What makes a good putter?
When it comes to talking about putters – and what makes a successful model – who else could we turn to but Ping?
Ping’s founder Karsten Solheim invented the Anser more than 50 years ago and it’s still one of the most popular Ping putters on tour and in the pro shops.
Almost every brand has has made their own version of the Anser – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have all won majors with putters which owe to the invention of the Anser.
But the Ping putters repertoire extends far beyond the plumber’s neck hosel.
The new technologies, shapes and styles – particularly in the Sigma G range of Ping putters – show the brand are not afraid to experiment.
Models like the Craze-E and Wolverine-T are definitely from the left-field.
So we caught up Dr Paul Wood – the brand’s vice-president of engineering – to find out what makes a good putter, how you pick the right one and whether or not a putter fitting is essential…
Models like the Anser have stood the test of time but how do Ping putters use technology to make them better with each version?
“We’re very proud of our True Roll face technology – we’ve been moving towards making it less of a groove and more of a milling pattern.
“The technology is centred around trying to normalise the ball speed.
“People would look at it and assume it was more about getting the ball rolling end over end quicker – but it’s more about about getting the same response from good hits and mis-hits.”
Feel is a huge part of putting. How do you enhance the ‘feel’ of Ping putters without sacrificing performance?
“With our new putters we try and get the same great performance from our previous ranges but we’ve try to enhance the feel and enhance the visuals.
“We’ve tried to find a softer feel in the Sigma G range. The bulk of golfers are telling us that they would like a softer feel – our Vault series has a bit of a firmer feel.
“So we have an aluminium coating which is really thin – a 30,000th of an inch – not sure what that would be in millimetres – let’s just say it’s a very thin coating.
“Then behind that it’s a high-energy elastomer. So you get the soft sound and soft feel that you’d get from an elastomer but you’re not losing any energy.
“You don’t want to be getting a dead response. You’re getting a soft feel but still seeing the ball coming off the face quite lively.”
What about shapes? Why do you offer alternatives to the classic Anser style?
“Things like the Wolverine-T and the Ketsch-B can be a little bit Marmite in the way you’re going to either love them or hate them.
“It’s nice to have a range. And the great thing about putters is that we can build a range which gives you freedom to cater for those who want to stick with the traditional Anser and others that we know work like the B60 or the Piper.
“But then you can say ‘well, let’s try something new’ – and it doesn’t have to be a safe bet, you can take a bit more of a risk. If people love it, that’s great. If they don’t, fine – we have the Ansers and the B60s for them.”
Where do the ideas for some of the shapes come from?
“We try and offer a variety of looks and alignment features that should have something for everyone.
“We’re not trying to make 15 putters that you like, we’re trying to make one putter that you love.
“We’re not trying to get 15 safe bets but within the range we think everyone should be able to find one that they love.
“And the next guy will be looking for something totally different.
What should people be thinking about then they choose theirs?
“For some people it’s all about the ball-width alignment features, for others it could be all about having an alignment aid that runs all the way to the face – the Wolverine-T will fit that player.
“If you’re a player that likes to line the ball up with a line that runs all the way to the face then the Anser, for example, doesn’t work for you.
How important is a putter fitting then?
“In a perfect world, everyone would go in and talk to an absolute expert and spend half-an-hour to an hour choosing their putter.
“In reality, that’s not how it always works. We need to give people the ability to go and self-explore because there is such a feel component to it.
“So we are saying – here are the shapes that are available, here are the different hosel types. We’d love to be able to guide you and say, well, out of the 15 in the range here are the four you probably should be focussed on.
“We’ve got different shapes dark finishes, we’ve got light finishes we’ve got different alignment features. We’d rather people think about those things than things like loft and lie which really are more advanced features of a putter fitting.
“We’d rather people get the right shape and alignment features that suit them first and foremost.”
You’re now offering a thicker grip as standard. How important is a the grip on a putter?
“We’ve made a lot of progress on being able to make bigger but lighter grips – we’ve always been able to go big but if you make it a 200g grip then you’re really messing with the balancing of the putter.
“Now we can go to a lightweight bigger grip so it really fits the hand nicely.”
Does everyone want a thicker putter grip now then?
“There’s still that player who wants a thinner grip and there are some who want a really thicker grip to take their hands out of the stroke.
“The one we offer is really in the middle and hits the sweetspot of both – you want your stock grip to fit the masses and then have options to fit the other 10 percent.”