For better rolls, fit your putter

By Christopher Foley, PGA
Published on

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As club fitting has become more and more prevalent over the last several years, the area that the average golfer has taken the least advantage of is that of putter fitting.
Primarily because of a lack of fitting systems and a lack of knowledge of the effects of a poor fitting putter, most players have to adapt their putting strokes to their putter rather than making an efficient stroke.

Creating an efficient stroke

The most efficient and simplest putting stroke is one in which the putter works straight back and straight through on the intended target line. In other words, a pendulum type stroke.
To create this type of stroke, the golfer needs to be in the correct set-up position. This is one in which the golfer is bending the upper body from his hips so that his eyes are positioned over the golf ball and the target line. In this position, the golfer’s arms should hang straight down from his shoulder in a relaxed manner.
The golfer should then be able to place his hands on the handle of the putter with the head of the putter resting flat on the ground. This position gives the golfer the ability to create an efficient stroke.

Strike the right balance

The combination of having the eyes over the target line and the arms hanging from the shoulders gives the golfer the greatest chance of the putter being swung straight back and through and the golf ball being struck in the center of the sweet spot with the face of the putter square to the target line.

The four factors that need to be addressed in fitting a putter

1. Length
In my coaching I find that at least 80 percent of people are playing with putters that are too long for them. When the putter is too long there are two things that typically occur:
  1. The player will grip the club so that his arms are not hanging straight down from his shoulders.
  2. The player will be positioned such that his eyes are not over the target line and the putter is not sitting flat on the ground. This leads to misalignment and to a non-pendulum type stroke.
The vast majority of putters sold in golf shops are 36 or 35 inches long, while the vast majority of people fit into putters that are 32 to 34 inches. A putter's length can easily be changed by removing the grip and cutting the shaft to the proper length.
2. Lie angle
The lie angle is the angle created by the shaft, relative to the ground, when the sole of the head of the putter is sitting flat on the ground at address. If the sole of the club is not resting flat on the ground at address, it is difficult to aim the putter correctly and to hit the ball consistently in the center of the clubface. Again, the lie of most putters can easily be changed, using a loft and lie machine.
3. Loft and 4. Offset
These two factors are interrelated. The loft is the angle of pitch on the face of the club and the offset is the amount of space the face of the putter is set back from the shaft of the club.
The loft and offset affect the roll of the golf ball and, most importantly, how the player aims the face of the putter.
When a putt is struck, the ball skids for a short distance and then starts rolling. The less skid, the truer the roll. If the putter has too much loft the ball will hop. If the putter has too little loft the ball will skid too much.
It’s all in your eyes
The combination of loft and offset's effect on aim has to do with how an individual's eyes function. The way a person's eyes work together influence how he sees the face of the putter relative to the target line at address.
If a person tends to aim left he should have a putter with less loft and or offset. A putter with more loft and offset will help a person whose tendency is to aim too much to the right.
While the offset of a preexisting putter cannot typically be changed, the loft of the putter is normally very easy to change using a loft and lie machine.
When you consider that putting accounts for 30 percent to 50 percent of a golfer's score, depending on their ability level, having a putter that allows the player to make a more efficient stroke is an easy solution to lowering scores.
Having your next putter fit or your current putter modified, is a simple solution to playing better golf.
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