The putter is the club that propels the ball the shortest distance, but it is far from the least important club in the bag, as any pro knows. Choosing the right putter can be the difference between days of elation and days of frustration on the course.
While there have been many innovations to the shafts of golf clubs, the standard putter length remains popular with many PGA Tour players. Standard putters are slightly shorter than a wedge and can be gripped pretty much the same way as other clubs. But because putters don't require the same wide swing, some players use grips that would be impractical for regular clubs but work well and offer greater control for the shorter putting stroke. Most common are the reverse grip, in which the dominant hand is higher on the grip than the non-dominant hand, and the claw, in which the dominant hand remains low but points down the grip instead of wrapping around it.
Belly putters feature a longer shaft than the standard putter and use the belly as a stabilizing measure to make the stroke more consistent. The shaft is cut long enough so when the player addresses the ball, the top reaches up to the belly, which serves as a pivot point. The putter can be held with a standard or modified grip. The belly putter uses the extra stabilization to reduce instances of the putter sliding off line and pushing the ball left or right.
Full-length putters take the concept of the belly putter and expand it, extending the shaft all the way to the chest. The player anchors the putter against the chest using the non-dominant hand and places the dominant hand at approximately the normal address height to move the putter. As with the belly putter, the primary goal is reducing instances of properly aligned putts missing as a result of inconsistency in the stroke.
While shaft length is the most outwardly apparent difference between styles of putters, there are many available options for putter heads as well. Many players still use blade putters while others have opted for mallet heads, which are much deeper and often have more complex designs. Most pros also now use putters with inserts of varying softness in the face, which affects the level of touch the player has. Some like a softer feel, while others prefer firm contact with a harder face.