The gap between us mortals and those who play golf for a living, however, isn’t just talent, but also time—specifically, time to practice. The pros spend countless hours practicing their putting and other parts of their game, often with top instructors at their side. Most recreational golfers, however, struggle to find the time to play a full round of golf, let alone added time for quality practice.
Enter the Refiner Hinged Training Putter ($79) by SKLZ, which aims to save you time and shorten your learning curve by imparting the fundamentals of proper putting tempo.
In addition to remarkable mental fortitude, the greatest putters also boast phenomenal mechanics, with consistent tempo being a key component.
Alas, proper tempo is easier said than done. Common tempo issues include jerking the putter back on takeaway, making a jarring transition into the forward stroke and decelerating the putter head into the ball.
By contrast, proper tempo is marked by a smooth, effortless consistency—which is what the Refiner aims to impart and reinforce.
The Refiner features a two-way adjustable-hinged hinge in the shaft that gives “instant feedback on tempo, timing, and clubhead path…Flaws in your stroke are immediately exposed by a break in the hinge.”
Just below the grip, the adjustable hinge connects the upper and lower portions of the shaft. Using the included wrench key, you can easily loosen the joint tension for shorter putts while tightening it a bit for longer putts.
According to SKLZ, the Refiner is “engineered to putt golf balls and teach a smooth, even-tempo stroke…Putt with the Refiner to reveal where your stroke is breaking down. Rushing it? Getting off-plane? The hinge will break immediately. When the hinge stays solid, it means your stroke is too.”
The Refiner belongs to SKLZ’s new Rick Smith Signature Series line of golf training aids. Rick Smith is a widely respected golf instructor whose name lends considerable credibility to the line. The SKLZ web site features some how-to videos that showcase Smith’s easygoing and likeable teaching style.
The View from PuterZone.com
One of my nagging putting faults is a hurried takeaway. So when I started trying some ten-foot putts with the Refiner, I immediately received a little tough love. Yes, I “broke” the Refiner.
Indeed, when your takeaway is too hurried or jerky, or if you decelerate into your putt, the Refiner’s joint gives way and suddenly the shaft “breaks.” However, a smooth, proper tempo is rewarded with an unbroken joint and a nicely struck putt.
I found that after a session with the Refiner, I was more intuitively in tune with my tempo when I switched to my regular putter. In other words: mission accomplished. Sure, I’ll probably revert to some bad habits (don’t we all?), but it’s good to know that I can pick up the Refiner for a quick reality check.
The Refiner is also good at reinforcing the salutary effect of gripping the putter softly. The tendency for many golfers is to grip the putter hard, a largely unconscious affliction that subverts the goal of a relaxed, rhythmic stroke. It might seem that a harder grip would give you more control. The Refiner, however, proves that your stroke is less likely to break down when you take a light grip.
Users should be careful not to set the Refiner’s hinge tension so low that it just becomes a game of not trying to break the Refiner. You want the tension high enough to reward a fluid, rhythmic and natural stroke, but also just low enough to punish anything less. The setting depends on the length of the putt, as a shorter putt requires less force of movement, and thus less tension in the hinge.
I would have preferred a more traditional grip than the C-Thru grip that comes with the Refiner. This grip looks cool, but it feels a bit sticky. Also, the lie angle on the Refiner is a bit more upright than the average putter. Perhaps future iterations of the Refiner will be refined on these fronts.
The Bottom Line
If you are dedicated to your putting practice, and if you want to give your tempo regular tune-ups, the Refiner is a solid investment. The Refiner is also a magnificent tool for golf instructors and golf coaches who want to easily teach the sensation of proper tempo. By offering a quick cure to a common putting problem, the Refiner earns points while lowering scores.