Friday, May 25, 2012

Thinking Man's Guide to Finding Your WITB: Part VII

In this part, I’ll discuss the putter. Here’s a look at my putter and its specs

Edel Golf Columbia
3° Loft
72.5° Lie Angle
34” Long
Round Edel Putter Grip


Most golfers tend to do a very rudimentary experiment with a putter, be it on a practice green or an indoor practice area and if they like the looks of the putter and how it feels (and more importantly, if they make a few putts with it), they tend to buy the putter and bag it. The problem is that it becomes their only method of finding a putter and it usually winds up with them purchasing a new putter every year, every summer or even every month.

As I’ve written in other posts, when it comes to putting I have a few tenets.

1. I want to hit each putt with the optimal amount of speed.

2. I want to read the putt accurately as often as I possibly can.

3. I want to aim the putt at my intended target accurately

4. I want to roll the ball where I have aimed the putterface, hopefully at that intended target which is hopefully an accurate read of the putt.

That’s it. Nothing else.

I think the putter comes into play in #1, #3 and #4. For #2, I highly recommend taking a green reading clinic thru AimPoint Golf (www.aimpointgolf.com)


I want to hit each putt with the optimal amount of speed.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between ‘speed’ and ‘distance.’ Most golfers go by Dave Pelz’s belief that the ‘optimal speed’ is a putt that travels 17” past the cup. Well, that’s not a ‘speed’, that’s an ‘optimal distance.’

According to Geoff Mangum (www.puttingzone.com), the optimal speed is about 2-3 ball revolutions per second as the ball goes into the cup. What does that look like? Well, the ball should travel at a rate that if it were to go in, it would land and hit the back plastic of the cup. If it hits the back dirt, that’s a speed a little faster than optimal. If it lands on the middle of the cup, that is a speed a little slower than optimal. Remember, speed is a rate an object travels over time. Distance is a length.

Here’s a great video from Errol Helling showing putts that have the same speed, but because they are aimed at different spots, the distance past the cup changes.



Are there other factors like stroke mechanics and green reading that can factor into optimal speed? Sure. But in this post we are talking about the putter.

Generally, the 2 features of a putter that affect speed are loft and weight. Here’s the general rule of thumb on those:

Faster Greens = More weight and less loft

Slower Greens = Less weight and more loft.

I think people understand the differences in loft depending upon green speed. I know Edel offers a putter called the Vari-Loft putter that allows the golfer to alter the loft of the putter face depending upon the green.

[image]

However, it can only alter the putter face by 1° from the loft you are fitted for. So, if you are fitted for a 3° loft, then the Vari-Loft model can give the golfer a 2°, 3° or 4° lofted putter.

IMO, you really need to worry more about the loft as to how it fits to your stroke rather than the greens you play on.

Edel Golf first fits for loft by seeing how the golfer aims the putter at address. They not only want the golfer to aim the laser at the cup, but it has to be a certain distance above the cup. Too low and they are de-lofting the putter at address. Too much and they are adding loft to the putter at address. This will require the golfer to make a compensation in their stroke to hit a good putt.

The other test Edel Golf does is that they do some distance control and consistency tests with the loft. Too much loft for the golfer and the ball will skid, like this video shows.



From my experience with a putter with too much loft, I just could not get the speed consistency I sought after. Sometimes I would have too much speed or too slow of a speed, even if the stroke was virtually the same. I’ve talked to others who feel that too much loft makes the ball go too far offline on mis-hits.

With the weight, the idea is that if we can properly adjust the weight, we will make it so we can have optimal speed without having to alter our putting stroke too much. The faster the greens, the less acceleration and putter head speed we will need to get the ball to the cup. So, if we add weight, we can take a similar length putting stroke and still have good speed because the putter will travel at a slower rate. With faster greens, we need the putter to travel at a faster rate, so we lighten the putter to allow that to happen.

Edel also offers a Vari-Weight putter model. The Vari-Loft putter model comes with the Vari-Weight component as well. When all is said and done, the Vari-Loft model (with the Vari-Weight component) probably allows a golfer to do the least amount of adjustment in their putting stroke from green to green.

However, if you’re looking for something else, then you would probably need to find 2 putters that are the same model and have one with a higher loft and lighter weight (slow greens) and one with a lower loft and more weight (fast greens).

Lastly, Edel Golf fits you for the putter shaft. The idea is:

Wristy Strokes = stiffer shafts

Pendulum-ish Strokes = softer shafts

This is again tied in with the acceleration profile of the putting stroke. I don’t know of any other company that has ever fit for a putter shaft like Edel does. Personally, I have had a pretty good touch before I owned an Edel, but the common thing I hear from readers who own an Edel is how much their speed control has improved with these putters. I think the combination of getting accurately fitted for the loft, weight and shaft has helped them tremendously.

I want to aim the putt at my intended target accurately

This is the other big component of putters, aiming ability.

There was a study done by some European scientists (Nilsson & Karlsen) that found that the High-MOI putters and those putters with all of those wacky alignment lines actually make golfers aim WORSE. But the real coup for putter makers is that the golfer actually *thinks* they aim them better. So what I think happens is that the customer eventually junks the putter and seeks another putter with the wacky alignment design thinking that they aim those putters better and he just needs to find the right kind of putter to fit him.

I’m generally a proponent of simple putter designs because I think golfers aim them better. In fact, according to David Orr’s study on putting (www.orrgolf.com), 80% of golfers cannot aim straight from only 6-feet away. And 55% of the golfers aim left of the target (for righties).

I believe that it’s due to a few factors:

1. Most golfers eye dominance is the same as their arm dominance. So a right handed golfer is likely to be right eye dominant. Right handed golfers who are right eye dominant, tend to have a left aim bias.

2. Scotty Cameron model putters have a high amount of loft (5°), which tends to promote a left aim bias (for righties)

3. The putter heads today are shaped more to promote a left aim bias. Putters of yesteryear, like Wilson 8802 would promote more of a right aim bias. So a right handed golfer with a right eye dominance could use a Wilson 8802 and aim spot-on, time after time.

IMO, there are a lot more putter designs that will promote a right aim bias. The problem is that they often do not have the popular look to them and thus golfers continue to use putters that do not fit the way they aim.

Lastly, I usually get a lot of questions about the round putter grip. I can see to a point where the flat putter grip would be wanted so you don’t twist the face open or closed. But, I never liked having to wonder if the flat putter grip was perfectly aligned because if it wasn’t, it could throw me off before I even made my putter stroke.


I want to roll the ball where I have aimed the putterface, hopefully at that intended target which is hopefully an accurate read of the putt.

Again, there are other factors that come into play with this, but the putter is a factor, too. That’s why the lie angle is important. It helps the golfer hit the sweetspot more often. The idea behind the high MOI putters is that if you miss that sweetspot, the putter HEAD has such a high MOI that it will reduce the twisting on off-center hits. That’s why they also make putters ‘face balanced.’ My feeling is that you are really promoting a situation where you can hit a decent putt off a poor stroke instead of promoting a good stroke. The other problem is that many golfers have difficulty aiming face balanced putters. So it doesn’t do much good to be able to prevent twisting on off-center hits when you are aimed inaccurately to begin with.

I have not tried MOI-matching with the putter. I’ve been told it doesn’t work, but I’m willing to give it a try in the future.



Next Up, Accessories






3JACK

1 comment:

Bryan Baz said...

crazy thing is if you misread a putt, you'll make more putts with a bad stroke than good. if you misread a putt and hit it right down that line, you'll miss 100% of the time unless you get a favorable bump or spike mark.

if you misread with a bad stroke, you may "accidentally" hit it on the right line and make it.