I was reading the July 11th edition issue of Golfweek and saw an article on page 6 in a section called 'The Toy Box' that was about putters that the Tour pros use and can be bought by golfers. Beside that article was a question and answer section called, 'Ask the Expert.' The expert for this column is Stephen Boccieri of Boccieri Golf, maker of the 'Heavy Putter,' which is used by John Daly and several other Tour professionals. They asked and he answered 6 questions. I will highlight two that I think are extremely important.
Q: In terms of head shape, are some golfers better of with a blade-type putter and others with a mallet-style putter? Answer: 'People who use a blade see perpendicular lines better. They tend to line up a putt by focusing (heel to toe) on the putter head or the leading edge. People who use mallets see parallel lines better. A putter with a lot of width (front to back) is good for them.'
This answer fits in with my article about being fitted by Dave Edel, PGA, of Edel Golf, where I discussed how he first checked the hosel configuration to see which one I aimed better. As I wrote, the winning hosel for me (that I aimed spot on) is an inline shaft that lined up with the top edge of the putter face. Once we found the best hosel, he then checked me to find the best head shape to help me aim. The winner there was a blade style. Mallets don't do the trick for me. Based on Mr. Boccieri observation that blade users see perpendicular lines better I understand why I putt with blades-style putters best.
Q: What is the biggest mistake that golfers make when buying putters? Answer: 'Length. This is the biggest issue people tend to neglect. My research shows me that the average length of a putter that golfers should use is 33 ½ inches. Yet many people are buying 35 or even 36 inch putters.'
I agree with Mr. Bocciere about the length being too long for too many golfers, especially women and junior golfers who many times get handed a left over putter from their husband or dad. I can't tell you how many times I have seen ladies and juniors in golf schools and lessons, putting with men's putters that are 35 and 36 inches.
There is one exception to using longer putters. If you have neck or back problems and standing up taller helps reduce stress and tension, then by all means use a longer putter. I will throw in two cautions. One is that the lie of the putter must be correct, in that the head is soled flat on the ground. Since it is likely that using a too long putter, it will be to upright (toe is up off the ground,) you have to get it bent flatter, because an uptight putter lie will cause you to pull a lot of putts to the left. Secondly, if you putt with a longer putter, you must be able to control it. Ray Floyd played for many years with an extra long putter. He was almost standing up. He said that was the only way he could practice enough without hurting his back to stay competitive on the PGA Tour.
The last big issue that was slightly addressed in the above paragraph is the lie angle of the putter. As I said above, if your putter is too long it is likely too upright and the toe will be high off the ground. I have seen many golfers with correct length putters that were still too upright and needed to be adjusted (bent flatter) so the putter would sole flat on the ground. If the head is too upright it will cause pulls. Too upright will also mean you will have trouble hitting solid putts which is needed for direction and, especially, for distance control.
The last point to cover is to answer the question: What is the correct length of a putter? The correct length will have the golfer, at address, standing balanced, with some bend at the waist, and the arms hanging straight down from the shoulders, with a little flex or bend in the elbows. Some golfers, like Jack Nicklaus, bend over very low and thus have a lot of bend or break in their elbows. Others, like Phil Mickelson, Tiger and Steve Stricker, stand taller and their arms hang straighter. The key is that whichever posture you have, tall or bent a little (even a lot), your putter needs to be the correct length and lie.
Lastly, as I always say when discussing clubs and their fitting you, the best thing to do is consult your PGA professional or a certified club fitter.