How to choose (and use) a putting putter
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
People can get a bit emotional about putters whenever the question is asked online; “What is the best putter?” But it is a meaningless question, unless two short words are added; “for me”. This week, Vortica’s in-depth look into putting putters lays it all out for you, so you can answer the question yourself.
For myself, the perfect putting putter is an NZ-made, heavy RPM Cosmic Ruru, a stiff one, in a light colour, with a matt black stamp on it. That is unless it’s a long way with a low ceiling. Or it’s a tailwind. Or it’s a really long way uphill. In these cases, I have a 155 gram bright red Opto Ruby. Or it’s a headwind, or there’s OB right behind the basket when I’ll go with my max-weight, Zero Medium Sinus.
The two keywords in both preceding paragraphs are “for me”.
So let’s turn our attention to you – and the reason you are here.
Putting Putters are the single most personal choice you can make in disc golf because you can literally use any putter as your main putter. You are never wrong to use a putter, no matter the weight, maker, plastic, mould or condition – because it’s YOUR putter. The only question is, is it the best putter for you?
So, let’s take a look at…
Putters in General
Will not show any kind of flight shape for the first 7 metres of flight, unless the disc is extremely understable or overstable, in which case it might start to show a flight shape after 6 metres.
So this means it literally does not matter what putter you choose to putt with. Because the only time your putter will differ from any other, is when you are so far from the basket that you are more likely to miss, than make it.
I think it’s safe to assume that if you are reading this, then you are not a professional player, and thus I can make some assumptions about you!
What do you mean “show a flight shape"?
Every disc has a Flight Shape it will make in the air, for any given airspeed, rotation rate, hyzer angle and nose angle. But no disc will show any of that shape until they have flown 7 metres when putting, and then the disc will begin to exhibit its inherent flight path.
However, several factors come into play.
What Affects The Flight Shape of a Putter?
Primarily the spinning speed of the disc. More spin means more gyroscopic stability which means a more consistent hyzer angle will be maintained during the flight. A lot of spin will result in the disc not showing its potential flight shape until much later in the flight. This is why spin putters, um, spin putt.
Thus, it is true that pitch putting, with a very slowly rotating disc is much less accurate as distance increases; the disc acts less and less like a dirt clod, and more and more like an unstabilised disc.
Airspeed and hence, wind, is the other primary flight shape changer. Headwinds tend to lift discs, often disastrously, while tailwinds tend to slap discs to ground early.
So, a player is best advised throwing a heavy overstable low-glide disc like a Sinus into a strong headwind, while a lightweight Ruby would be the very worst option. I have even seen players putt a disc upside down into a headwind with good effect. The lift generated by the disc will tend to pull the disc down, rather than up. Experiment at your own risk!
Wind direction is the other main factor in flight shape - and this applies to all discs. When wind can’t “see” the flight plate of a disc then it can’t do much to affect it, provided the wind flow is parallel with the fligth plate, and your disc is not nose-down, or nose-up. (see below)
Wind which can “see” the top surface of the flight plate will push the disc down rapidly, while wind which “sees” the bottom of the flight plate lifts the disc “rather energetically”, shall we say!
A disc which is aligned with the wind (as above) has the least affected flight.
Thus we can easily see a tailwind putt should be thrown nose down so that any wind will lift it and push it, whereas a nose up putt could actually get pushed down – depending on the relative wind speed and ground speed.
Putting nose down into a headwind will cause the disc to crash to the ground, while nose up will cause it to lift and hyzer a long way from the basket. This is why you would always prefer a tailwind putt, and you will always do everything you possibly can to land your approach or drive to give you a tailwind putt, all other things being equal. (The position of OB or steep slopes will also inform your decision.)
From these facts, we can deduce that the least affected putt in most conditions is one thrown with no nose angle at all, and no hyzer angle at all, with sufficient speed and height to make the basket successfully. Sadly, the flat-nosed, straight throw, which is always online, and mostly descending into the basket is very difficult to perform with clockwork precision as you move further away from the basket. Well, it is for me, anyway!
The Hyzer Putt
Is probably what most people want to throw once they reach 7 or 8 metres because the straight putt is so tricky from this distance and out. And unless it is windy, it probably is what you should throw, to have the best chance of making it.
But the Hyzer putt has its problems. From more than 8 metres, you aren’t throwing it at the chains, but rather some nebulous point in space that will result in the putt going in - even if you mentally hang Barry Schultz’s “rings” in the air to indicate your intended flight path.
It is also much more affected by wind, so if you always putt with hyzer, you will really struggle on the windy days – and on windy courses.
Plus, a disc landing with hyzer can skip, or bounce and then roll, leaving you with a long come-backer, to avoid the dreaded triple-putt.
It should be abundantly clear by now, that in order to become a good putter, you need a flat pitched putt, a hyzer spin putt, an anhyzer spin putt, a forehand hyzer and forehand anhyzer putt, a hammer, and at least one upside-down shot. Plus a host more, besides.
How to Choose Your Putting Putter
Go to a place where there are lots of putters. Grab one in your putting grip. Feel the plastic. Feel the shape. Feel the size. Feel how firm it is. How does it FEEL, to you? Spend more than just a few moments on this, inspecting it – getting up close and personal with it. This is, after all, going to be the most-used disc in your bag.
If the disc does not feel good in your hands, put it in a pile you have mentally marked as “NOT MY NEW PUTTER”. Every other putter you will put in a “MAYBE MY NEW PUTTER” pile.
Work your way through every mould, and every plastic, repeating this process.
Then, take all the “NOs” and put them all back where they came from. Don’t put any disc back in a place it wasn’t! That is a nasty thing a customer can do to a disc seller. DON'T DO IT! If you aren’t going to put it back in exactly the right place, please leave it out to be put away by the seller!
Now, take the pile of MAYBEs and repeat the whole process above until you only have one disc left. THAT is your new Putting Putter! Simple as that!
It doesn’t matter who makes it, or what plastic it is, because you have selected it by the only criteria which mean anything for putting. It is very unlikely you have chosen a very understable, or very overstable putter – and even if you did SO WHAT? Just use it, and get used TO it!
“But, Chris”, I hear you ask…
“IT CAN’T BE THAT EASY – CAN IT?”
You’re 100% right! Finding a place with a lot of putters might prove challenging. But that’s the one and only hurdle you need overcome.
The above method might at first sound simplistic (which means “overly simple” and “ignores important complexities”, and is usually an insult to an idea or a concept), but when you consider the information I’ve presented here, what else do you really need to do, or know, to find your new putting putter?
If there are no disc sellers you can easily visit, you need to start grabbing every possible putter you can lay your hands on, from every person you see playing the game. Like some sort of deranged putter-stalker; dive into the bags of every new player you meet, and yank that putter out, give it the old Feely-Feely and, if you really like it, start running. ;)
But, But, But, I Don’t Like The Way This New Putter Flies For Me!
Sorry about that! It can happen from time to time. So go and buy the disc which was your second choice based on hand feel.
Or stick with it. You chose it for good reason! I played with a Dagger for almost 2 years, but the whole time it was not my ideal putter, but it was closer than anything else I could find.
Prior to this, I was putting full-time with a Medium Sinus, but after getting Feldberg to sign about 10 of them for me when I caddied for him (Which is a funny story, for a later article), he convinced me to try a Dagger. Which I did, a month or so later. The Dagger instantly felt great in my hand. I loved it.
What I did not love was the way it turned into a headwind, or on longer putts. I also did not like the way the Zero plastic beat up so quickly or so much. They did feel awesome though.
Even Zero Hard, despite feeling amazing – and very firm, still beat up too quickly for my liking – and the only ones we had in stock had foil stamps. ACK!
But I persevered, because even I had to admit, I was sinking more putts than I ever had before, and my range was increasing with the extra loft the deep-dish Dagger offers.
Then I went off to the 2016 NZ Matchplay Champs, to fight for my 9th&1/2th final position – another funny story we don’t have time for now – and RPM buddy Simon who I was staying with at Bella Rakha, had a box full of Ruru prototypes, which looked very similar to a Dagger...
The Ruru turned out to be my almost perfect putter – even in the First Run, and I still have hopes of finding the absolute perfect Cosmic Ruru, which would be just a little stiffer than the 5 examples I have now. You can check out my full comparison of the Dagger vs. Ruru over here.
Putter Selection For Experts
If you are an expert, you don’t need this! An expert understands their putting putter intimately, and knows how it will behave in pretty much all circumstances, and failure to sink a putt will nearly always be a failure in execution, rather than shot selection, and they won’t miss by much. You know an expert is going to get up and down from 50-metres, pretty much every time.
An expert also knows exactly what they’re looking for in their new putter. I knew I wanted a more stable Dagger in a Premium plastic – and serendipitously, Simon created the deep-dish Ruru as if by some weird magic – the putter I had waited my whole career for.
Some Other Things To Be Aware Of
has a tremendous impact on putting. For decades I used a throwing grip for putting, with the distal joint of the index engaged with the bottom of the rim of the disc. This as opposed to a grip where the index finger is always above the bottom rim, and usually aligned with the parting line.
The index on the leading edge was, as far as I was concerned, a non-grip, that felt very wishy-washy to me.
But, after a lot of conversation with 3x World Putting Champion, Jay Reading, I decided to try it his way. And you know what? It works better for me than my old throwing grip. *SHOCK HORROR*
Every person has a unique human hand. And so it is literally impossible to say what will work best for a person. You simply have to try a lot of different grips, and accept that an initial weird-feeling is sometimes not a bad sign!
You have experienced this yourself. A dark coloured disc lies on the fairway, or the green for a couple of minutes baking in the sun, and when you pick it up it is hot as hell, very soft and floppy, and feels awful in your hand.
Light coloured, and translucent discs absorb far less solar energy, and stay far cooler on the ground. A translucent putter lying on grass in hot sun can be damp underneath when you pick it up, because there’s enough light going through it to allow the grass to keep transpiring.
Look very cool indeed! But if you hold your putter in a certain way, and swing it up high, close to your line of sight, then inevitably you will get extreme sun-flashes from the stamp. This might sound like a minor thing, but when you have been temporarily blinded by an ultra-bright flash from your own putter, and your shot clock is ticking, you are in trouble.
Getting a nasty flash from your own disc is NOT a valid reason for claiming a distraction, and resetting your shot clock.
Additionally in extreme climates like Perth, in Oz, a foil stamp can get so hot you can actually burn yourself picking up a disc. That is just nasty!
Bead or No Bead?
Some people claim the bead on discs is designed to engage with the distal index finger joint, or that it is to make the disc more stable, but that is not correct. Dave Dunnipace has clearly stated the reason they put a bead on the bottom was to add material at the place where the disc slid along the ground. This meant that the disc stayed stable for longer. Not longer in flight, but longer in the lifetime of the disc.
Check the video below, where the Grand-Daddy of Innova explains it.
It is entirely up to your personal preference. I have used (and continue to use) both beaded and non-beaded putters, and I do not have a preference.
Bottom Rim Shape
Many putters have smooth rounded rim bottoms, which promote a smooth release. This applies mostly to index-under-the-rim throwers, as the index finger has to disengage from the disc at the release point.
My personal feeling is that index-under-the-rim can sometimes result in spastic releases, where the disc goes nowhere near your intended line. No matter what shape the bottom rim is.
Index-along-the-rim means there is nothing that can hook the rim, and cause it to deviate from the line you are pushing along. Plus, the index can be used as a guide in the release, to prevent the disc moving to the right, for a right-handed player. Thanks, Yeti!
The Latitude64 Sinus is a classic case in point here. It has a very sharp bottom rim, and this very occasionally causes problems for me when I am spin putting with it. It can get out of control if my finger does not get out from under the rim perfectly. Same when I am driving with it, a spastic release can see it fly 20 degrees or more away from its intended flight path. Fortunately, this happens to me less as I improve.
You might ask “Then why throw a Sinus?” and I would reply that the sinus is an amazing disc that fades hard, is very easy to range, resists the wind just like the ancient Latin on it says it does, and grabs the ground very aggressively with its sharp bottom rim. The Sinus will not skip, or slide, and tends to die where it lands, a very desirable trait in a disc. Plus it handles huge power, doesn’t flip over into a headwind, and has four different textures on the top surface for you to grip!
For me, it’s the perfect pitch putt disc when there is OB behind the basket, as it won’t slide or skip into the OB if I miss.
Soft or Hard
There is a common myth out there in disc golf land. It goes like this; “Soft putters grab chains better than hard ones”.
There is no evidence of any kind to suggest soft discs catch chains better. If there were, all pros would be using soft putters. End of story.
The “evidence” claimed by people is purely anecdotal, and as we well know, anecdotal evidence is not evidence of any kind. So, don't be suckered into buying a super-soft disc simply because your best mate (!!) told you a bunch of baffling bullshit.
Not that I have anything against soft putters. I used an Omega SuperSoft for many years.
Soft or hard is up to your personal preference, albeit with one consideration which should inform your decision. The release of the putter IS the putt, and getting a consistent release is vital for accuracy.
A soft disc will always flex somewhat in your grip: and due to temperature it will bend more or less. Now – how will you get a consistent release from a bendy disc, which has more or less flex depending on the day or even the hole?
This is a question I was never able to answer for myself, and despite liking soft putters a LOT, I switched to hard ones, and my putting consistency is much improved.
BUT – in saying this – I hasten to point out that I am not a great talent, and I do not have Simon Lizotte’s, or Eagle McMahon’s hands, and so it may be that I simply lack the ability to use a soft putter effectively and consistently. Your mileage may vary!
Even so, when people ask my advice about putters, I tend to steer them away from things which have high flex. I think that is the right thing to do for beginners and intermediates; one less thing to affect the release.
Domed or Flat Top? Or even Concave?
Probably makes little difference in the big scheme of things, but a domed disc needs to be gripped in a slightly different way, because the top of the flight plate is so far above the height of a flat-top, the nose angle changes dramatically. Domed putters will often fly nose up for people, because they haven’t adjusted their grip to take into account the flight plate height differential.
Jay Reading’s “Yeti Pro” Aviar is a specially molded disc which has a concave flight plate – effectively an inverse dome.
Many people find this to be very comfortable, and I do like the feel of it myself. It promotes a nose-down, or flat putt.
Shallow or Deep-Dish?
It’s worth noting that Feldberg was partially induced to join Latitude64 because they allowed him to get in on the design of the Dagger, and so it has all the qualities he wanted in a putter; a deep dish to capture more air under, and hence the Dagger has a slightly lower sink-rate – and hence more “loft”, allowing the disc to fly further for any given amount of effort.
He wanted a putter with a big bead, like his old Big Bead Aviars. He also wanted a firm putter that did not flex in his grip.
But a big, deep, hand-filling putter has a larger cross-sectional area, and hence is affected slightly more by the wind, even if thrown perfectly flat. There is no free lunch!
Premium or Base Plastic?
Once again, this is pure personal preference. I despise beaten up discs, believing “worn in” is synonymous with “worn out”. I prefer premium plastics because they look better, and do not beat up easily or quickly, and their flight shape remains reliable for a long period of time, and is never altered by a single tree or basket hit.
I once fell in love with the Banger-GT – a fantastic-flying disc, made from one of the worst plastics disc golf has ever seen. I got 5 of them immediately. However, less than 3 weeks of putting practice ruined them, in my view. On the flip side, some players will swear 7 blood oaths to a beaten-up Banger-GT, and fight to the death to keep theirs. Such is the sport we play!
I find the grip level of RPM's Cosmic and Atomic is excellent, and a damp putter does not concern me, because I carry at least two chamois at all times, and Cosmic grip for putting when damp is just fine. I can throw a Cosmic Ruru with driving power, directly into a concrete block wall, and all that happens is the disc gets some paint on it, from the wall. :)
How Many Putters Should I Get?
No more than 5. Get them all the same weight, same plastic, and if you are a bit OCD, even the same colour. One is for your bag, and the other four are for practice. Using more than 4 putters to practice will cause you to devalue individual putts, and is likely to damage your putting rather than improve it. Read my article here, for a massive amount of detail.
Do I Need More Than One Putting Putter?
That depends! How good are you? Are you able to make the adjustments needed to successfully employ a second putter when switching between them? What will they be used for?
In my case, as I explained in the first paragraph, I carry two extra putting putters, but they are for specific situations only: massive tailwind, strong headwind, low ceiling, and far uphill. And even then, only if I strongly doubt my ability to bend the Ruru to my will.
Should I Throw My Putting Putter?
Many will give a categorical answer of “NO!” here, but I’m going to be much more pragmatic, and a little wishy-washy and say, “It depends...” :P
If your putting putter is a premium plastic, and there is no danger of losing the disc, then I would say, go for it.
But, if you have a base plastic putter, then I would advise you never to throw it with anything except a putting motion. Not even for relatively short approach shots. A single bad hit may change the flight shape.
I certainly have no qualms about throwing my Ruru, and hard, as a concrete block wall only leaves a smear of paint on the glossy disc surface.
What About A Driving Putter?
A totally different, and very large subject!
What about Weight?
In general, you will want heavy putters. Unless you are a child, or a lightly built female. Or you want a tailwind putter.
Heavy putters are less affected by wind than light ones, and while you can overcome some wind with a spin putt, that shot will fly a long way by the basket if it fails to connect. Hello Birdogie! That’s when your easy birdie putt misses and flies long, and you go from birdie to bogie … BOOM - just like that.
For tailwinds, kids, and the ladies, often the magic little Latitude64 Ruby is a perfect option; letting them throw nice long, straight putts. Not so hot into a raging headwind, though!
Speaking of Headwinds, How Do I Tackle Extreme Winds?
This is the 64,000 dollar question, isn't it? But first, a short story!
I have stood on the teepad of Hole 1, leaning into the wind at a 30-degree angle, shouting to the guy next to me, “Where do you think a good shot ends up here?” He yelled, “30 metres closer to the basket!”
I asked him what the hell he was going to throw, and he shrugged and yelled, “I was gonna ask you the same thing!”
On this same hole, I was not foolish enough to attempt to make my 6-metre (outrageous) headwind putt for a miraculous par, but rather knelt down, turned my disc upside down, and slid it underneath the basket so I could drop in for bogie. Sadly, the disc hit the teepee-shaped grass surrounding the pole, and the disc stood up and rolled straight downwind and downhill for over 20 metres.
This left me in a real dilemma – what the hell do I do now? After a minute of careful consideration, I decided to flat spin putt at the basket, trying to sink it, using a max-weight Champion Ape in 10/10 condition. It flew perfectly straight, hit and fell under the basket for a drop-in double bogie. Ouch. But a lot better than many people scored on the hole that day.
Big headwinds can really mess up your day - especially on the putting green, and here's where you can easily take strokes off other players, by being smart: Make damned sure your disc lands upwind of the basket, even if it is 20-metres out - because you will nearly always get up and down from there.
But you may not get up and down from 20 metres downwind, especially if you go for it.
If you are facing a massive headwind, and you are beyond safe putting range - which very literally can be any distance where you can't actually place the disc in the basket - then you are best not to even try to make the putt. Take your medicine: turn the disc upside down, and slide it to the basket to avoid all the effects of the evil wind raging around you.
A Sinus is a definite must-have for heavy wind putting, with it’s super sharp bottom rim halting it almost the instant it touches down. A Sinus is also my "do or die trying" headwind putter. And when I use it in this way, I am putting with anhyzer on the disc.
Anhyzer flight prevents the disc from hyzering, and climbing and flying outside the circle - usually! But it can all go horribly wrong, too!
Using a very overstable driver to putt with may also a viable option because wind can get so strong that using any kind of putter is simply suicidal - while a high-speed driver might actually work.
It's worthwhile practicing these extreme wind putts, because one day, you're going to have to make one of them to take the win, or to force a playoff.
The Legendary Wizard and 2008 World Champion, Dave Fledberg,
takes a lap of the basket.
Can I use a Midrange to Putt with?
Sure you can. They have amazing glide – especially if you are using a larger midrange, one which is legal up to 180 grams. However, that same glide is going to fly a long way past the basket when you miss, causing you to triple putt more often than it saves you a stroke.
How about putting with a Driver?
So yeah, you can do that, too! And in fact, I have hilariously dark memories of being beaten in a tournament round by a Scotsman who had just one disc, a speed-13 driver, and 15 beers. And he complained bitterly and unceasingly that he’d run out of beer on hole 16. Just how a person could consume that much alcohol in less than 100 minutes blew me away. How he managed to throw 10-under par is still one of the greatest mysteries I have ever known. I threw 9-under.
But he was the exception to the rule, and you should only putt with a driver in extreme circumstances, as I outlined above. Sometimes there IS a case for going for it, with a spin putt, using the most overstable driver you have in your bag.
There is one other time when putting with a driver is not just acceptable, but almost mandatory. That is when you park it under the basket. When doing so, I always say “I love putting with my driver” as I drop in for birdie.
And there you have it, pretty much everything I have ever learned about putters. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to click the little heart button down below, share the link with someone, or buy one of the discs linked in the piece.
Martin has been kept pretty busy with orders recently, and we apologise for both of us being out of action at the Matchplay Champs until December 12th, which is when any new emails, queries and orders will be actioned. We're making a big Innova and Trilogy order then too - so get your weird requests for discs in to Martin, pronto!
Cheers all, Chris & Martin