Putter Designs

First putter head with polymer backed face 1995 - Golfsmith Insulator Putter

Most people who design wood and ironheads do not design putter heads, and vice versa. Some of the most well-known putter designers such as John Reuter (Bulls-Eye), Otey Chrisman, Scotty Cameron, and Bobby Grace, just to name a few, restrict their design talents only to putters. The Insulator putter was created by Tom in an effort to design a putter head with soft feel for use with the hard, 2-piece ball construction types but with a metal striking face for less friction between the ball and the putter face. Granted, while this was a relatively ugly putter head shape for which Tom would admit deserving a “thumbs down” in response, the technology for delivering a soft impact feel with harder golf balls while still reducing friction between the face and the ball was a sound clubhead design innovation.

First Putter head with vertical CG positioned at same height as the CG of the golf ball 2001 - Snake Eyes Straight In Putters

The diameter of a golf ball is 1.68″, which means its center of gravity (CG) is located 0.89″ (22.6mm) up from the surface upon which the ball is sitting. The vast majority of putters have always been designed with a face height of 1″ (25mm). With most of a putter head’s mass located on the lower half of the head, this causes the CG of the putter head to be well below the CG of the ball. This can result in the ball being “lifted” up slightly at impact which can result in an inconsistent roll and lack of distance control with the putt.

Back in the 1970s, the former PGA Golf Company introduced a putter which took the appearance of a flanged sole putter head turned upside down so that the protrusion of the flange stuck out from the top of the putter head. The model was designed to move more mass high on the putter head in an effort to induce less backspin and more forward roll on the putt. However, this design did not actually move the CG of the putter head up that far because its face height was still made to be in the conventional putter head range of 24mm.

The family of Snake Eyes Straight-In putters were designed to achieve a CG position precisely level with the CG of the golf ball by designing the heads with a much taller face height. The heads were designed from soft aluminum in the center of the head and face, and with tungsten heel and toe sections to also greatly increase the MOI and off-center putt performance of the models. The Snake Eyes Straight-In putters became the first putter head design to deliver the CG position of the putter head directly in line with the CG of the ball to more effectively increase the potential for the ball to begin rolling with overspin sooner after impact.

First putter head with ultra-low friction, ultra-thin face insert to reduce putt side spin 2002 - Golfsmith Friction Free Putter 2003 - Wishon Golf Smoooth Series Putters

Pulling or pushing the putt are common putting mistakes among all golfers. Putters made with a soft face insert or with a milled face increase the friction between the putter face and the ball. The softer the face insert, or the more rough the surface of the face from milling, the more the ball can be “grabbed”at impact by a pulled or pushed putting stroke, and potentially hit more off-line. Both the Friction Free and Smoooth Series putters were designed with a highly polished face surface to reduce the friction between the face and the ball. From this low friction face, the golfer had a greater chance of sliding putts in the side of the hole that would have been pulled or pushed outside the hole due to the much higher friction of a soft face insert or CNC machined face on the putter.

First putter design with interchangeable faces for different loft fitting options 2007 – Wishon Golf CLF Series Putters

Loft is a specification on putters that directly affects how the ball takes off from the face and how soon the ball is able to achieve a consistent roll on the green. Achieving a consistent roll of the ball on the green with each putt is a key to consistent distance control with the putt. Too much loft on the putter lifts the ball up at impact, causes the ball to bounce on the green when it lands and from this, to take longer to achieve a consistent topspin roll. Too little loft on the putter pinches the ball between the putter face and the green, which in turn can cause the ball to hop up and also create problems with a lack of consistent roll and distance control.

Because golfers vary in their angle of attack with the putter into the ball, loft is a specification that needs to be custom fit to each golfer’s putting stroke so they can achieve the most consistent roll of the ball off the face for more consistent distance control with the putt. Technically, the loft of the putter can be changed by bending the hosel. However, the problem with this is that once the hosel is bent to change the loft, the putter head will never sit square when the putter is allowed to rest flat on its sole on the green. After loft is adjusted on a putter, the golfer has to hold the putter face square with a portion of the sole hovering off the green. The net result is another form of consistency problem with the putter.

Tom designed the CLF Series putters to accept an assortment of CNC machined face pieces, each face piece machined with a different loft angle so that golfers could be custom fit for loft and still have the putter retain a square address position to the ball. The different loft faces could be secured to the face by two machine screws attached through the back of the putter head to the rear of the machined face pieces.