The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 2, 2013

GOODWIN: Buy the putter that works best for you

Here’s a tip that may cost you a few bucks at a pro shop or golf store, but could reap dividends on the golf course. The idea is to buy a putter that works best for you.

Most of us walk into a shop, look around at the putters on a rack and give them a couple of waggles. Then we plop down a few shekels and walk out hoping that we have just purchased the magic wand. It seldom works out that way.

Picking out a putter shape that suits your eye is the big first step toward making improvement on the greens. I would suggest that you give a couple of styles a try to see which works best.

Back when I was just starting out in golf, some of the best putters around used one of several styles of bull’s-eye putters. Most were center-shafted, meaning that the shaft was attached to the putter head about equal distance from the toe and the heel. Jack James and Jim Hatfield, winners of the Ozark Amateur at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course, were exponents of that style.

But there were other popular shapes around. Bob Smith, another Ozark champion, preferred a mallet. Many players switched to Ping Anser putters in the 1960s.

I don’t think that it matters what style putter you choose as long as you find it pleasing to your eyes and well-balanced or weighted to maximize feel in your hands. There is no one single club that suits everyone.

“Feel” is vital to putting performance. If a putter is too heavy or too light or too upright or too flat, you aren’t likely to find much success on the greens. Loft also is factor. Players who have an upward stroke may need less loft on their putters and those who hit down on the ball may require more loft.

But “feel” is difficult to define. It is a combination of things, including looks and weight. I have played with guys using putters that are 15 or 20 years old and they have putted well. Other players spend lots of money on high-tech putters and can’t putt any better with them than with an old Anser or bull’s-eye.

Belly putters may be on the way out, thanks to a proposed USGA and PGA rule that would restrict anchoring them to the chest, forearm or chin.

I find it disturbing that the USGA is more concerned with anchoring and putter length than with golf balls that fly higher and farther than ever before and are rendering historic golf courses too short for major championships.

Ben Hogan complained that putting had nothing to do with the game of golf. It is an entirely different stroke. He considered it illogical that a four-foot putt carried the same scoring weight as a 300-yard drive or an iron to within a foot of the flag.

On the other hand, Horton Smith, nicknamed “The Joplin Ghost,” was a superstar putter in the 1930s and 1940s. Smith said that the art of putting is based on three factors. The first two are line and distance, with the third being a golfer’s ability to repeat a stroke that will send the ball on the chosen line at the necessary speed. It sounds simple. But Smith, who had been head pro at Joplin’s Twin Hills Country Club in the early 1930s, solidified his reputation by winning 14 times in two seasons on the fledging tour. Some pros considered him the best putter of his era.

All I know about putting is you can’t score well if you don’t have a putter and a stroke you can trust. And the way to start building that trust is to get a putter that looks and feels right. If you find that putter, keep it in a safe place. They are hard to come by.

Events added

Head professional Mark Peterson has announced the addition of several tournaments to the area golf calendar, including the Carthage Men’s Golf Association’s net championship on Oct. 26-27.

Other events include the Sonic high school boys Invitational on April 15; high school boys district, April 29; women’s Horton Smith matches against Springfield on June 24; Taco Town Girls high school Invitational on Sept. 23; and LifeChoices fund-raiser on Oct. 11.

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