Take a stroll round your local high street golf store and you?ll be confronted with rows of hi-tec driving equipment teasing you with promises of high-flying 300-yard beauties. And as the evolution of titanium drivers continues, even the old duffers at your local club can send it out there with aplomb. So in an age where spectacular tee-time performances have become a trait of the non-professional game, the famous old proverb “drive for show, putt for dough” has never made more sense.

With this in mind, getting your mitts on the right putter is crucial if you want to turn good hitting into impressive scoring. And if you?re serious about slashing shots off your handicap, you?ll need to give it some serious thought. So to help we?ve put together the essential guide to get you choosing wisely and putting well.

Looks


The first thing to remember when picking a putter is that looks are the single most important factor. As putting guru, Harold Swash will tell you, “some men like their women fat, and some like ’em thin.” Basically, it?s all a matter of personal taste, so don?t get hung up on price tags or what the world?s best are using. If you pick something that fits your eye, the likelihood is that you?ll enjoy using it and putt well.

Head


When it comes to the head you have two basic options: the Mickelson blade or the Singh mallet. If you?ve got a straight-back-and-through swing, a mallet or heel-toe weighted blade will keep the putter’s head square throughout. These putters are evenly balanced, helping you reap the benefits of a simple stroke. However, if your hands are a bit shaky it?s worth remembering that mallets often have more weight positioned deeper in the head requiring less work with the hands.

If your swing deviates from a straight line (the putter comes back inside the straight-back-and-through line), you?ll probably be best served by a heel-shafted blade. The toe weight here will help return the head to square through the hitting zone, guaranteeing a straighter roll.

Face


In recent years, advances in putter technology have focused on the face and they?ve come a long way from the standard bronze and steel-faced models of the past. You?ll now find a vast array of insert and milled face offerings that provide a responsive feel and forgiving strike ? trying before you buy is a must. But before you go for the flatstick with the softest feel, think about where you play the majority of your golf. If the greens are hard and fast, a soft feel will undoubtedly help, but if you tend to play on softer greens with longer grass, then a firmer strike will give the ball a stronger roll.

Shaft


Whether you choose graphite or steel is fairly inconsequential. Most of the top manufacturers go with steel, but it?s really just a matter of taste. Length, however, is crucial. In a study of 50 Tour professionals, teaching pro Todd Sones discovered that most players have putters that are too long for them which altered the optimum playing characteristics of the club. If you fall into this category your hands will be too close to your body causing the toe of the putter to rise. Alternatively, if the shaft is too short, you?ll be forced to stand too close to the ball. In this scenario, the heel will rise and dig the toe into the ground.

To get the most from your putter, pick a shaft that “sits” a comfortable distance away from your body ? usually about a hand?s width from your trousers ? and if you aren?t sure, don?t shy away from asking a pro for advice. If the putter in the high street shop doesn’t feel quite right, resist the temptation to walk away with it just because it?s available. Instead, order the right length from the manufacturers ? it?ll be worth it in the end.

Offset


Offset refers to any clubhead set back from the shaft, like the Titleist Scotty Cameron used by Tiger. And, like any other offset club, it has the effect of eliminating a slice by forcing your hands to close through impact. Another benefit is that with your hands pushed forward, you?ll impart topspin on the ball giving a strong roll and reducing the influence of spike or scuff marks on the green. Alternatively, many golfers prefer to look straight down onto the top of their putter at address and find offset versions tricky to aim.

It?s all a matter of taste, and if you aren?t happy with your putting its little things like this that could make all the difference.

Belly or Broom


Belly and broom handle putters were designed to help players who have difficulty keeping their hands stable through the strike ? the most common cause of this is the yips. Like an electric current surging through your hands at the moment of impact, the yips are a debilitating phenomenon that sends the ball shooting off line. If you THINK you might have the yips the likelihood is that you don?t and you?ll probably experience more success with a short putter. But if you do, a longer version might be the best option.

Belly putters have a stabilising influence on the hands by lodging the butt of the shaft into the stomach. Alternatively, a broom handle helps by separating the hands. Because they work apart from each other the feeling of the yips is lost.

If you?re thinking about going down the belly or broom handle road, don?t take the decision lightly ? no player has ever won a Major with a long putter. But if you really do struggle with the yips, it?s probably the best way out.

Mallets


A host of new mallets from top manufacturers are proving a real hit with pros and ordinary golfers alike. These bad boys remain remarkably stable and help to iron out the creases in a shaky stroke. The space-age design might take a while to get used to, and the hefty price tag is sure to provoke a cry of, ?How much??, but with the latest technology on your side you might be able to bag a few more putts.

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