Putting is something of a touchy subject as far as my own golf game goes. It is, happily enough, trending towards “slightly less horrible” but I feel like I am never that far from disaster. I have tried all sorts of things in an effort to improve and some of them have even worked. This has varied from using a thicker grip to putting left-handed (and yes, they both work!) One thing that I haven’t talked too much about is the size of the putter and whether we should all spend more time choosing putter length by height.
This one should be fairly obvious to me given that I am six and a half feet tall or not far off two metres. I have certainly played around with adding length to the rest of my clubs, especially the irons. My current set is around an inch over, but I have been everywhere from under length to nearly two inches over. With my putter, I haven’t really tried too much, which seems like a mistake, especially given that it really is easy to see the benefits of a different putter shaft length.
What is Standard Putter Length?
Most putters today have a standard length of 34 inches. You can usually find plenty in your local golf shop that will be 33 inches too and a fair selection at 35. Outside of this, you will certainly struggle. To be fair, 33-35 inches is going to cover the vast majority of the golfing population. Except me, obviously!
Now i have never been through a full putter fitting so a really good club fitter could almost certainly give me something a little bit more precise, but I have started experimenting with longer and shorter putters and it is something that I should have looked at much sooner.
One of the reasons that started to play around with Ping’s latest bit of tech, the adjustable putter. Actually, this has been around for a couple of years, but it never really came on my radar until recently. Essentially, this is a standard putter that can be adjusted for length my using a key that fits in the butt-end of the grip. A measuring scale along the side tells you the overall length from, I think, 32 inches up to 36.
The reason why this is particularly good is that it gives you a very immediate idea of the effect that length has on the club. Often it is difficult to compare two putters at different lengths, either because they might have a different head design and/or grip or simply you might not get the opportunity to try them both together and therefore remember or notice the differences between them.
Trying an Adjustable Putter
With the adjustable putter, everything except length stays the same. Simply give the key a few turns and you have a 36-inch version rather than say a 34.
So what exactly is the correct putter length for a given height? Well, this is where is gets interesting. There really isn’t a correlation at all. Of course, it is easy enough to find a chart online that tells you that such-and-such a height corresponds to 33/34/35 inch putter length or whatever, but this isn’t the case. It certainly works as a starting point, but that’s it.
Of course, this is true with the rest of the bag too, you might say. Fitting charts based on height and wrist to floor length should only ever be a starting point to find the best fit. I agree completely, but with something like irons, static fitting tends to hold true to some extent. Coming back to my own example, if I go through a standard online fitting putting in my height in inches (78) and my wrist to floor measurement (just under 40), I will get something along the lines of +1 to 1.5″ and probably various degrees of upright from 2 to 5 or more.
What works best for me generally sin’t exactly this, but really isn’t a million miles away either. With putters, I just don’t think this holds true. Putting stance is such an individual thing that it might not be that related to height at all. For example, you will often hear that you should have a relatively upright stance with the arms hanging free and therefore tall golfers need long putters and vice versa.
Well, did anyone mention that to some of the best putters in the history of the game? There are countless examples of average to tall golfers hunched over their shorter than standard putters and sinking putts from all over the green. Did you ever watch Jack Nicklaus at his best? It is certainly not an upright, athletic stance and yet he managed to sink enough putts to win 18 majors!
Putter Length and Weight
So far then, the idea of height in relation to putter length doesn’t seem to be taking us very far. Let’s go back to that Ping adjustable putter again. What I found interesting was that, for me, there was a noticeable difference when I extended the putter to 36 inches. It wasn’t necessarily because “my arms could swing freely” or some other such nonsense. However, it did do a couple of very interesting things:
- My head (and particularly my eyes) were in a far more natural position to see the line of the putt.
- The extra length made the putter head feel heavier and helped me to keep it more stable through impact.
Of course, it is perfectly possible that a longer putter is doing other good things for me too. I might possibly be slightly more upright which could be better for my long-term back health.
Before you go and upgrade your putter to as long a model as possible for more stability, you might also want to consider those who have gone down exactly the opposite route. Robert Garrigus, 5ft 11 inches tall according to his wiki page, spent a considerable amount of time using a 28-inch putter. It looked like someone playing with a club designed for a toddler. No fitting process on Earth based on height would have in something under 30 inches long. And yet it worked for him, helping him get into a better position with his eyes over the ball and a more solid contact.
So we all need shorter putters? Once again, not so fast! The very same Robert Garrigus went from this 28 inch model to a 46-inch belly putter.!
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something Different
The lesson here is that we shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and this is even more true with putters than anything else in the bag. Picking something on height is certainly a reasonable starting point, but putting is an intensely personal part of the game and you might be missing a trick by not pushing the boundaries on what is possible.
Of course, we can take this logic even further. Adam Scott has been putting for years with a broom handle putter that is nearly as tall as he is. Other golfers like Scott have found that using something completely out sized has given them a new lease of life on the greens. If you are one of the unfortunate golfers suffering either from the yips or from back pain, trying to put with something that is 50 inches long or more could be the only way to actually keep playing the game.
The same could be said for something like an arm lock putter. This is also going to be longer than a standard putter because part of the shaft is going to be braced against the inside of the forearm. Once more, this could potentially be a game-changer for those who, at best, are a bit “handsy” in their putting.
The aim of this article is not to say that we should disregard fitting or play equipment that is the opposite of what our morphology might suggest. In many ways, it is quite the opposite. I found a 36-inch putter more comfortable than a 34 for example. This certainly makes sense with my height. But maybe I might actually make more putts crouched over a 32 inch, who knows? The short answer is ‘no one’ until I actually give it a try on the course.
Length is simply one parameter in choosing the right putter. It sits on a list with head shape, weight, grip, insert, balance and so on and on its own, it isn’t going to be the key factor in having more success on the greens, at least for most of us.