Putter shapes distinguish one category
of putter from another.
The history of putters highlights the different shapes that have occurred over time. Each variation of shape aims to make putting easier.
In choosing a putter you have a choice of three shapes. Everything else in the world of putter manufacture is pretty much a variation on a theme.
The French have a saying that the more something changes, the more it remains the same. This paradoxical view can be applied to the modern putters on offer.
Many of the shape modifications (and other so-called breakthrough innovations) are merely recycled ideas from earlier times. There is nothing new, only new ways of repackaging classical forms.
In the early days all golf club were made out of wood with the shaft entering at the heel. In fact, the first putters were mallets. When in 1848 the more durable gutta percha golf ball replaced the featherie which was easily damaged, the manufacture of clubs gradually moved over to metal.
Wooden mallet putters fell out of favour because iron or steel putters with their thin top or sight line made it easier to aim.
However, in 1904 an American amateur Walter Travis using an aluminium centre-shafted Schenectady mallet putter revived his putting form to claim the British Amateur Championship.
The Royal and Ancient legislators promptly ban the putter from competition on the grounds that it was similar in form to a centre-shafted croquet mallet. The ban lasted until 1952.
The slender profiled blade putter eventually replaced the wooden putter and became the accepted standard for all golfers. They were heel shafted and toe heavy with little variation in their basic form. Originally the shaft was made of hickory, but later steel shafts were introduced.
Calamity Jane 1920
Some blade putters acquired names such as 'Calamity Jane' used by Bobby Jones. This was a simple off-set putter with a wooden shaft with three separate windings that held the shaft together.
Blades such as the Bulls Eye, the Cash-In and blades with narrow flanges such as the Wilson 8802 and George Low 600 were popular and there seemed little else to do to a putter to improve it.
In 1966 Karsten Solheim created the Ping Anser putter and stole a march on other putter manufacturers. Recognising than off-centre hits compromised both accuracy and distance, he expanded the area of forgiveness around the sweetspot by positioning the weight towards the heel and toe of the putter head.
Ping Anser 1966
Most golfers have difficulty striking the ball off the middle of the putterface. A blade putter is well and good in the hands of an accomplished player, but in the hands of the average amateur it is less successful, if not a downright disaster.
By stabilizing the putterface on variable contacts with the ball, Solheim set a new standard in putter shapes. The rectangular square-nosed Ping Anser remains the benchmark for heel-toe weighting.
Putter shapes, both weird and wonderful, all can be traced to earlier patents and working makes and models.
So the next time you read about a revolutionary breakthrough that will cut several shots off your score, consider for a moment that it could merely be a rehash of something old - something previously tried.
1 = www.oldgolfshop.com
2 = www.usgamuseum.com
3 = google.com/source unknown