Putter feel is a lot of things, and it means different things to different people. As Stan Utley writes in The Art of Putting, “(Feel is) one of those things that’s really hard to describe, but you know it when you ‘feel’ it.”
Feel is the most important factor when purchasing a putter. Technology, looks and hype are all secondary to feel.
Feel is ultimately a combination of audio and tactile feedback—the merging of sound and touch into a single impression. Feel is also very personal. What works for one golfer might not work for you, and vice versa.
Some golfers like a really soft or springy putter, others prefer a clicky or firm sensation upon impact. Either way, you want to ask yourself: Does the putter feel rewarding to you when you hit the sweet spot? Does it hit just the right “note” in your hands? Does it make you want to keep putting, to keep seeking that reward? If so, then you are on to something.
At the same time, don’t overlook the role of sound as a component of feel. As reported in Golf Digest, Phil Mickelson recently swapped out the insert in his Odyssey putter for the sake of audio feedback. He had switched to a softer ball, which he said wasn’t making enough sound at impact. He said: “I switched back to a harder insert to get back that sound I like…It’s impossible to overstate how important sound is to your feel on the green.”
For this reason, if you plan to try different putters at the store, bring the ball you play with and find a quiet spot in the store to stroke some putts. Again, sound is very personal. But as a rule of thumb, you will want the sound to be consistent with the touch—a softer sound for a putter with a softer touch, and a bit firmer for a putter with a firmer touch.
Ultimately, there is no “right” feel in the general sense, just a right feel for you. The important thing is to not get so dazzled by a putter’s looks or marketing buzz that you overlook the importance of feel when purchasing a putter.