Bettinardi Kuchar Model 1 Putter: Editor Review
Summary: Stable, soft and beautiful. This is the most premium arm lock putter out there.
Pros: Very stable during the stroke, and unbelievably good looking at address. The F.I.T. Face feels soft, and the Pewter PVD finish is both beautiful and durable.
Cons: With arm lock putters, length is flexible. But golfers will need to make sure they custom fit the loft to putt their best.
Bottom Line: Users will gain a lot of confidence knowing that this putter was developed specifically for the arm lock putting style by the PGA Tour’s best arm lock putter, Matt Kuchar. At $375, it’s not cheap. But it’s a “must-have” for golfers who want the highest-quality arm lock putter.
Bettinardi’s Kuchar Model 1 putter was designed by … you guessed it, Bob Bettinardi and Matt Kuchar. According to Sam Bettinardi, vice president of sales and marketing at Bettinardi Golf, Kuchar started working with prototypes of the putter at the 2012 BMW Championship in September. He experimented with 15 different variations before deciding on what became the Model 1, which is the same model he used in victories at the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the 2013 Memorial Tournament.
The Kuchar Model 1 is a face-balanced blade putter with a wide body. According to Bettinardi, the wider body adds to the putter’s heel/toe weighting, which makes the putter more stable during the stroke. It also has Bettinardi’s F.I.T. Face (Feel Impact Technology), a milling process that removes 55 percent of the face material for a softer feel at impact.
The entire putter is 100 percent milled from soft carbon steel at Bettinardi’s headquarters in Tinely Park, Ill., and has a Pewter PVD finish. It’s available in two different versions — arm lock and standard.
Above: The F.I.T. face of the Kuchar Model 1 putter is milled over Bettinardi’s Honeycomb finish to create a soft, solid feel at impact.
The Kuchar-style, or arm lock putter has a 2.5 shaft offset and 7 degrees of loft that Bettinardi says is necessary to “keep the ball from diving into the ground.” It’s sold with a standard length of 42 inches, a lie of 71 degree and a head weight of 400 grams.
The standard model (not reviewed) measures 35 inches, and has a 350-gram head with 3 degrees of loft. Like the arm lock, it has a 71-degree lie angle and costs $375.
Arm lock putting isn’t for everyone. For a right-handed golfer, an arm lock putter is anchored on the left forearm, so golfers who use their right hand/wrist/arm to dominate their stroke will likely struggle with the putting style. But for golfers who dominate the stroke with their leading side, the arm lock putter makes sense. It’s also a natural for golfers who are reeling from the decision by golf’s ruling bodies to ban putters that are anchored to the chest and midsection in 2016.
The new rule, 14-1b, states that a golfer must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” Yes, technically the arm lock putting style anchors the putter grip against a golfer’s lead forearm, but the USGA doesn’t view it that way.
The reason for the loophole has to do with the fact that a golfer’s forearm is not a fixed axis point like a golfer’s midsection or chest. So even though the grip is “anchored” against the forearm, the forearm remains mobile, unlike the belly and long-putting methods that have static anchor points.
As a long-putter user who is trying to find a way to get a jump on the anchor ban, I was curious to test the Kuchar Model 1 arm lock. I did so against a short putter on a SAM PuttLab, and during several rounds on the course.
On SAM, I noticed that the path of the putter face was much more square-to-square than with my short putter, and it remained square for a longer period of time before and after impact. That resulted in much more directional consistency. On the course, the security of the arm-lock style eased my tension over short putts, and the stroke felt much more stable and repeatable.
To get the best results from a Kuchar Model 1 arm lock, the sole needs to rest reasonably flat on the ground at address.
My biggest problem with the Kuchar Model 1 was getting the putter to sit correctly at address. The lie angle was fine, but when I played the ball in the middle of my stance the putter had too little loft. That meant the back flange of the putter was raised too far off the ground. When I played the ball more forward in my stance, which added loft and lowered the back flange, my shoulders opened to the target and I had a tendency to pull my putts.
The solution for me was adding 2 degrees more loft to the putter. That gave the putter enough loft for me to play the ball in the center of my stance, and allowed me to use the same setup and mechanics as I would with a short putter. But because the arm-lock style stabilized the grip and positioned my hands much farther in front of the ball, my wrists stayed solid and my stroke had a straighter path with less face rotation.
Tips from Kuchar
According to Kuchar, the arm lock putting style works best when (right-handed) golfers dominate the stroke with their left arms. The best way to practice this, he says, is to take the right hand off the putter and hit putts with the left arm only.
Since Kuchar is 6-foot 4-inches tall, he uses a Model 1 arm lock that is 44.75 inches. That gives him what he considers to be the ideal length, with the grip resting about 2 inches below the crook of his elbow. While length isn’t as critical as loft or lie in the arm-lock style, golfers might want to look at adjusting the putter’s length based on their body type.
Kuchar also recommends a ball position that is in the center of the stance, which I found to be the most natural way to use the putter as well. Don’t be surprised, however, if a centered ball position requires a loft adjustment. Everyone’s arm length and posture are a little different, so the 7 degrees of loft and 71 degree lie angle that works perfectly for Kuchar may or may not work for you.
Looks and Feel
The strangest part of the Kuchar Model 1 arm lock putter is the 2.5 shaft offset, which Bettinardi says works with the added loft of the putter to launch the ball correctly at impact. While it’s a shock to the system at first, the offset looks a lot more natural once the putter is soled.
Once golfers get used to the offset, they’ll enjoy the putter’s clean, classic shape. They’ll probably also enjoy its Pewter PVD finish, which has hints of blue that blend beautifully with the blue paint fill on the sole and on the face. That theme is carried over on the grey 19-inch belly putter grip with blue letters, and on the head cover as well, which is white and blue.
Both the sole of the putter and head cover have designs that include Matt Kuchar’s signature. While most golfers will think it’s cool to play a club that receives an endorsement from one of the best golfers in the world, I can’t imagine that tour players or aspiring tour players who may be competing against Kuchar are wild about it.
They might change their tune (or switch head covers and buy lead tape) when they try the putter, however, because it’s one of the best-feeling 100 percent milled putters I’ve ever tested. Unlike other manufacturers, Bettinardi is not claiming that its F.I.T. Face does anything to enhance performance. But it certainly provides the soft, solid feel that the company says it does.
Golfers will know pretty quickly if arm lock putters are right for them. All it takes is a few strokes on a practice putting green to find out if they’re on to something or not.
If they’re willing to give arm lock putting a try, they can’t go wrong with Bettinardi’s Kuchar Model 1, which is the most premium arm lock putter on the market. If they want a slightly different look, they can also try Bettinardi’s Kuchar Model 2 arm lock, which has the same specs but has a wider, rounder pear shape with a longer sightline that’s a little easier to aim.
If you buy one, don’t forget to spend the extra time and money to have the putter fit to you. It will enhance the consistency of your setup, alignment, stroke and ball roll. Most importantly, it will give you the confidence and peace of mind to hole more putts. Isn’t that why you decided to try the arm-lock style in the first place?