Golfweek senior writer David Dusek recently spoke with Club Champion co-founder and master builder Nick Sherburne about technologies used in putter fittings and common problems that club players have on the greens.
Dusek: What percentage of all the fittings at Club Champion are putter fittings?
Sherburne: Right now, putter fittings are 9 percent of our business.
Has that percentage changed over the last five to 10 years or stayed about the same?
Sherburne: Oh, it’s gone up for sure. I’d bet that about 10 years ago it was about 2 percent. We’ve done a lot of studies that show how club fitting can help your score, and there is no question in my mind that putting can have one of the biggest impacts. We preach that if you are only going to get fit for one club, just to see what the process is like, you should do your putter first. But honestly, nobody does that because it’s not sexy.
Because the allure of getting more distance from a driver fitting is stronger than the idea of getting fit for a putter?
Sherburne: I think that’s part of it, but when people miss putts they always seem to think, “Oh, it’s me, it’s not the putter.” They don’t understand that there are mechanics to a putter, and different aspects of a putter can make all the difference.
At PGA Tour events and when you get fit for new woods or irons, there is a good chance you’ll see people hitting balls using a launch monitor like TrackMan or Foresight. Are there technologies like that for putting?
Sherburne: Sure, there is S.A.M. (Science & Motion) Putt Lab and Quintic. Foresight and TrackMan both have putter features now, too.
And that’s the thing, technologies like that can show me (the fitter) stuff like I need a face-balanced putter (for the golfer) with one shaft’s-width of offset at 36 inches at a specific weight. Knowing that, I can interchange specific putters because it comes down to what the customer feels.
You may see tour players bounce between putters, but the actual mechanics between those putters don’t change very much.
What is the typical reaction when recreational golfers watch their putting stroke on high-speed cameras or computer-generated images?
Sherburne: This is why we use S.A.M. Putt Lab, because personally, I love that after the customer hits seven putts using it, the system basically creates a slide show to take the golfer through. They can see how each phase of the putt is broken down based on real putts they hit. At the end of it most people are like, “Wow, I had no idea!” Then we can take the information the system gave us, get a demo putter and bend it and see what happens. Before, they might have made three out of seven putts, but now they’ll make five or six out of seven.
When you’ve got the right putter, you can just feel it. Some people come in for a fitting and do have the right putter. Maybe we’ll just do a little tweak to it, but when you’ve got the right putter, you know it.
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When people come for a putter fitting, what is the most common shortcoming you see in the putter they use? Length, lie angle, loft?
Sherburne: Everything is really the right answer, but the most dominant is not enough toe hang. For me, that’s the biggest part of the puzzle, because you want to match it to the amount of rotation your stroke has. If you don’t have it, you will have trouble squaring up the putter (at impact).
Is the trend you’re seeing in putter grips still toward bigger, more-oversized models or are you seeing things swing back to smaller and more traditional grips?
Sherburne: What do you consider standard now? What I would have considered a mid-size grip 10 years ago is now the standard. Yes, the trend is to mid-size or larger, but the extremes are gone — the super big grips and the really thin grips. Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Golfweek.)