Putters may be classified in several different ways. For every expert who says there are X number of different types of putters grouped by one method, there is another who counters that there are Y number of putter types according to a different classification. The particular label that matters most to an individual golfer may depend on the golfer’s putting style or personal taste.
A quick glance at a putter’s head is all you need to distinguish between the two most common shapes: Mallets and blades. The blade is the classic putter shape. Look at a photo of a 20th century golfer holding a putter and you’re almost guaranteed to see a blade. The blade contains a long, slim, roughly rectangular-shaped head. A typical mallet head is semicircular in shape. The head may be mostly solid, or it may feature several pieces of metal, with plenty of space between them, sitting behind the flat club face. In the latter case the metal pieces typically outline a semicircle.
With respect to weight balance, there are three categories of putters: Toe-balanced, face-balanced and 45-degree-balanced clubs. The club types can be distinguished by balancing the shaft on your hand so the club is horizontal to the ground. If the toe points directly down the club is toe-balanced. If the club face remains parallel to the ground then the putter is face-balanced. Should the toe point downward at an angle, it’s labeled as a 45-degree-balanced putter, even if the angle isn’t exactly 45 degrees.
The Rules of Golf limit clubs to 48 inches in length -- except for putters. While a standard retail putter is about 35 to 36 inches long, a handful of professional players use extra-long putters, even some that push past the 48-inch limit that applies to other clubs. The most common longer putters are called “Belly Putters” because the golfer rests the end of the grip on his belly as he begins his stroke. Other extra-long putters are termed “broomsticks” or simply “long putters.” Some have two grips on which the player separates his hands, placing one on each grip.
Some putters are “heel-shafted,” with the shaft attaching at or very near the club head’s heel. If the shaft attaches in the middle of the club head, the club is called a “center-shafted” putter. If the club head is set back, relative to the longest part of the shaft, it’s termed an “offset” putter. Putters with bent shafts may also be classified as “single-bend” or “double-bend” putters, depending on the number of bends in the shaft.