“The game of golf would lose a great deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green.” – Ernest Hemingway
By Ian Hardie
I was talking to a golfer recently about the many types of golf putters that are available on the market these days and as I was explaining the relative merits of one design over another to the golfer I mentioned the fact that even though
The putters we were discussing looked similar, they all had slightly different lofts
I could see the golfer was a bit puzzled about something that I was saying and it wasn’t long until they asked the question;
“Why do golf putters have loft?”
Like most other golfers around the world, the golfer knew that all the other clubs in their bag were made with the faces at different angles to help produce different distances and shots during a game but as the face on their golf putter looked to be basically straight up and down
The golfer had never once considered that it was actually designed to have some loft
I’m sure that golfer wasn’t alone as throughout the history of the game it was thought that putters worked best without any loft – due to the fact that most golfers thought that any loft on the putter face would make the ball skid like a chip shot for a start when it was hit – which was considered to be a bad thing
Turns out though, that a little loft and a skid for a start is a good thing when putting!
For many years now – ever since high speed cameras started to reveal what actually happens when a golf ball is putted – virtually all golf putters sold around the world are designed with a small loft (or angle) of between 2 to 5 degrees
The golf putters face is not straight up and down as most people think it would be
There are a couple of reasons that putters are designed to carry that loft on their face – with the main one being something that I have already touched on
If you take another look at the image at the top of this post (which I know is not super clear)
You may notice the little black marks all over the green below the flag stick
All of those black marks are shadows made by the sun that are highlighting the little indentations that are on virtually every putting surface you will ever play on
They aren’t un-repaired pitch marks as I wrote about in this post and I’m aware that you may well have never seen them before as they are incredibly hard to see during most of the day
However in the hour or so before darkness each day, if the sun is still out but very low on the horizon as it is in the image
The little indentations that are part of every golf green – are easy to see in the twilight
Those slight indentations are what your golf ball generally ends up in when it stops rolling on the green – you may have even seen a ball do it after missing a short putt
Rather than stopping on exactly the line it was travelling on, it just takes a little wobble to the side as it comes to rest in an indentation
You can probably recall that happening to your golf ball now that you think about it!
Most of these little indentations are too small for most golfers to see or notice but just big enough to have an effect on the ball just as it’s putted for the next putt
Which is where the loft on a golf putter of between 2 to 5 degrees comes into play
That small amount of loft is sufficient to get the golf ball moving
Without it being affected by the indentation that it will almost certainly be sitting in
In simple terms the loft on the putter allows the golf ball to start its journey to the hole with a tiny little flight or skid (as it looks like on a high speed video) before it hits the ground and the forward momentum of the golf ball takes over allowing it to run towards the hole
If that small amount of loft wasn’t on the putter face – each putt that you hit from those small indentations
Which by the way is almost every putt you attempt!
Would simply drive the golf ball into the front of the indentation causing it to bounce in the air as soon as it left the putter face
As you can imagine, a putt that bounces up in the air for a start – however small the bounce
Is never going to help your putting too much – is it?
I’m going expand on that a bit more, as well as taking a look at the other reason that golf putters have loft in the post ‘Why do golf putters have loft – part two?’
In the meantime, if you get the chance and you haven’t ever seen the indentations that are in virtually all putting greens in the early evening light
I’d suggest you make the effort to go and see what they look like
You will definitely understand once you have seen them as to why it is that you can hit what you think is a really good putt – only to have it miss the hole due to the effect of the indentations on the green!