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Are expensive putters worth it?
Whether or not any investment in life is “worth it” is really a matter of personal preference, and priorities. And it doesn’t have to be both.
For example, golf could be a big part of somebody’s life and they could be a very good player but just have a personal preference for an old, cheap putter.
Meanwhile somebody else could be a very casual player but decided that they have the opportunity to invest in a high-dollar putter just because they can and they enjoy the look and feel of it, and it makes the game more enjoyable to them.
So there is a lot that can go into deciding whether an expensive putter is “worth it” or not. In this article we’ll help take a look at some of the variables and pros and cons of why some players are putting with family heirlooms and others spend more money on their putter than any other club in their bag.
In This Guide
- Are Expensive Golf Putters Worth It?
- What Makes Expensive Golf Putters Better?
- How Will An Expensive Putter Help Your Golf Game?
- Expensive Putters vs Cheap Putters
- Pros And Cons Of Buying An Expensive Putter
- Things To Consider When Buying An Expensive Putter
- Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For Beginners?
- Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For High Handicappers?
- Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For Low Handicappers?
- Final Thoughts
Are Expensive Golf Putters Worth It?
Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. Those who choose one end of the spectrum might argue that a flat stick is a flat stick and there can’t possibly be hundreds of dollars worth of technology built into one. On the other end of the spectrum, you might hear the logic that this is an item that is going to be used more than any other club in your bag and they want something that feels balanced, looks good, and helps them properly aim the club and put a confident, repeatable stroke on the ball.
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What Makes Expensive Golf Putters Better?
The first area that expensive putters excel in is quality of build. This means that higher quality materials are used, tighter manufacturing tolerances are adhered to, and they are assembled in a very durable way. One of the biggest arguments for buying an expensive putter is that it is a purchase that can be made and last a lifetime, if you want it to.
The next thing you will see, or maybe feel rather than see, is that expensive putters have had a lot of attention paid to the parts balancing well with each other. That means that the grip weight, shaft weight, and head weights along with the shaft length have been carefully tuned to produce a piece of equipment that feels like it can swing on a pendulum arc without manipulation. Now that said, all different players like to feel different tempos, different releases, and have different setups and arm lengths, plus different perceptions of what feels good or feels smooth, and different stroke arcs, so most high-end manufacturers offer many different styles and options of very similar putters.
How Will An Expensive Putter Help Your Golf Game?
There are basically two advantages to having an expensive putter when it comes to helping your golf game. Obviously the ball doesn’t know or care what the price tag said on it, but there are some things you are paying for with a high-end putter purchase.
First of all, as mentioned above, you are going to get something that is built very closely to spec and with some thought put into how to finely balance the feel of the putter, allowing you to swing with less manipulation if it matches your natural stroke. All of this makes the putter very forgiving, which will help you make more putts, even if you don't hit it in the middle of the putter face every time.
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The second aspect some people might think is hocus pocus, but it’s basically the old “if you look good, you play good” sentiment. There is really no argument that golf is a game that is 99% mental. Many players talk about looking down at a putter and just feeling confident and the look and feel of the putter inspiring a good stroke. We won’t get into the psychology of it, but some players experience that having a club that looks like a million bucks makes them feel like a million bucks and putt with more confidence. Another aspect is knowing that you have something in your hands that is finely tuned and precision-made can inspire you to take the same kind of care in your approach to putting.
Expensive Putters vs Cheap Putters
The biggest difference between expensive putters vs cheap putters is the quality of build, the number of customization options to match your stroke, and the overall feel of balance in the weight distribution of the club.
Expensive putters pay a lot of attention to exactly what materials are used and how the weight is distributed down to the gram in each component part to create a certain feel in the swing. A cheaper putter might look like the same shape and length and even the head could weigh the same but the materials and the exact weight of the shaft and grip can change the feel entirely, as well as how the ball comes off of the face.
Expensive putters are also built to last a lifetime, or at least decades, whereas cheap putters might deteriorate or be made of materials or be joined in ways that might weaken with prolonged use and exposure to the elements.
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Pros And Cons Of Buying An Expensive Putter
-Lots of styles and customizations to choose from
-Built to last
-Precision engineered for balance and flow
-Can cost as much as $400+ for an off-the-shelf model
-Sadly, can make a golf bag attractive to thieves
-If you are constantly changing your putting style, you might be less able to experiment with new equipment to match your new technique
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Things To Consider When Buying An Expensive Putter
RELATED: Blade vs Mallet Putter
Generally this can be divided into two main types: blades and mallets. In reality, there is an entire spectrum of putters from a blade, to a wider blade, to a mid-mallet, a full mallet, and the proverbial “spaceship” putters. The even better part is we see people having success at the highest levels with every single one of these designs.
The thing to remember is that the head type largely influences the weight of the putter head, and therefore the stability and ideal swing tempo. Generally speaking, the larger the putter head, the more the momentum of the club “swings itself” on a track determined by physics while the blade-type putters give players the feeling of being able to use their athleticism more to feel the stroke.
Some people argue that short putting is easier with a high-MOI putter head but long putts might suffer, and vice versa with the thinner the blade gets.
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Length might be one of the most important or most overlooked variables when it comes to putter selection. The key concept is you want to find out what is a comfortable setup posture for yourself, and then CHOOSE A PUTTER THAT FITS THAT POSTURE. Too many golfers do it the other way around: they buy a putter and then learn to set up around that putter. While lie angle is also involved in this, the main variable is the length.
You will be able to get into a setup more consistently if it is comfortable, and you will also practice more and not experience things like back or knee pain while practicing, which is key, if you have an appropriate length putter.
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The tricky thing with putter loft is that most putters off-the-shelf come in a VERY small range of lofts, generally between 2 and 4 degrees of loft. While this is a great angle at which to deliver the putter head, it relies on the player returning the club to the ball in a straight up-and-down position.
While it is almost necessary to get a reading from a professional who can use a piece of technology to measure or take photos of your impact position to truly get the right answer, you can make some educated guesses. If you are a player who sets up with any forward shaft lean or likes to use a forward press as your putting trigger, it is likely you might be delofting the putter at impact and could use a putter with more than a standard amount of loft. Conversely, if you like to feel the putter head releasing through impact or play the ball forward in your stance you might be better suited to a putter with almost no loft on it.
The key is you want, on your best strokes, for the ball to leave the clubface without any discernible “hop” to it. Both hitting up and hitting down on the ball produce a hopping golf ball rather than a smooth, consistent start to the roll. Technically the ball will skid and then roll but there should be no discernible hop to it, ideally.
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Putter Grip Size
Throughout golf history, extremely thin putter grips have been popular. In recent times, players have seen slightly larger ones, all the way up to the “SuperStroke” type mega-grips that have cemented their own place in golf history by this point.
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As we touched on earlier, any change in grip size (and thereby weight) is going to change the feel of the entire putter, so manufacturers and clubfitters are always in a balancing act with these two variables. When it comes down to it, you should pick the putter grip size that feels best to you, and then find a head or use lead tape or changeable weights or a larger head design to match your preferred grip.
Putter Grip Style
Up until very recently, there were comparatively few different putter grip styles for golfers, with the “traditional” grip being the “pistol” grip. This is considered the basic grip and by far the most common still, featuring a flat spot on the top to rest the thumbs, an oval-shaped semicircle on the back to cradle the palms over, and a taper that reduces the farther down the shaft it goes.
One variation is to have a straight grip of a similar basic shape except without any taper. Players feel this “takes the hands” out of the putt (especially the right hand) by slightly slowing down the amount of rotation of the bottom hand.
This idea taken to the extreme is represented in one of the biggest innovations in golf gear to date, which is the SuperStroke style “fat” putter grip. Again these grips come on a spectrum of thicknesses, but some of the more popular ones are almost the size and feel of a tennis racquet grip rather than a golf grip. The idea behind these grips is to take the “small muscles” out of the shot and produce stability in the stroke, but just like with the camp who prefer smaller putter heads rather than larger, some players like to rely on their small muscles for feel and touch and feedback in the stroke, and still prefer a small putter grip.
As we mentioned, this is basically going to go hand in hand with the head styles, with the larger head styles obviously weighing more.
A couple of things to look out for are the fact that while most modern blade putters might look similar to the PING Anser style putters that were ubiquitous from the 1960s through 1990s, the later models are almost exclusively 10-20% heavier than their predecessors.
Scotty Cameron putters have adjustable weights in the bottom of the putters that can be changed out to accommodate most players for better feel.
Changes in player preferences along with a revolution in agronomy allowing for much much faster green speeds has seen players move to shorter shafts, fatter grips, and heavier putter heads than were optimal on the shaggy surfaces of yesteryear.
However if your body type or setup demands a longer shaft and you prefer a thinner grip, you might still be suited with taking some of the weight out of a putter with changeable weights. Conversely, if you don’t want to break the bank, you could try to make your own “hillbilly Scotty Cameron” by putting two strips of lead tape along the bottom of a Ping Anser 2 from a garage sale and regripping it 😉
Putter Top Line and Aiming Aids
Throughout history, putters have traditionally had no aiming aid or very subtle, small things such as a dot or a dash down the middle, at most. Even these, players could be very particular about, such as the exact length of the dash or whether the dash was on the topline or the flange of the putter.
With the advent of larger putter heads, aiming aids have gotten more elaborate, with lines all the way to the back and technology like the “Triple Track” featured on Odyssey and Callaway equipment.
Optics are a very funny thing. The main thing with a sight line is to make sure that when you have it pointed at your target, to figure out a way to confirm that it is actually pointed where your eyes tell you it is. Depending on various subtle configurations of the eyes and ball position, many players will be surprised to find out where they are actually aiming. Some players prefer to not use a sight line because of this, and some players have become very good putters with the putter aimed slightly off their target line but over the years have learned how to start the ball on line and make putts anyway almost subconsciously.
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Putter Toe Hang
Toe hang is one of the most deliberated aspects of a putter. Once again it can be matched up to a very complicated set of factors that can either cancel each other out or encourage a player to prefer more or less toe hang. These are things such as how far away you stand from the ball, whether the ball is back or forward in your stance, how much arc you naturally swing the club with, and the degree to which you naturally release the club or close the face through impact.
The main determination of how much putter hang a putter has is where the putter is shafted. Generally, closer to the heel = more toe hang. Center shafted = more face balanced. The key is not where the shaft actually attaches to the club, as most hosels have some angle to them, it would be where an imaginary line from the shaft intersects the club head. Toe hang can be demonstrated by holding your palms up right in front of you and laying the shaft of the putter across them if you were presenting it to some kind of royalty, and letting it hang freely so it can roll to a natural orientation. Putters with more “toe hang” will have the weight of the toe point the toe at the ground to some degree, while a face-balanced putter will orient itself so the face is directly up at the sky.
Generally speaking, the farther away you are standing from the ball and therefore the more you naturally swing the club on an arc rather than a straight line, the more you will feel like a putter with toe hang will work with your natural stroke than against it. The more you stand directly on top of the ball and swing closer to “straight back straight through” a face balanced putter might match your stroke more. There can be a lot of nuance however and many successful combinations so it’s always best to check with an expert or get fitted if you are unsure.
Offset refers strictly to the amount that the face of the club is “offset” from the shaft. If you notice typically the face will be slightly behind the shaft with many shafts having either an angle or L-shape hosel that can produce more or less offset. In all clubs offset is generally considered as something that allows the club an extra millisecond to rotate closed in the stroke, reducing the ability to leave the clubface open at impact. In putting it can also affect a player’s perception of where the club is aimed and how much loft is delivered at impact.
Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For Beginners?
The cliche that “it’s the Indian and not the arrows” is a cliche for a reason. We might not want to admit it, but there is never a piece of equipment that can do more than take a little bit of an edge off of one’s tendencies, and the real nuance has its biggest effect for players who have extremely repeatable strokes who can get the most out of matching their equipment perfectly with a high-precision putter and fitting. Conversely those same high-level players could usually put on an exhibition with any putter they’ve picked up off the rack after just a few swings of adjusting to what it is doing.
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That said, investing in a putter is one of the best clubs to invest in as a beginner. The first reason is because you can use it for life, or close to it, if you want. Many high-end putters also retain value very well. Secondly, it is the one club that you will be less likely to need to adjust or upgrade as your game progresses. Some pro golfers putt with a putter that they’ve actually had since they were young, or have gotten a sponsor to produce a virtual replica based on the latest model.
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Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For High Handicappers?
Again, if you are a high handicap golfer, no putter is going to “fix” any flaws you have in your ability to start the ball on line, control contact and pace, and read a green. They can help in slight ways with the feel of the putter, your ability to aim, your ability to control tempo and arc, and both practically and psychologically increase confidence and precision. This is usually by investing in a putter hand-in-hand with a putter fitting and/or lesson, however, rather than cycling through putters guessing what might be best.
Another consideration is that as a high handicapper, putting becomes even more important and for all golfers the putter is the most-used club in the bag, so if you are going to make an investment in one club at a time, it’s a very logical place to start.
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Will An Expensive Putter Make A Difference For Low Handicappers?
The differences in putters involve more nuance than any other club, and that nuance is best taken advantage of by players with repeatable, consistent strokes. This is almost exclusively your low handicapper category. On the other hand, these players also will see the most success with any random putter, so they may not be motivated to make a change, and it could be argued that it makes less of a difference. Ultimately, we can look to the example of professional golfers, and how much time and effort they spend getting a putter that is just right, and know that they aren’t doing that just because they are bored, but because they truly believe it will put them in the best position to make putts.
Buying a nice putter is logically one of the most justified investments somebody can make in their golf equipment. It is the club that you use most and it is a club that could stay in your bag forever or be handed down after decades and still retain its value and playability.
At the same time, putter designs are admittedly simpler than any other club, and one should either make sure that their stroke is in a comfortable place first, or combine an investment in a new putter with a lesson and clubfitting to make sure they won’t be wanting to replace it again too quickly down the road.