Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley
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!