5 Keys to Proper Putter Fitting
1. Proper Length
This is always the first fitting variable to be determined. Its importance is to place the golfer in the proper posture position with the eyes directly over the ball. Proper length also allows the golfer to have his or her arms hinging directly under the shoulders, thus promoting a smooth stroke transition from slightly inside on take-away to square at impact to slightly inside on the follow-through. This builds consistency in the stroke because it heavily influences both distance control and directional control.
There has been a growing trend toward putters that are shorter in length. As a matter of fact, a number of manufacturers now offer 34" putters as the new men's standard (compared to the 35" modern standard of the past). Ladies putter lengths have also been reduced to 33" standard length, down from 34". The cause of this trend has been the more modern putting style of letting the arms and hands swing back and forth naturally and more directly under the shoulder pivot.
2. Proper Lie
Lie angle is a major factor in controlling the initial direction the ball will travel after impact. If the toe of the putter is sticking up in the air, the ball will be pulled slightly to the left. Conversely, if the toe of the putter is down and the heel is up in the air, the ball will most likely be pushed slightly to the right. Also, an incorrect lie angle will cause a slightly less solid hit because the ball is being impacted at more of a glancing blow, which also adds some degree of sidespin.
3. Proper Loft
Most players are not aware that the ball, when resting on the surface of the green, actually settles down in a depression caused by its own weight. Another unknown fact is that the ball will skid approximately 14-20% of the total putt distance, regardless of how hard it is hit. Conversely, the ball in a pure roll state covers 80-86% of the total putting distance.
The purpose of putter loft is to provide a consistent amount of skid and roll every time on any length of putt . This helps dramatically in controlling the distance a putt is hit. Here's how it works:
When you strike a putt, the ball first needs to be lifted up and out of its depression so that it can skid on top of the grass and not through it. When the putt is not lifted slightly or if it is lifted too high, it will bounce. You will usually not see this bounce but it will make your skid and roll through different length putts inconsistent. This in turn makes it very difficult for you to consistently achieve the proper putt distance. Most players will start the ball rolling consistently with a putter launch angle of 4°. Simply because your putter has 4° loft does not mean you impact the ball with 4° of loft. Special equipment can determine your putter's actual loft and whether or not your hands are ahead of the putter head at impact (de-lofting the putter), square to the putter head at impact (utilizing the actual loft on your putter) or if your hands are behind the putter head at impact (increasing the putters loft).
4. Proper Swingweight
Many heads on putters today are simply too light. The swing-weight scale is used simply as a way to determine if a putter head is too heavy, too light or in the acceptable range. The proper swingweight range for a putter is between C-4 and D-6. Ideally, C-6 to D-4 would be best.
The proper putter headweight promotes the proper feel of the putter and, more importantly, is another major factor in distance control.
Too light a putter mainly hurts consistent distance control but is also a factor in directional control.
Too heavy a putter usually does not affect directional control but it seriously affects distance control.
The proper swingweight range for any conventional style putter in any length is very important it is another key putter fitting variable that most golfers are not aware of, but one that can benefit them immensely.
5. Playability Factor For Putter Heads
Every putter head design type and style has a different Playability level associated with it. Some are easier to use for certain golfers than are others. For instance, a golfer who does not consistently hit the putt on or near the center of the putter face would benefit dramatically from a putter design with a much bigger sweet spot. On the other hand, a Tour professional who impacts the putt consistently in a 1/4" circle on the face can putt with any putter head style they like.
Technically, the characteristic used in determining this Playability Factor (Maltby Playability Factor), is the putter head's Moment of Inertia (or MOI). This characteristic determines the putter head's resistance to twisting on off-center hits. A special machine is used in the Maltby Design Studio to calculate MOI. This measurement then allows us to classify every putter head with an MPF rating that puts it into a category which relates to the golfer's ability. As a rule of thumb, putters with longer head lengths or with visible heel and toe weighting have higher Moments of Inertia that benefit all golfers. Blade style putters would have low Moments of Inertia and are typically for better players only.