The putter is the one golf club that is used on almost every hole. Unless a golfer hits a miracle approach shot that falls right into the cup, he will have to use his putter to finish off the hole. Putters were originally made out of one solid piece of metal until the Ping company revolutionized the industry in 1959 with its perimeter weighted club head. Ping later introduced the Anser, which was the first putter with a bent shaft. Today's golfers can now choose from a variety of materials, club lengths, heads and shaft designs.
The putter is used to tap the golf ball toward the hole once the golfer has reached the green. It has very little loft so the ball will roll along the low grass of the green. Unlike the rest of the clubs in a golfer's bag, the putter does not have any grooves on the club face to impart spin on the ball.
The shaft of a standard putter is between 33 and 36 inches long. To use this type of putter, a golfer must lean over and let his arms hang down. Belly putters have a 41- to 46-inch long shaft that rests against the golfer's stomach to prevent the hands from moving around on the putt. For even more stability, a golfer can choose the long putter, which has a shaft that is up to 52 inches long. The golfer must bend over and place his sternum or chin on the end of the long putter to anchor it.
The basic putter design is the blade, which has a small, flat club head. Mallet-style putters have a larger and heavier club head for a solid stroke and little or no backspin. The weight of the club is balanced across the face. Peripheral weighted putters also have a large club head, but the weight is slightly off-balance. These putters are best for golfers who hit the ball with a slightly inside-out swing.
The angle of a putter's club face usually is less than 5 degrees to minimize the loft on the ball. Metal-faced putters can be made from a variety of materials, including aluminum, copper, bronze and titanium. Some putters have a metal face with a plastic insert in the center. The insert softens the impact of the club striking the ball and spreads the weight to the edges of the club head for a larger sweet spot.
The putter is the only club permitted to have a bent shaft under United States Golf Association official rules. This bend aligns the sweet spot of the club head with the grip, making it easier to line up the putt. The design of a putter shaft's grip end may also differ from the round shape of an iron or a wood. Putter grips commonly have one flat side to prevent the club head from rotating on contact.