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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why a Counterbalanced Putter Might Improve Your Putting

Just like last year, only one of my choices made it to the Match Play's Final Four -- this time it was Victor Dubuisson. Since my pick last year finished 4th, I'm guaranteed to do at least as well this year even though Victor is playing Ernie Els. Els has been putting unusually well this week.

As it turns out, Els has switched to a counterbalanced putter. Louis Oosthuizen, who also putted lights out at the Accenture, switched to a counterbalanced putter earlier in the week. And Bubba has been using a counterbalanced putter too, as he discussed with the folks at Morning Drive just this past November:

Bubba mentions Justin Rose winning the US Open with a counterbalanced putter. In fact, several players began experimenting with them after Rose's win. So what's the big deal with counterbalanced putters?

First, here's a simple explanation of counterbalancing: You may have heard the term 'swingweight' when you were fitted for clubs. Swingweight (usually given as a letter-number combination; D2 is a common swingweight for men's clubs) is a measurement that tells how heavy the club head feels relative to the grip of a club. A heavy swingweight means the head feels heavier compared to the grip.

But with shafts getting lighter, it keeps getting harder to keep swingweights from becoming too heavy. So clubbuilders have used counterbalancing to offset that weight. Counterbalancing simply means the clubbuilder puts more weight in the butt end of the club to offset the heavier feel of the head.

Counterbalancing isn't a new thing. I'm including links here to a couple of articles on the web -- one from February 2008 that Golfsmith published for clubbuilders (they sell the tools) and an August 2012 post from Tom Wishon's site (he's written manuals on clubbuilding, including the one I learned from) in case you want to learn more.

Counterbalancing has become big news recently because of the anchored putter ban. As the Golfsmith article states:
... for the average golfer the putter may be the place where counterbalance causes the greatest improvements... Weight in the head is a cosmetic challenge and usually leads to the golfer flipping their wrists while attempting a stroke. Additional weight in the hands through counterbalancing eliminates this issue altogether.
So counterbalancing helps you stop flipping your wrists, which is the reason most players went to a belly putter in the first place. And Wishon, after listing a number of putting problems that counterweighting seems to help, writes:
The most commonly used putter counterweights are the 60g, 80g and 100g weights, with the 80g and 100g counterweights being the most commonly used by most golfers for the putter. There is no question the chance of improved putting performance with a heavy counter weight in the putter is very high. From speaking with clubmakers who offer this fitting service to their golfers and from our own work with golfers, we estimate the putting improvement rate for counter weights to be over 80%.
The reason I include these weight numbers is to help you understand how dramatic the counterbalancing is. Typical putter heads have traditionally ranged in weight from around 200 grams (standard) to 400 grams (belly) each, so we're talking about adding some serious weight to the butt end of the shaft! For example, here's a picture of TaylorMade's Spider Blade. It has a 130-gram counterbalanced grip.

TaylorMade Spider Blade counterbalanced putter

The great thing is that a large number of manufacturers have begun selling counterbalanced putters off-the-shelf, so it should be a simple matter to find some and try them before you buy.

So before you convince yourself that you simply can't live without your belly putter, you might want to try out a counterbalanced putter. Just look at how much better Ernie Els is putting with a short counterbalanced putter as opposed to the belly putter he used for so long. You can be sure the Tour pros will continue to check them out.


  1. Mike,
    What is the recommended length of a counterbalanced putter? If you play a 35" putter now, should you buy a 42" putter or would that negate the balance part?

    Odyssey offers the putters in various lengths, but doesn't provide guidance on which is recommended.


  2. It's just a matter of comfort. The counterbalancing doesn't change anything about how you get fitted for a putter. It just makes you less likely to "flip" your wrists at impact by changing the swingweight.