back straight, you can’t lose with these putter styles.
The head weight is much more and will help your putting stroke stay straight on the way back and through impact. Even when you don’t hit it dead square on the face, it’ll still roll almost like you did which means fewer total putts for you.
Step 3: Find the Right Putter Shaft
Once you’ve identified your putting style and head, let’s not forget about the shaft as well. In general, most putters connect the shaft and grip to the heel of the putter. But there are some putters that have a center shaft or toe option.
Center Shaft Putters vs. Heel Shaft
In general, most putters on the market have a heel-shafted putter. So what’s the benefit to a center shaft?
Here’s an explanation from Golf Week,
“Most center-shafted putters are face-balanced, with equal amounts of weight in the club head’s heel and toe. This type of club suits a player who keeps his eyes directly above the ball, takes the club straight back and swings straight through the ball. Players who employ this style try to keep the club head square from the beginning of the stroke to the end.”
If you prefer an arc style putting and need toe hang, I would skip the center shaft as it makes it more challenging to rotate the head during your stroke. But if you need help keeping the putter straight back and straight through, this style of shaft could be your answer.
Also, it’s important to note that this style is legal for tournament play despite it’s previous ban. From 1909 to 1951 center shafts were banned in Great Britain by the USGA and R&A have made them legal worldwide.
While stroke and head shape are important, let’s not forget about the length of the putter too. This is another huge factor that most golfers skip right over when picking their flat stick.
The length of the putter allows you to get into a great posture more than anything else.
Think about it, every golfer has a slightly different posture. Some are upright at address while others are hunched over like Jack Nicklaus. Others are much more upright.
There is one one right way to putt and the length depends on your arm length, posture, and eye position. Ideally, you want your eyes over and or slightly underneath the golf ball when you’re standing over it at address.
Here are a few other things to think about when choosing your perfect putter.
Once you find a type of putter head that you like, don’t forget to think about the face itself. Unlike other clubs, you don’t have the ability to tweak your putter but it’s still important to know how each type of face can affect your performance.
A milled style has a putter face that is made from one solid piece of steel. These putters typically use stainless and 1018 carbon steel to make a putter without any putter face inserts.
While they aren’t nearly as forgiving and the insert style, they do last a long time! This style has been mastered by Scotty Cameron and explains the higher price tags that come with it. They are engineered to last a long time and provided amazing results.
The second type of putter face is known as an “insert” style. They are usually softer than the actual clubhead and not made with one piece of steel like the milled version. These are inserted to give you a better roll and smoother feel than the putter head material. A good example is the Odyssey Two-Ball or the TaylorMade Spider.
Face Balanced Putters
Let’s not forget about face balanced putters as well. This style is also great for golfers who have a straight path and don’t open and close (remember, you need toe hang to square up the putter face at impact).
Long Putter vs. Short Putter?
For a century or more, long putters weren’t even an option but in the 1980s they were introduced to the golf world. Hall of fame player and announcer Johnny Miller was the first pro golfer to use them when he used a 46” long putter to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. But he didn’t use it like normal and instead gripped it as though it were normal length but braced against his left arm according to the Golf Channel.
These helped a lot of golfers save strokes on the green but as of 2016, they have been banned by the USGA if you’re anchoring it. Long and belly putters are still legal but you can’t anchor them to any part of your body.
Loft and Lie Angle
One of the last things to consider for your perfect putter is the loft as it will play a huge role in getting the ball rolling correctly. If you have too much or too little of loft, you will either hit up or down on the golf ball through impact. This will lead to the ball getting airborne, which makes it more likely to get off-line and not stay true for the entire length.
For example, if you have a ton of forward press as you take the club back you are de-lofting your putter. If you started with a four degree, your forward press might make it significantly less.
In general, most putters come with 3-5 degrees of loft. Also, the lie angle for most standard putters is about 70 degrees which means the toe and heel are touching the grass.
Alignment (Target Line)
Another important factor in choosing the right putter is the use of a target line. Some putters will help you in the category much more than others. Here’s why I think having some sort of alignment is crucial to your success.
First, an alignment line on the putter can help you line up with the ball straight on the face. This will visually show if you’re setting up on the toe or the heel. You can take this one step further by putting a line on your golf ball.
While it’s easy to think you don’t need “forgiveness” with a putter, it’s as crucial as a driver that allows some mishits. A small line that looks like a tick mark or a line that covers the entire putter head can make a huge difference in finding the center of the face.
Second, as the name implies, can help you get the ball started on your ideal target line. So many players think they struggle with putting but in reality, they just aren’t lined up correctly.
By selecting a putter with a line on it, you can make sure that you’re set up square to your target. This will help you get the ball started on line and hopefully drain more putts (assuming you’re reading the greens correctly).
In the section about arc style of putting, I briefly mentioned the total weight of your club. The way that a putter balances relates to the center of gravity. In general, most blade putters are more “toe heavy” to help close the toe during the stroke.
Meanwhile, most mallet putters are face balanced for the straight back, straight through motion that is required for an optimal strike. Finally, high MOI putters tend to have a middle balance with weight spread evenly across the putter.
Also, there is what’s known as a counter balance putter which is much heavier (usually 50+ grams). With this style, even more weight is in the grip. Club manufacturers do this by adding length to the shaft or adding extra weight to the actual shaft.
Weighting is not really anything you need to worry about while buying (as you can’t adjust this) but something to note for our more advanced golfers.
Do you have more questions about picking the right flat stick for your game? Check out some of the most common questions and our answers to make your selection easy.
What is the best putter for an average golfer?
The best one for an average golfer is the club that you feel the best standing over. For some golfers, it’s an old club that’s been in the bag for decades and has been trusted in the biggest moments. For other golfers, it’s standing over the latest model from Scotty Cameron or TaylorMade.
In general, a high MOI putter will help an inconsistent stroke and reduce twisting for off-center hits. This should help keep the face square and enable you to make more putts.
Here’s the thing, there is no one size fits all with putters. It’s all about finding one that fits your eye and your own unique putting style.
I can’t stress this enough, you should test, test, and test! Since there are hundreds of putter models/styles available, it’s crucial to try out multiple options.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to have several types of putters in the garage as well. Some might work on different types of greens or maybe you just need a new look to give your putting a spark.
If you are just starting the game of golf, see our picks for best putter for beginners.
What is the proper putter length for my height?
This is a fantastic question and one that not enough golfers ask in my opinion. As I mentioned above, having the right length is crucial to being a consistent player on the greens. While your height will help you pick the right length, it’s not the only thing to consider.
For example, if you have very long arms, you might need a shorter shaft to compensate. Or, if you bend over the golf ball a lot (like Michelle Wie), you might want a shorter one as well.
In general, here are some guidelines on what length you should use:
- Under 5 feet = >32 inches
- 5 feet to 5’4” = Around 33 inches
- 5’5 to 5’10” = Around 34 inches
- Over 5’10” = 35+ inches
Please remember, these are just some helpful guidelines based on height and don’t factor in arm length, posture, and preferred eye position.
For a more detailed discussion on putter length go here.
What’s the best putter for beginners?
There is no “best” one for beginners but there are some things to think about that can really help you out. First off, you want a putter that you love looking at. When you look down at your putter, it should give you a tremendous amount of confidence. For some players it’s a blade with toe hang, others it’s a mallet, and others is a different MOI version.
Second, beginners will want to choose a putter face that does have some forgiveness. As I mentioned above, having a putter with some forgiveness is crucial to draining more putts. For beginners, I would avoid any old school blade style and instead opt for one that will help with mishits.
Should you use a fat grip?
The grip you choose is not talked about nearly as much as it should. Why? Because grip pressure with your putter is one of the most factors in draining more putts.
If your grip makes you have a death grip, your putting will suffer. Your grip should be on the 3-4 scale on a level of 1-10.
You want it firm enough to not rotate the head but you also want to feel the grip. If you’re gripping it too tight, you’ll add extra tension in your forearms which can affect your tempo, face rotation, and stroke.
Click here to learn more about the fat grip debate and see if it’s right for you.
Are mallet putters more forgiving?
Yes, in general these face balanced putters are more forgiving and tend help with mishit putts. Unlike a blade, you have more room to make your mishit putts much more manageable (which should lead to fewer three putts).
Blades on the other hand, are extremely unforgiving and require a consistent stroke to yield the best results. If you hit it on the wrong part of the face you might have a much longer second putt than if you had a more forgiving club.
What is a stand alone putter?
This is one of the latest things in the golf market and still hard to believe it exsists. This club is so heavy that stands upright without you holding it up! Check out the video below to learn how it stands up all by itself and see if it can improve your accuracy and stroke path.
Do expensive putters make a difference?
This is such a great question! I hear so many golfers think they need a new expensive Scotty Cameron to make more putts. Spoiler alert – it’s not true!
Don’t get me wrong, an expensive model can help but it’s only part of the mix. No putter, regardless of price, will offset a bad stroke!
At the end of the day, the flat stick you choose has more to do with than just the price. You want to pick one that fits your putting style, has the correct face, the right lie angle, and gives you confidence when standing over it.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of factors that come into choosing the right putter for your game. While most golfers spend a lot of time thinking about their driver and irons, not nearly enough get a putter that’s fitted properly.
Use this three-step process so you can save money on a putter fitting and find the one that best suits your stroke.
When choosing the right putter types, you want to find one that:
- Gives you confidence at address.
- Fits your stroke (toe hang vs. straight path).
- Allows you to easily aim at your intended target.
- Is the proper length based on your preferred posture.
- Has the right loft so it rolls smooth and doesn’t bounce off the face after impact.
Hopefully, this will help you find the perfect putter so you can start feeling more confident on the greens.
2 thoughts on “Pick your Weapon: How to Choose a Putter”
Great read and very helpful. Thank you
Terrific article. Precise, easy to understand using plain English and presented in a logical manner. Now if I can find that magical club!!