Saturday, July 24, 2010


LOUISVILLE, Kentucky - In a contest to determine the most important club in their bag, my guess is that a majority of golfers will agree that their putter trumps the other thirteen sticks that make up a regulation set. Though she be but little, she is fierce. When the match is on the line, your most critical need is to get the ball into the hole. The big dog can't help you now. It's up to the flat-stick.

Your putter is like an old friend in many ways. There are the dependability and comfort factors. Regardless of how high-tech golf equipment becomes, the tried-and-true putter will do just fine, thank you. Many pros recommend that you never even change your grip as a matter of fact. Tiger made the mistake of changing putters before the 2010 British Open but by the fourth round the old Scotty Cameron was back in his bag.

Long and mid-length putter shafts made their appearances not too long ago and helped resurrect the careers of a number of pro golfers like Berhard Langer. The Odyssey Two-Ball putter was among the first of the unconventional putter head configurations. Vijay Singh is one of a few golfers who switch back and forth between long and regular shafted putters. It seems that the weakest putters (as in golfers, not clubs) are the ones we see using newfangled contraptions although Annika Sorenstam was pretty good at putting the ball in the hole. I fully expect to see Jim Furyk switching to a long shafted model soon.

It can be problematic trying to build your golf game around just one club, even the most important one. Putters come in all shapes and sizes (I once saw one whose clear plastic shaft was filled with jelly beans) and are made with different materials, each with it's own unique characteristics. The same is true for golf balls. Since the advent of composite covers, it's now possible to find soft and hard balls, balls that produce high trajectories and those that supposedly fly lower. But most of these balls are of no use at all if they don't work in synch with your putter. In fact, the only ball that works for me and my ZAAP Alpha I, which is made of forged stainless steel, hasn't been manufactured for fifteen years. Although my wife thinks it's ridiculous, I'm happy to own every old-school Maxfli A-10 golf ball on the planet.

Golfers who crave more distance tend to purchase harder balls that zing off the club face like a drop of water hitting a red-hot frying pan. Unfortunately, with these types of balls, it can be difficult judging how hard they will come off a steel putter face. Better golfers who don't have distance issues gravitate toward softer balls that are easier to manipulate around the greens. There are compromises like putters with soft inserts. These configurations at least provide some feel as the hard ball doesn't rocket off the face anymore. But that doesn't solve some of the other problems inherent in using a hard ball like getting it to stop on the greens. Conversely, soft-covered balls don't provide maximum distance for golfers with slower swing speeds. That's the trade-off I accept when I put an A-10 on the tee. I know for a fact that it's twenty yards shorter than a Pro-V1 or other hard ball but when I get on or near the green, getting down in two is almost a certainty. Every time I substitute a hard ball on a water hole or for a provisional I regret it profoundly as I watch it speed past the hole after coming off my steel putter like a BB.

One day I'll produce a golf instruction DVD just on the art of putting. In that video lesson I'll certainly advise people to find an ideal putter before doing anything else. Then find the ball that feels best coming off the club face. If you discover that your putter works best with a ball that doesn't provide the enough distance you might want to think about tailoring your game accordingly.

There's no sense always trying to knock it on in two if your going to three-putt. The better approach is to get it closer in three which will give you more opportunities to jam it in. And one-putt you will. As you stand over the ball with the confidence that you have the best tools for the job, drop it and get out of there.

Keywords for this article: golf, swing, over the top, lesson, instruction, eBook, Annika Sorenstam, Berhnard Langer, golf DVD, golf instruction, golf lessons, Jim Furyk, over the top golf, putter, putting, Scotty Cameron, video, Vijay Singh
Revised 09-03-2012