MGS Labs – Fitted (vs) Non-Fitted Putters Part II
In Part 1 of our putter fitting study, we looked at the differences between the putters 20 golfers had in their bags and what PING’s experts fit them for. If you missed it, it’s definitely worth checking out as the fitting results alone suggest that basically everyone who hasn’t been fit for a putter is probably playing the wrong putter.
Today we dig in a little deeper to see what impact a fitted putter has on actual performance. We can talk about fitting all day, right? Everyone should get fit. We say that all the time, but the ugly truth about fitting is that it only actually matters if and when proper fitting translates to performance improvements.
The aim of this test is to investigate the effects of a putter fitting on performance.
20 golfers were recruited for a VIP putter fitting.
Prior to being selected for and included in the test, participants were screened to ensure no industry affiliation. Additional requirements include:
- Must play at least 1-2x per month
- Must not have had a putter fitting within the last 12 months
- Must not currently be playing a belly or long putter
A range of ability levels was represented in the test.
Players were asked to bring his or her current gamer (having never gone through a proper putter fitting).
Testers hit (10) 5′ putts at a hole on the putting green and the make/miss location was recorded.
(10) 25′ putts were performed on PING’s granite table putting surface with the overhead cameras capturing the dispersion of the session.
Finally, players took part in an iPing session.
Player were then put through a full putter fitting. Once completed, the fitter altered the putter (if needed) to match the specs found from the fitting.
With the correct putter, the player then performed the same three tests as done at the beginning of the test (5′ putts at hole, 25′ on the table, and iping session)
On 5′ putts, the average rate of putts holed increased from 5.6 out of 10 to 6.1. If you want to extrapolate that out to a whole number we can all wrap our heads around, we’re talking about an additional putt holed for every twenty tries. While that’s perhaps not mind-blowing, it’s absolutely the sort of number that will lead to lower scores on the golf course.
Out of the 20 testers, 9 improved their make rates, 7 produced identical results, while 4 actually made fewer putts.
Using their overhead camera system, PING calculated a stat area – basically an elliptically-shaped dispersion pattern – first with what was in each tester’s bag, and then again with the fully fit putter. As you can see, the study participants decreased their dispersion area by slightly better than 25%.
In total, 11 of the 20 testers improved 25′ dispersion, while 5 were essentially the same. 4 of the golfers in the study proved to be worse from 25′ with their fitted putter.
PING’s iPing app looks at your stroke type, impact angle, tempo, lie angle, and shaft lean over a series of 5 putts. It measures consistency from one stroke to the next and quantifies it with an iPing Score that correlates to a putting handicap. A lower iPING score indicates a more consistent putting stroke.
On average, the golfers in this study cut their iPing putting handicaps nearly in half. 50% of the testers posted improved iPing scores, while 7 were unchanged. Only 3 scored worse with the fitted putter than they did with their gamers.
A Closer Look at iPing
Within the iPing results we’re able to take a closer look at how a given change impacted a specific performance metric for the group of testers for whom the related change was made.
As the basis for its stroke type determination PING looks at the rate at which the face closes during the putting stroke. Of the 16 golfers who were fit for a different stroke type putter, 12 of them (75%) improved the related performance area with iPing.
To determine if a change in putter alignment needs to be made, PING considers the angle of the putter at impact. If a golfer is improperly aligned or inconsistent with alignment, a change is recommend. Among the golfers fit for a different alignment, 72% saw improvement over their gamers, while only 14% saw diminished performance.
For golfers with inconsistent tempo, changing the weighting of the putter can often produce better results. In our study, 64% of golfers who were fit into a different weight putter showed improvement, compared to 14% whose tempo was less consistent as measured by iPing.
As mentioned in Part I, to determine whether a change in loft is advisable, PING looks at the shaft lean at impact. It should be noted that PING does not have any additional data to suggest that fitting for loft leads to a better putting stroke, it simply leads to better roll. In that respect, it’s a bit surprising that 67% would see pronounced improvement. It could be psychological, or it could be that the sum total of changes led to a more consistent stroke overall.
Given the general improvements across the board, the fact that the highest percentage of golfers in our study were actually less consistent after a lie angle change warrants further examination (and a bigger chart). Given that 39% of those who had their lie angle changed actually putted worse, it’s reasonable to think that we all might be better off leaving well-enough alone.
Before you commit to never changing the lie angle of your putter, however; consider some of the numbers from Part I. While the average change in lie angle was roughly 1°, changes of 2° or more weren’t uncommon, and one golfer required a 7° change in lie angle. Seven degrees. Think about what that would look like in an iron, and then think about how quickly you’d be able to successfully adjust to that dramatic of a change.
Believe it or not, for all the benefits of custom fitted clubs, a negative result immediately after a lie angle change is actually the expected result. Here’s a snippet from the test report that should help put this into proper perspective:
“A change to lie angle has been seen to affect the stance and ball positioning thus we tend to get mixed results following a lie angle change. Changes in lie angle, while highly encouraged, will take the most adjustment from the player following a change, especially in cases where the person has been using the same putter for an extended period of time and is very accustomed seeing the putter oriented in a certain manner.”
Basically, as golfers we learn to compensate. Whether it’s learning to pound the ball left because we know it’s going to come back hard-right, or adjusting nearly every aspect of our putting stance and stroke to adapt to an ill-fitting putter, we come up with any number of unique ways to make it work…or at least fail less. When it comes to a lie angle change, eliminating those compensations that no longer work with a properly fit putter can take time.
These final two charts summarize comparative performance across our key metrics.
This chart summarizes the improvements across all 3 of the tests performed. While it should be noted that not everyone performed better with a fitted putter in all scenarios. In each case a majority of testers (50% on average) showed performance improvements with a properly fit putter.
The above chart shows the number of performance categories where golfers showed improvement as a result of the putter fitting.
16 of 20 golfers showed improvement in at least 1 performance category, while the largest number (8) showed improvement in 2 of the categories measured.
If there’s one singular takeaway it’s this: Getting fit for your putter matters. Consider the breakdown of our results.
- The majority of golfers included in this study were the same if not better in all three measurements, with the average of those measurements indicating improvement across the board.
- 80% of golfers in the test saw improvement in at least one category.
- The iPing consistency measurement showed the greatest average improvement.
If you don’t want to go all in with a fitting out of the gate, we can’t recommend enough you start with the iPing app. While there’s no substitute for a full fitting, iPing will help you begin to understand if your putter is remote close to ideal for your putting stroke.