Bringing you insights from the PING Proving Grounds, where our talented team of engineers, researchers, fitting experts and data scientists design and develop the newest product and fitting technologies to help you play better. Using the most advanced tools available, we’ll explain and explore the science behind golf-equipment performance. We’ll separate fact from fiction with the goal of helping you make informed decisions when choosing the PING equipment best suited for maximizing your performance.
Putting is, in many ways, the simplest skill in golf. Being a good putter comes down to three basic skills – controlling the initial direction of the putt, gauging the speed, and reading greens. Our company was founded on the basic engineering principle of spreading the mass in the putter head to increase the Moment of Inertia (forgiveness) and help off-center hits roll on a line and with speed more similar to center hits. More recently, our TR Face Technology has helped enhance distance control by giving an even speed response across the face of the putter. There is a lot of technology helping players with speed control.
A very interesting challenge is understanding how the putter might help a player start the ball on the intended line more consistently. Different players line up better with different head shapes and alignment features. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a perfectly square alignment at address – even most of the best putters in the world have a bias in their address alignment. We need to measure the ability to regularly hit the intended start line. This field of understanding how the shape, color and features of the putter affect alignment is part engineering, part psychology and part physiology. We have been enhancing our research by using tools such as eye tracking glasses (which tell us exactly where a player’s gaze is focused before, during and after the putting stroke) and partnering with academic experts in the field to dig deep into this interesting area.
We have done research aimed at identifying some general rules we could use to categorize players who would perform well with particular alignment features. We asked a large group of players to try putters of all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors and alignment cues. We then used a technique called “cluster analysis” that groups together players with similar preferences and performance outcomes. For example, it would identify that “John” is pretty similar to “Jane” in terms of optimum putter alignment archetype – they are in the same “cluster”. What we found was that the vast majority of players fall into four different archetypes based on the primary feature they use for alignment.
These are the four archetypes:
Players who use the top rail as an alignment aid will typically pair this perpendicular alignment feature with a small line behind it (as shown in the two putters on the left) but sometimes they prefer a simple dot or even nothing at all. Often players will comment that they like a very “clean top rail”; other lines and shapes on the putter can be considered distracting to this golfer.
This group of players predominantly use a ball-width alignment feature such as parallel lines a ball width apart or some kind of optigraphic shape such as the hole in the middle of the Fetch putter shown above. Some blades can have ball-width alignment lines too, such as the Voss (above). This player will often use language such as “this putter frames the ball really well”.
Players who putt well with mallet-style putters find great value in the length of the alignment feature. For some players, a long alignment style can become distracting, but for this group it helps provide confidence in the alignment. We hear comments like “alignment is automatic with this putter”.