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Selling Putters vs. Helping People

I think for most teachers who really want to help someone, it is difficult to tell a student they need a golf club, because no teacher wants to be viewed as a salesperson. The problem with that is as long as a player has the wrong putter in their hand, they won’t be able to improve until they have the right putter in their hand. I consider fitting putters in order to help the students I work with my professional responsibility.

As far as putting goes, the industry has done more to mislead the player than to help the player. How putters are currently marketed and sold is via the PGA tour. Companies come out with new putters every year and then pay tour players to endorse and play with the putter so amateurs will see it and buy it off the shelf. The player who isn’t happy with their putting thinks that a new putter will be the answer to their problems. For a while, they’re happy with their new putter, until enough time has passed to miss enough putts with their ‘new’ putter to realize nothing has really changed and they haven’t improved.

I recently attended the PGA teaching summit. Michael Breed from “Golf Fix” on the Golf Channel gave a presentation on putting in which he said the average height in the PGA tour is 6’1”. At 6’1”, the average length putter on tour is 34” and change, yet 80% of the putters sold are still 35”. I would estimate that 70-80 percent of players are putting with a putter that is not correct for them in length. They will have to adapt to the putter by setting up incorrectly. Putters that are too long tend to make players set up to the ball too tall, jam their arms into their body and set their eyes too far inside of the golf ball. Putters that are too short have the opposite effect. The player gets too bent over, has to stretch out their arms and can get their eyes set past the golf ball. The length of the putter is just one specification. Additionally, there is swing weight, loft, lie angle and model.

When a player engages a teacher to help them play better, a good teacher doesn’t want the player to be held back by their equipment. Because of my knowledge and experience I can clearly see when someone’s putter is holding them back from setting up to the ball correctly, resulting in poor mechanics and poor putting. I would absolutely tell a player that they needed a fitted putter if their putter didn’t fit them and was keeping me from doing my job as a teacher. I would consider it professional incompetence if I didn’t tell a player when they needed a fitted putter to improve just as I consider it incompetent to sell a putter off the shelf that doesn’t fit or help a player to improve.

Recently I was in Naples at five different golf courses where I did five separate golf schools. In total I saw 54 different players of which 43 purchased a fitted putter. Of the eleven players that didn’t get putters, seven didn’t need a new putter. Their putters fit them, they just needed to be taught to set up properly and start working on developing solid stroke mechanics. Four of the eleven did need a new putter. I sincerely hope those people make the choice to get a putter that fits them because if they don’t, I know they will most likely fall back into their old setup and stroke flaws. However, at least I know I have done my job. I have told them what they need to do to get better.

Bottom line for me as a teacher is it would be very short sighted to sell a player a putter  they didn’t need, and incompetent to not sell a player a putter they did need.

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I currently use a ping Craz-e putter. I am 6' tall and 64 years old with rhumetoid arthritis that has really affected my hands and my back. Additionally I use a claw grip and have had relative success with it. My question is what length of putter should I be using. I've tried everything from 36" to 38". Should I consider a putter lenthth of 34"? I just wan't to be more consistent. Any information from you would really be appreciated. Ed Carlson
Posted by Ed Carlson on March 13, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

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Todd Sones