By understanding how your stroke relates to putter balancing, you can better determine which putter might best complement and accentuate your game.
The putting stroke falls into two general categories: (1) the arcing stroke, in which the face of the putter opens and shuts in relation to the target line; and (2) the straight-back-straight-through stroke, in which the face of the putter remains square to the target line during the stroke.
The type of stroke you employ matters because some putters are geared toward the arcing stroke, while others are a better fit for the straight-back-straight-through stroke, as explained below.
To determine the balance of a putter, simply stick out your hand and place the putter on an outstretched finger. Find the spot on the lower part of the shaft where you can balance the putter on that finger without assistance from your other hand.
If the face of the putter remains parallel to the ceiling when balanced on your finger, then the putter is face balanced. If the face angles toward the ground, the putter has “toe hang,” as the toe of the putter is hanging down (as in the illustration above, courtesy of Cleveland Golf).
Now here are the general rules regarding putter balance:
-A face-balanced putter favors a straight-back-straight-through stroke. Most mallets are face balanced, as are some blades.
-A putter with toe hang favors an arcing stroke. Modern blades typically have toe hang at around 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock (visually comparing the hang to the hour hand on a clock). A fully “toe-down” putter (ie: 6 o’clock, seen in classic blades) favors an even more pronounced arc.
Why do toe-hang putters favor an arcing stroke? Simply put, the sensation of more weight at the toe encourages the putter to “open and shut” in relation with the arc of the stroke.
It should be noted that there are varying schools of thought on this subject. Some people believe that the impact of putter balance is negligible compared to other factors in the stroke, while others feel that it is instrumental to a proper fit. At the very least, it is good to be aware of putter balance, and to explore how it might play a role in raising your game.