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Opinion & Analysis

What putter designers focus on… and you should, too

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david edel

Most of us have our own ideas about what we do and don’t like about putters. Maybe you’re a blade-style player who would never imagine putting a mallet putter in the bag, or maybe you’re constantly switching putters with no real allegiance to any particular design or brand.

I’ve had my own journey with putters and with no conclusive evidence I wanted to know what the engineers and designers focus on when creating putters. Maybe it would illuminate some new concepts to make that ever so difficult decision of picking a putter a little easier.

I sat down and talked with Austie Rollinson, Principal Designer for Odyssey, and David Edel, founder of Edel Golf, and talked about what they focus on during the design process.

You can listen in below, or read through the top-3 things I learned further down.

Alignment

The number one focus you’ll hear these world-class designers talk about is alignment.

“Three percent the golfing population can aim their putter correctly, in terms of lateral and vertical aim,” Edel says.

Of all factors, alignment has the biggest impact on where the ball ends up, and even a single degree of misalignment can result in a shot that is far removed from its target. Even more than MOI (we’ll talk about that next), improved alignment when setting up to a putt should be your main focus.

The reason you see so many different styles of putters — with their different lines, hosels, head shapes, lie angles and lofts — is because we all see things differently, and what works for you on the putting green might not work for me. Each of these variables has an impact on if you see a putter as open, closed when setting up to a shot.

“I believe in the basic premise that my job as a fitter or a putter maker is to make what a person sees is real and what they feel to be real.,” Edel says.

For example, by moving attention backward on a putter, it tends to look open. When you do a laser test you can see it’s square to the target, but to the mind it looks wide open. On the other hand, when you move the attention forward, the putter tends to look closed.

Moment of Inertia

A club’s moment of inertia (MOI) basically tells you how forgiving it will be if you fail to hit the ball on the center of the putter’s face. A high MOI means that the head of the putter is less likely to twist around on impact and potentially affect the distance of the shot.

“Where that face is pointing is going to be more important than if you hit it off center a little bit and you lose a little ball speed because of that,” Rollinson says.

Designers focus on building putters with high MOI so that you can maintain a consistent ball speed even when you hit the ball a little off the toe or heel. How do they do it? By moving the weight away from the center of gravity (CG).

The CG on most putters will be the center of the face of the club and slightly lower on the face.

Austie Rollinson

Austie Rollinson, Principal Designer for Odyssey Golf.

“If you have [the CG] low, you tend to hit the ball above the center of gravity,” Rollinson said. “The putter will twist in a way that will help promote forward roll.”

To get the weight as far away as possible from the center of gravity, designers create large mallet putters to maximize MOI and create putters that twist less and maintain ball speeds on off-center hits for better distance control.

Feel

What is feel? Most would say feel is how hard or soft the ball feels coming off the putter… which we also learn has a lot to do with sound.

“Feel is the sound of it (the ball) off the face… also the ball speed,” Rollinson says. “Making sure that the sound and speed match up in their mind to what they want to see.”

They way to change feel is often with inserts. Odyssey has most notably done this with its legendary White Hot insert, which was made with a urethane material that was originally used in Callaway golf balls. Not only can you get a soft feel and maintain high ball speeds with a good insert, but it also allows engineers to move weight around in a putter design.

“That’s another aspect of the insert, as it enables us to move weight around and make the putter roll better and more forgiving,” Rollinson says.

Should you focus on MOI when making a putter choice? Rollinson says most golfers are better off finding a putter that looks good to them, and one they can align to their target consistently.

What Works for You

There’s no magic putter that will work for every golfer. We all see things differently, and everything from what’s going on with our eyes to how we set up over the ball has a massive impact on quality of a putt.

Don’t ever settle with a putter. Focus on finding one that helps your alignment and gets you in the best possible place to hit consistent putts.

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Cordie has spent the last four years working with golf instructors, helping inform thousands on business and teaching best practices (if you're a coach or instructor check out http://golfinthelifeof.com/). Through that he's realized that it's time for the way golf is taught to be changed. When looking at research and talking with coaches and academics, he's launched the Golf Science Golf Science Lab , a website and audio documentary-style podcast focused on documenting what's really going on in learning and playing better golf.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Scientific Golfer

    Jan 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    So…. if you can putt the ball off the sweet spot, or within +/- 1/4″ …. you don’t need a putter with MOI, impact ‘feel’ inserts or face treatment, or even alignment marks if you can control your stroke direction. Static putter face alignment does not guarantee dynamic putter direction… and in fact may hinder stroking.

    Think: Bullseye, Cashin, 8802, Ping A1, others of that ilk ……

  2. Deadeye

    Dec 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Picking a putter is such an individual thing. Myself I prefer mallet styles. They have room for a long alignment line and that really helps. The grip is critical to me as well. After trying the most popular and expensive styles I have gone back to narrower and lighter grips. That returns the weight to the head and restored the balance and feel it originally had. My favorites are any older Bobby Grace design. Get them off eBay under the old Macgregor name. They are a work of art and marvelous function.

  3. Bob Pegram

    Dec 14, 2016 at 6:18 am

    I have watched numerous Edel putter fittings. It is amazing how adding or removing alignment stripes on a putter will change the direction a golfer aims the putter. It is how a person processes (interprets) the information that matters. A laser shows where the putter is actually aiming. It is often different than at the target the golfer thinks he has aligned the putter to.
    As mentioned in the article, the putter head shape will also affect aim.

  4. Ran

    Dec 13, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    My money is on the putter you Want to putt with as being the best one for you…same with irons and woods…best part of golf (besides making the tee time) is using the equipment you want to use…for a lot of us older guys getting to a point in life we can buy the clubs and balls we really want to use is Golfs biggest reward.

  5. Grizz01

    Dec 12, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Everytime you say MOI in an article it should be followed with, (all hail Ralph Maltby).

  6. Jo Mil

    Dec 12, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Keep in mind there are 3 rotation axes in a putter and therefore 3 measurements of MOI to consider. Companies only talk about one of those (the vertical axis) because that is the only one that is regulated by the USGA. Greater the MOI on the vertical, greater the reluctance of an object to change its rotation due to a force applied.

    What is often over looked is the rotation axis of the shaft and that measurement of MOI. This is what causes putters to have toe hang or “face balanced”. What is overlooked and quite frankly not discussed by the majority of putter companies( with the exception of 2 of them, one of which was featured in this article) is the deleterious effect of a high vertical axes moi has on the ability to square the putter face at impact. And since upwards of 83% of a putts direction will be dictated by face angle at impact, I would think that increasing the potential to square the face at impact is more important than improving the impact ratio.

  7. Daniel

    Dec 12, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    So, get a mallet?

  8. Tom

    Dec 12, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    The Ping ANSER was introduced 50 years ago and is still the benchmark design. Why hasn’t anything come along in 50 years to replace the ANSER in terms of design impact in the putter market?

  9. Ron

    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I recently found the putter I used in high school. I couldn’t believe I used something like that. But, I can still put with it. I originally bought it from Sears for $5.00. I won’t say how long ago. It’s the putter, not the putter.

  10. Eddy

    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Struggling with all types of putters big,small mallet blade just gets in your head.

  11. SV

    Dec 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Mallet putters, I love them. Blade putters, I love them. It’s the actual putting I hate.

  12. TexasSnowman

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Alignment is definitely number one, just as it in the full swing. I’d like to see more designs without alignment lines… I prefer to aim the face.

  13. Gary

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    No one ever talks about counterweighting the putter. I found that using either a 60 gram counterweight for lighter putter heads (340 grams to 350 grams) or an 80 gram counterweight on heavier heads (360 + grams) produces a smoother putting stroke especially for those players who lack the muscle skills in the hands and forearms when using a shorter / slower back and thru putting motion.

  14. Dave R

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Yes agree with Roger best putter ever made . I have tried every putter out there all kinds of scottys all the rest always go back to my 30 year old Anser 2 still squares up the best . Kirsten had it right the first time .

    • Stavros

      Dec 12, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      She was great in Bring It On, wasn’t she?

    • Bert

      Dec 12, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Nothing compares to my nickel Anser 2. The feel is incredible, no where near the same as the stainless Anser 2. Sad they only made them one year.

  15. Tom

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    What about how putter feels in the stroke? Some putters I have tried fought my stroke and others are too easy to rotate both cases made it hard to get club square at impact. Sure MOI can be a factor there but it’s not the only one. Also add in putter weight as a big factor.

  16. Darrin

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    In my opinion, the farther you are from the hole the more MOI matters and the less alignment matters.

    I putt best on short putts with a bullseye style putter and a dot on the top. Long putters were always my issue with this putter. I finally went to a Odyssey Anser style with a line on the top rail, seems to work well on all putts for me. Big MOI putters with lots of lines and circles just screw me up.

    The greatest putters in history, Jack, Tiger, Crenshaw, Faxon etc. all used pretty simple putters. The guys that struggle with putting always seem to gravitate to but fugly designs.

  17. Roger

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    All these guys try to complicate it for you ! Buy an Anser 2 !One of the simplest designs that has truly stood the test of time.
    Karsten didn’t have any Laser, MOI tester…..

  18. LaBraeGolfer

    Dec 12, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I just went back to a mallet from playing flow neck blades. My instructor commented on my setup that I set up with the face closed and he wanted me to work on that. Since I switched to the Spider OS I have regained confidence on the greens, I wonder if the alignment being so large forces me to think the putter is more open like the article says, however I am looking at the ball when I putt. Anyway I am making more putts so I don’t care what my putter looks like I enjoy the sound of the putter as well.

  19. Double Mocha Man

    Dec 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    The best putter is the person swinging the club. I used some putters in my youth on my high school and college teams that were literally clunky pieces of ugly metal… and I was a wizard at putting. Now, several years later, I can afford the most expensive putters and I can barely keep it under 36 putts per round.

  20. Will Skeat

    Dec 12, 2016 at 11:35 am

    The forces involved in putting are so low (due to the low club head speed) that all the talk of “high-MOI to prevent club head twisting” is nonsense.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Dec 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Obviously you’ve never rolled in a 50 footer…

    • kevin

      Dec 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      That is so very true!!! Torque, Twist… it is just marketing. The player controls the club face of the putter at 1 mph. Good putting is pretty simple , unless allowed to be overcomplicated.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is your driver the first “scoring club”?

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I was traveling Sunday and didn’t get to watch the end of the PGA Championship, so imagine my shock Monday morning when I read what had happened on that back nine. Like most everyone, I figured Brooks Koepka had his game and his emotions completely under control and Sunday’s finish would be pretty boring and anti-climactic. Man, were we wrong!!?

As I read the shot-by-shot, disaster-by-disaster account of what happened on those few holes, I have to admit my somewhat cynical self became engaged. I realize the conditions were tough, but it still boils down to the fact that Koepka nearly lost this PGA Championship because he couldn’t execute what I call “basic golf” – hitting fairways and greens – when it counted. And Dustin Johnson lost his ability to do the same just as he got within striking distance.

I’ve long been a critic of the way the game has come to be played at the highest levels; what we used to call “bomb and gouge” has become the norm at the professional tour level. These guys are big strong athletes, and they go at it harder than anyone ever did in “the old days”. Watch closely and you’ll see so many of them are on their toes or even off the ground at impact, especially with the driver. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t see how that can be the path to consistent shotmaking.

So, my curiosity then drove me to the year-to-date statistics on the PGA Tour website to dive into this a bit deeper. What I found was quite interesting, and I believe can be helpful to all of you readers as you think about how to lower your handicap this season. Follow me here, as I think there are some very helpful numbers from the PGA Tour.
I’ve long contended that golf is a game of ball control . . . let’s call it shotmaking. Your personal strength profile will determine whether you are a long hitter or not, and there’s probably not a lot you can do (or will do) to change that dramatically. But PGA Tour statistics indicate that accuracy, not distance, is the key to better scoring.

The Tour leader in driving accuracy is Jim Furyk, the only guy who is hitting more than 75% of the fairways. The Tour average is under 62%, or not even 2 out of 3. That means the typical round has the tour professional playing at least 4-5 approach shots from the rough. I’m going to come back to that in just a moment and explore the “cost” of those missed fairways.

The Tour leader in greens-in-regulation is Tiger Woods at 74%, almost 3-out-of-4 . . . but the Tour average is less than 66%, or just under 2-out-of-3. I believe enlightenment comes by breaking that GIR statistic down even further.
From the fairway, the Tour leader in GIR is Justin Thomas at 85% and the worst guy at 65%, three points better than the tour average for GIR overall. Hmmmmm. From the rough, however, the best guy on Tour is Taylor Gooch at 63.4%, which is not as good as the very last guy from the fairway.

But let’s dive even a bit deeper to better understand the importance of driving accuracy. Is it true these guys are so good from the rough that hitting fairways doesn’t matter? Not according to the numbers.

From the rough in the range of 125-150 yards – a wedge for most of these guys – the tour’s best hit it 25-27 feet from the hole and only 30 tour pros are averaging inside 30 feet from that distance. But from the fairway, 25 yards further back – 150-175 yards – the tour’s best hit it inside 21-23 feet, and 160 guys are getting closer than 30 feet on average. Even from 175-200 in the fairway, the best on tour hit it closer than the best on tour from the rough 50 yards closer.

So, what do you do with this information? I encourage any serious golfer to really analyze your own rounds to see the difference in your scoring on holes where you find the fairway versus those where you don’t. I feel certain you’ll find throttling back a bit with your driver and focusing more on finding the fairway, rather than trying to squeeze a few more yards of the tee will help you shoot lower scores.

If you have the inclination to see what more fairways can do to your own scores, here’s a little experiment for you. Get a buddy or two for a “research round” and play this game: When you miss a fairway, walk the ball straight over to the fairway, and then 15 yards back. So, you’ll hit every approach from the fairway, albeit somewhat further back – see what you shoot.

Next week I’m going to follow up this “enlightenment” with some tips and techniques that I feel certain will help you hit more fairways so you can take this to the bank this season.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the PGA Championship

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Brooks Koepka made it four wins from his last eight appearances at major championships, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Bethpage Black.

Hot

While Brooks Koepka’s play off the tee was excellent at last week’s PGA Championship, the American utterly dominated the field with his deadly approach play. The 29-year-old led the field in New York for his approach play gaining 9.5 strokes over his competitors. In case you were wondering, this represents Koepka’s career-best performance with his irons. Check out the clubs Koepka did the damage with at Bethpage Black in our WITB piece here.

Jordan Spieth finished T3 at last week’s event, and the Texan was streets ahead of anyone for the four days with the flat-stick in hand. Spieth gained a mammoth 10.6 strokes over the field on the greens of Bethpage Black, which is over three strokes more than anyone else achieved. It was the best-putting display of the 25-year-old’s career thus far, and Spieth now heads to Colonial CC ranked first in this week’s field for strokes gained: putting over his last 12 rounds.

Dustin Johnson came agonizingly close to capturing his second major title last week, and encouragingly for DJ is that he gained strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories. Johnson also led the field for strokes gained: off the tee, gaining 7.2 strokes over the field – his best performance in this area this year.

Cold

Bubba Watson endured a wretched two days on the greens at Bethpage Black. In just 36 holes, Watson lost 6.8 strokes to the field with the flat-stick. Even more frustrating for Watson is that he gained 6.5 strokes for the two day’s tee to green. A tale of what could have been for the two-time Masters champion.

Phil Mickelson faded badly at last week’s championship, and it was a poor display with his irons that did the damage. Lefty lost 6.3 strokes to the field for his approach play in New York, which is his worst display in this area for 2019.

It was a quick exit for Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black, and though the 15-time major champion was far from his best off the tee (losing half a stroke), it was Woods’ putting that was his undoing. Woods lost almost a stroke and a half on the greens at Bethpage – his worst display with the putter since last August.

 

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Courses

Brough Creek National: The backyard course you wish you’d built

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted a golf course in your backyard.

Of course you have.

Now leave your hand raised if you actually rolled up your sleeves and made it happen.

Among the very few people left with their hands in the air are Ben Hotaling, Zach Brough, Evan Bissell, and Mark Robinson, the driving force behind Brough Creek National. That’s right. These guys are building a golf course in their backyard. From scratch.

The true beginnings of golf aren’t well-documented, but one thing’s for sure: people were playing golf at least 400 years before the first working internal combustion engine. Long before golf course architecture was a multi-million dollar investment before the first dime of revenue trickled in, courses were laid down largely by hand using the natural movement of the land. In that same spirit, Ben happened to notice that there was one particular shot in their backyard that reminded him of the Road Hole at St. Andrews, as it plays over their barn and to a green situated right in front of the road to the property.

Ben ultimately convinced his roommate Zach, whose family has owned the land for some time, that they should clear some trees and put in a makeshift green for their Road Hole. That was in 2015 and, while that’s technically the genesis of Brough Creek National, it was in 2018 when they started sharing their ideas in No Laying Up’s online forum section that things escalated rather quickly. Bouncing ideas off their fellow compatriots revealed great natural setups for a Biarritz/punch bowl combination, a Redan, and more. Before they knew it, they had a 630-yard, 7-hole golf course criss-crossing through the three-acre property in Kansas City, KS.

Road Hole green at Brough Creek National

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Brough Creek National is that it has operated solely off of donations, which started with a weed eater here and a can of herbicide there and has since grown to a recent GoFundMe campaign of $15,000. These donations have allowed them to purchase grass seed and other vital equipment to see the project through. The community aspect of Brough Creek National is so important to what they’re trying to achieve that anyone who provides their name and address on the website is sent a free new membership packet (I happen to be member #209). Included are some stickers, a ballmark, and a welcome letter that states (among other things),

“We are proud to have you as a lifetime national member at our exclusive, member-owned (and maintained) club…The vision of Brough Creek National is to have a place for community golf modeled around fun for members and guests from all golfing backgrounds…Your dues will be assessed at the rate of $0.00 annually.”

Ben further emphasizes the importance of the community aspect by saying:

“I think Brough Creek stands for community. It’s like-minded individuals coming together and supporting something they’re proud of. It’s a smart, intriguing golf course, but it’s ultimately about making friends and that’s what matters. The quality of the golf course is almost inconsequential because the real purpose is to assemble this brotherhood of people who are passionate about the game of golf. We think it’s done in a way that sheds the elitist stigma that golf has often struggled with and we’re almost mocking that in a playful way.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone they have to experience the game a certain way, but we try to go above and beyond to be approachable and welcoming because we think that’s more important than status. Golf’s not a money-making business. It’s just not. So, why don’t we just take that out of it, come together as a community, and create something we can all be proud of?”

If we’re all having an honest moment, not even Ben and Zach know exactly how this project is going to evolve, but one thing’s for sure: an emphasis on maximizing fun for the highest number of the golfing community is never a bad place to start. Those who believe par and total yardage are irrelevant in determining the amount of fun available to them should be in for a treat. To watch the project unfold, check out www.someguysbackyard.com and follow @someguysbackyrd on Twitter and @someguysbackyard on Instagram.

Below is an overview of the course, narrated by Ben Hotaling

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