Mallets now outnumber blades on tour. Is it time you made the switch?
The stories and insight that will set you up for the month ahead – Grim Reaper included.
There are more mallet putters on tour now than ever before – and the best putters on the planet are using them. 55 of the top 100 golfers in the world now favour a mallet, the top end of the ‘strokes gained: putting’ statistic on the PGA and European Tour is dominated by players who use them, and mallets have recorded more wins than blade putters on the two main tours this season. We are past the tipping point and mallet putters are only going to become increasingly popular. Even Tiger Woods, a blade devotee throughout his career, is now using a mallet. For some, that’s like seeing
Evel Knievel riding a bike with stabilisers, but the best players (and putters) in the game are finding the benefits of mallets too hard to ignore.
So, what’s so good about mallets, and do you need one in your bag? We spoke to some of the game’s best putters and putting experts to find out.
Why mallets all of a sudden?
For decades, golfers have wanted the latest and greatest drivers, irons and wedges, but been content to use an old faithful putter they’ve had for a long time. The reason? Data, or the lack of it.
For a long time it’s been possible to measure that a new driver goes further or a new wedge stops quicker. But the lack of putting data has perpetuated the notion that putting is more art than science. Now, the advent of detailed putting data makes it possible to measure exactly what is going on through the putting stroke, at impact and during the ball’s roll. Golfers are beginning to acknowledge the performance benefits that can be gained from technological advancements in putters. And mallets, as a rule, can pack in more of these beneficial technologies than the humble blade.
Once you see the numbers, the advantages of mallets for many golfers become obvious. When the difference between holing or missing can be as little as a tenth of a degree at impact or an inch of roll over 60 feet, anything that helps you align better, swing more accurately, roll it better and produce more consistent speed is likely to help you hole more putts.
“The mallet has a little more swing to it,” says Tiger Woods, one of the greatest putters the game has ever seen, having recently switched to a TaylorMade TP Black Copper Ardmore 3. “I’m starting the ball on my lines again, and I’ve got the speed. Every putt I hit has that ‘go in’ look to it. I really like that this putter has grooves in it, so it rolls a little bit faster and a little bit more true.”
Golfers are renowned for not wanting to miss out on something one of their fellow competitors has got, particularly if it brings success. If a player won a major with a parrot balanced on his shoulder, the local aviary would be overrun with tour pros the following morning. So when Jason Day delivered the best putting performance in PGA Tour history in 2016, having switched to the TaylorMade Spider Tour mallet, other players took notice. Dustin Johnson has since ascended to the top of the world rankings using a putter from the same family. You can bet the Ardmore 3 will have similar commercial and tour success to the Spider Tour if Woods wins with it.
Should we all be using them?
Despite the clear advantages and increasing popularity of mallets, it’s not as simple as saying a larger head is better than a blade and everyone should be using mallets. Some golfers will prefer the look and feel of a blade, and its tendency to have more toe hang and rotation during the stroke will suit some players better than the squarer stroke that most mallets
‘When Jason Day delivered the best putting performance in PGA Tour history, other players took notice’
promote. As with any club, the overall performance of a putter is also about how the golfer interacts with it and the specific characteristics they place the most value on.
Guerin Rife, a putter design pioneer and co-founder of Evnroll, believes that for these reasons and more, it’s impossible to definitively say mallets perform better than blades “There are too many variables that affect performance that would affect the testing of a blade versus a mallet,” he argues. “Putter face technology, shafting, offset, length, lie, swing weight, overall weight, grip size, loft and launch angle, head material, alignment features, and even colour and sound. There’s also the individual golfer’s vision and physical make-up. All of these elements are important to optimising an individual’s putting performance.”
The best way to find your optimum putter is by getting custom fitted. It’s as important with the flatstick as it is with a new driver or irons – arguably more so, given how often you use it and the impact making or missing that four-footer will have on your round. Find a fitter that has SAM PuttLab, Quintic or Trackman 4 (the equivalent of launch monitors for putting) and a wide choice of putters from across the major brands and they will help you identify the exact putter that enables you to align the head and get the ball rolling as accurately and consistently as possible. Then accept the fact you can only blame yourself for missed putts from now on.
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