A-Z Putting (I): Impact

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Understanding the importance of impact and how it affects your putt

There is no one perfect way to hit a putt – just like drivers and irons, every golfer has their own unique way of presenting the putter face to the ball at impact. Impact though takes a fraction of a second and because 75% of where the ball rolls to is determined by the aim of the face at impact, there really isn't much room for error.

Thanks to improvements in analysis technology, putter fittings with launch monitors are becoming much more readily available. And we reckon if you're looking at investing in a new flatstick you really should get fitted for it, too.

The best putting launch monitors (we use a Foresight GC Quad for testing) capture thousands of frames a second, and reveal exactly how a putt behaves at impact, as well as showing how far it skids before starting to roll across the green's surface. Just like a driver or iron fitting, there are key numbers you really need to be aware of when getting a putter launch monitor fitting.

Here's what you need to know.

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Strike Point

Thanks to launch monitor tech like Foresight Sports' GC Quad, you can now see where every putt impacts the putter face; it's the same technology TaylorMade used on woods when they came up with TwistFace. Knowing where you typically impact putts is crucial; you really want to keep an eye on deviation to maximise consistency

Face Angle

Self-explanatory; ideally it should be as close as possible to 0°. A square face angle means you're back to pointing the putter blade at the target you aimed at. Over 90% of the start direction of a putt is determined by face angle at impact... so it's important to get yours as square to your target as possible.

Launch Angle

To get the ball rolling smoothly you need to impact putts on the upstroke, but ideally by no more than 1.5°. You definitely don't want to hit putts with a downward stroke.

Ball Speed

It's highly likely, like us, you'll see a difference in ball speed switching between insert and non-insert putters, but the fact there's a difference isn't important. What is crucial is looking at deviation. For consistency it wants to be as low as possible. Poor numbers see more than 1mph difference, while an elite player can expect a deviation of less than 0.35mph.

Launch Spin

All of our test putters came out with averages of topspin, but some golfers will get backspin (it all depends on your technique), which isn't ideal if you're after true, smooth-running putts. Measured in rpm just like a driver, the higher the forward number you can get the better.

Efficiency or Smash Factor

Just like a driver, each putt is awarded a measure of how efficient it was hit. What you're looking for here is consistency, and as tight a deviation as you can get your hands on.

Skid

When a putt is skidding it's not rolling, and the idea is to get putts rolling as quickly as you can. Look to get skid as low as possible. Deviation is key – where very average club golfers might see a difference of more than 15in in skid (on a 10-12 foot putt) between putts, elite players can reduce skid differential to less then two inches.

Angle of attack

As we've mentioned, you ideally want to hit putts on the up to promote lower skid and a smoother roll; this is where you get to see if your stroke is up to it. Downward strokes can jump putts off the turf, causing inconsistency.

Deviation

The amount of difference between your best and worst (or lowest and highest) numbers in any particular category. It goes without saying the tighter the deviation, the more consistent you are, so pay close attention to bringing down those deviation numbers during a fitting.