Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the January 2019 edition of PGA Magazine.
Being a good putter can make a huge and immediate impact on someone’s scores. But that often involves having the proper tool for the job. And things are changing, with respect to a putter’s components. Here’s the latest:
How overlooked is putter fitting? While golfers get fitted for their drivers seemingly all the time, you don’t hear about them getting fitted for putters nearly as often. Yet putts account for roughly 40 percent of shots they take.
There are several putter fitting systems on the market. Andy Mickelson, a PGA Associate and the Director of Golf at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, Illinois, has a putter studio within his course’s golf academy armed with Science and Motion (SAM) PuttLab technology, along with a putting green platform that can change undulation.
“Putters have more customization possibilities than drivers,” says Mickelson. “There are more options and more potential to help golfers with a custom-made putter. Yet, the number of putter fittings we do is a small percentage of what it should be.
“And, the thing is, most people who come to us for a fitting are going to buy a new putter.”
It takes about an hour to go through at $100 per fitting, of which some is applied to any putter purchase.
“It helps our clubfitting business, and vice versa,” says Mickelson.
Likewise, independent clubfitting chain Club Champion uses SAM for its $100, one-hour putter fitting sessions. After measuring a golfer’s existing putter for loft, lie and length, the software analyzes many specific parameters of the putter and stroke path to suggest some better-fitting models.
“We often hear back from customers we’ve fitted, and it’s not uncommon for them to chop three-to-five strokes off their 18-hole score with a new fitted putter,” says Nick Sherburne, founder of Club Champion. “Yet only 10 percent of our customers ever ask for this service.”
Talk about a ripe opportunity for PGA Professionals.
BLADES VS. MALLETS
How does consumer demand for blades compare to that of mallets? Ping officials say that for the last several years, they’ve seen roughly a 50-50 split in sales. In its new Sigma 2 line, for instance, sales of the Anser blade and Fetch mallet are quite similar.
“From a design perspective, we’ve increased the number of mallet options as that category of putters has grown in popularity in recent years,” says Pete Samuels, spokesperson at Ping. “Our strategy with most of our putter introductions is to ensure several blades and mallets to satisfy the needs of all golfers.
“For example, in the Sigma 2 line, we offer nine models, including two blades, three midmallets and five mallets. Within each category, we offer a variety of shapes, sizes, stroke types and alignment features – all with the goal of properly fitting golfers to both their eye and stroke.”
If you go by the pyramid of influence from the PGA Tour, 28 of the world’s top 50 players (as of late 2018) use a blade, according to a GolfWRX.com-published report in August.
Equipment industry veteran Barney Adams (namesake of Adams Golf) made a comeback to golf in 2018, with the Breakthrough Golf Technology’s Stability putter shaft that features multiple materials and fresh geometry.
“At 37 inches long, 125 grams and bearing an ultra-stiff flex, it’s designed to improve any golfer’s game,” says Adams. “It delivers the face more square at impact for improved accuracy and solid feel. Plus, it has a lower launch for a predictable roll and better distance control.”
He claims he took the weakest point of a steel putter shaft, and placed a flex-resistant, 22-gram aluminum insert there that increases stiffness and enhances feel.
UST Mamiya also sells a putter-specific shaft – the Frequency Filtered – that amplifies touch and feel. “A filtering diffuser in the midsection filters out higher, unwanted vibrations,” says Danny Le, Director of Marketing at UST Mamiya. “Therefore, only the true feeling of the ball making impact with the putter face is released to the hands.”
Interlinked carbon fiber in the butt section creates hoop strength for a consistently solid feel in the hands, as well. The shaft sports a steel tip, and is offered in seven tip-bend configurations.
OVERSIZED PUTTER GRIPS
Is the popularity of oversized putter grips waning? Experts say it’s hard to tell, but signs might be leaning that way – depending on who you talk with. “We have heard from our customers that sales of very large putter grips and weighted putter grips have been disappointing this year,” says one grip manufacturer, requesting anonymity.
Lamkin, meanwhile, reports that its midsize and more traditional putter grip sizes are regaining market momentum in the market. “It’s hard to say if the oversized putter grip trend has officially waned or if it’s just a temporary dip,” says Kerri Kauffman, Vice President of Marketing and E-Commerce at Lamkin.
Golf Pride officials, however, claim their two oversized Tour SNSR putter grip models attracted 35 new tour professionals worldwide in 2018 alone. The series “has continued to gain momentum both on tour and with consumers at retail,” says Jonathan Neal, Global Head of Marketing.
WHAT’S POPULAR IN PUTTERS
Bettinardi’s Queen B 10 ($400) is made of soft-carbon steel and sports a micro-honeycomb face milling. It’s finished in a champagne silver and hand-painted with Tiffany blue, black and white accents.
Cleveland Golf’s Huntington Beach Soft putters ($130 each) sport proprietary technology that normalizes ball speed across the putter face. Each of the six models in the line has it own custom face-milling pattern.
Odyssey’s Red Ball ($180) is a mallet that eases alignment. As they stand over the ball, golfers can peek through the circular window on the upper level at the red ball on the lower tier. Once it’s centered, they just putt away.
Ping Sigma 2 Anser ($215) has a dual-durometer face for soft feel with the response of a firm face. Its lightweight shaft can be easily adjusted between 32 and 36 inches.
Sacks Parente Series 54 ($600 and up, depending on makeup) sports a grip and shaft that collectively weigh only 60 grams. This makes an ultra-low balance point that naturally brings the clubface to square at impact, so putts roll straight.
Scotty Cameron by Titleist’s Concept X CX-01 ($599) has wings that stabilize the putter through impact. That in turn enhances forgiveness. Its dual-zone vibration dampening chambers help precisely tune sound and feel by separating each chamber with a band of stainless steel.
TaylorMade’s Spider Mini ($299) has a streamlined, minimalist design. The head is 15 percent smaller than Spider Tour but weighs 355 grams, and features the brand’s Pure Roll insert.