Golf equipment truths: How do I know which type of putter I should be using?

We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our office. And they are sharing their knowledge with you. Golf Digest's equipment editors, Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson, have covered the golf equipment business for decades, and there are few who know the equipment industry better. We've asked them to answer your questions in a weekly equipment round-up. Tweet them any equipment questions you have, and they might answer your questions next week. (Click here or here to ask them a question.)

What are some things to look for when picking out a new putter? —@Derek04524325

I’m reminded of what legendary golf retailer Leigh Bader likes to say about the process of buying a putter: “The only performance metric that tends to matter to the average golfer is ‘Does the ball go in the hole?’” He then quickly explains how that is likely not the most useful means of knowing that the putter is the right fit for your stroke or your setup. Whether it’s enhancing your skills or mitigating your flaws. Whether, in short, it’s brought consistency to the part of the game that involves the finest motor skills.

The good news is there are lots of tools at a fitter’s disposal to understand whether a putter improves the stroke, in terms of bringing more consistency to your rhythm, your face angle at impact, even the way you aim the putter. We’re talking about putting analyzers like Quintic or SAM Putt Lab, even launch monitors like TrackMan, GC Quad or FlightScope. Software like Odyssey Fits helps narrow your options, and a putter fitting is probably the easiest, most productive fitting you can go through since your putting stroke is a lot more consistent than your driver swing. Indeed, it might even only require an adjustment to the putter you already have.

All of this is to say that rather than looking for certain things, it might be more fun to be open to where the search might take you. Our belief generally though is that mallet putters will help the vast majority of golfers. If you’re like most golfers, you’re more concerned with avoiding three-putts than holing every birdie putt you see. The forgiveness of a mallet goes a long way toward more consistent distance control, and that’s the best way to avoid the kind of putts you have to apologize for.

We also think alignment is fundamental. The putter that gets you on target more consistently and more automatically than another is going to leave you free to focus on speed and break. Don’t overlook the role the grip plays either. Grip size can help moderate or enhance the role your hands play in the putting stroke, depending on what’s best for your game.

So resist the temptation to focus on the putter you just made three five-footers with. I wouldn’t even aim at a hole. Instead, the right putter is the one that rolls all those 20-footers on the same line and at the same speed. That shows you’ve got a putter that you stroke consistently with the face square to the target at impact. The hole-outs will come when it matters.


When will manufacturers make workability more important than distance? I shouldn't have to play blades to get the workability I can get out of older clubs. I'd rather sacrifice distance than not be able to punch cut a brand-new cavity-back, oversized, draw-inducing piece of $#!*. —@HunterWayneCory

While we like the triple name it’s clear you’re no Robert Tyre Jones. Or even Jay Don Blake. We’re pretty sure the Titleist 620 MB has plenty of workability. Ditto the Ping Blueprint. Ditto the TaylorMade P730. Or the Mizuno MP-20. Or Callaway Apex MB. You get the idea.

We think what you’re really saying is that you want “workability” when you don’t have the skills to use a muscleback-blade iron that has more than enough of it. That you want the magic silver bullet of game-improvement forgiveness combined with the workability of a blade. Well, that’s a tough ask, and it has little to do with distance.

Clubs that are more forgiving tend to be so because they’re using some serious heel-toe weighting. That boosts the moment of inertia and helps mitigate the effect of a poor shot. The tradeoff? Probably reducing the curve on that lovely punch cut of yours. But here’s the deal: There are plenty of irons that provide incredible workability if you want them. But for the life of us, we don’t understand why you would want to make the game harder? The reason that there are players on the PGA Tour who prefer muscleback blades is they don’t have to worry about distance or mis-hit forgiveness. Also, to get paid they have to “work” shots to get them close to hole locations that the buying public will never see.

Us working men will take the middle of the green all day and be the envy of anybody you play with. Keep messing around with that punch cut of yours, and your buddies will be setting up their direct deposit account with you on the 19th hole. Today’s players distance irons, by the way the hottest category in golf equipment, have no trouble working the ball when required. But we’ll take the forgiveness that comes with those irons all day long.

Why does a driver head have to be hollow? Why not solid and smaller? —@polymorphgolf

A driver head solid and smaller? You mean like the old persimmon drivers or the early metalwoods that were about the size of today’s 5-woods and filled with things such as foam? Let’s start with solid. Solid equals heavier. Heavier equals slower swing speed. That equals fewer yards. Now you could say smaller equals lighter, and you would be correct. But there is a reason a driver goes further than a 3-wood and it’s not just loft. Go back to third-grade gym class: What would you bounce higher off of, a small trampoline or a bigger one?

There’s your answer. The larger clubhead, while weighing slightly more, provides a much bigger trampoline. It also give you more forgiveness than a smaller club. In fact, if you wanted to address the distance debate in golf, just make clubheads half the size they are now and the problem (if you assume there is one) is basically solved. So the large hollow heads are faster, more forgiving and provide a bigger trampoline for ball speed.

We think those are three good answers to your question.