The Two Faces of Putting
Putters have been at the top of the golf equipment news lately with the buzz about long putters and belly putters, and I sounded off on that recently. But I received an email from a reader asking my opinion regarding the face of the putter – milled vs. insert. I love it when you guys send me a new topic to dive into, so here goes.
It’s pretty universally accepted that the ball has to be given a pure and solid roll in order to run true to the intended line, but the “purity” of the roll the ball takes off the putter face is affected by several variables.
The effective loft of the putter face at impact is very important, as you do not want the ball lofted into the air at impact, but you do not want it compressed into the turf either. The roll is also influenced by the angle of approach to the ball – is it steep or shallow/level to the ground? Many putting experts claim that the best roll is imparted to the ball when the putter is moving very slightly upward at impact, with only 1-2 degrees of “effective loft” at that point. I can’t argue that at all.
Which . . . finally . . . brings us to the subject of the treatment of the face of the putter, and this area of putter design and manufacturing technology has evolved over the past few decades. Early putter faces were polished on a sand belt running over a flat metal plate. This produced reasonably flat faces that certainly won many PGA tour events. In the 1990s, a trend to give the face more attention and precision by CNC-milling the face surface gained traction. There’s no question that the process delivers much more precision than the old sanding method.
Then along came the “new” idea of softer face inserts in putters to affect feel, sound and the time the ball adheres to the face, with claims by the brands who did this that this adhesion imparted a truer roll to the ball. Odyssey® and others rocketed to the forefront of putter category with this single feature, and supported their claims of a truer roll with high-speed video to prove their claims.
The CNC-milled believers countered that by applying a variety of milling textures to the face, claiming that the ball takes on a better roll because of this treatment, and all also had some kind of slow motion video to prove it.
So, which is better? I think the answer is simple. YOU have to decide for yourself what works better. I can tell you that the treatment of the face cannot convert you from a bad putter to a good one. Every day on the professional tours and every local course, guys are heating it up on the greens with all kinds of putters – milled, insert, no special treatment at all. And I don’t think there is one golfer out there who was transformed from a bad putter to a good one because they changed the kind of face their putter had on it.
The secret is that whatever gives you confidence, go for it. As that . . . in my opinion . . . is the single most important putting fundamental. Golfers who putt well come in all shapes and sizes, all kinds of putting styles and stroke paths. You know them. They look like hell but can putt the eyes out of the ball. And they carry a wide variety of putters, with all kinds of faces. Some are so beat up there’s not a flat place on them . . . but don’t bet against that guy with the old Ray Cook, Bullseye or Ping.
The problem is that confidence only comes through success. Success only comes through solid fundamentals and practice. And that takes time and commitment.
But then, whoever said this was gonna be easy?
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