A Do-It-Yourself Approach to Putter Fitting

'A' is lie angle; 'B' is declination angle; 'L' is shaft length. Illustration courtesy Duane Engdahl; used with permission

Elsewhere we have some general guidelines on putter lengths that can help you determine whether you need a conventional putter, belly putter or long putter.

But what if the choice you're facing is more specific than that - say, between a 33-inch putter and a 35-inch putter? Or between a slightly more upright or flatter lie angle? A visit to a clubfitter for a putter fitting is the traditional solution to that question.

And it's a good one - a clubfitting is never a bad thing, and is always recommended.

But the more adventurous out there - particularly the do-it-yourselfers - might consider a method described by Duane Engdahl with Quantum Golf Putters.

Mr. Engdahl first posted his do-it-yourself putter fitting method as a comment to a long-lost post, but we reprint his commentary here:

Shaft Length Considerations

The taller your physical stature, the longer the putter shaft you'll need; the lower you grip the shaft in your stance, the shorter the shaft you'll need; and the farther you stand away from the ball in your stance, the longer the shaft you'll need.

So what is the best way to find out what shaft length is best for you?

Go to your local hardware store and buy a wood dowel-rod which has a diameter about the size of your current putter grip and is a little longer than your current putter. Then go to the practice green and putt a few balls with this dowel-rod, doing your best to perform a proper putting stroke.

Of course, this will be difficult without the mass of a putter head to stabilize the stroke, but that's the point of doing this.

Now move your grip down the rod (bending into a more crouched stance) to see if the difficulty improves or worsens. If it gets worse, then move your grip up the rod (straightening your stance).

Continue this until you find your optimum grip location (you will probably be surprised how far down the "shaft" you find your optimum grip to be).

Next change the other aspects of your stance until you find their optimum, too - spread your legs farther, then closer; move in on the ball and then out from it; move forward from center and then back of it. Eventually you will find your optimum style and stance.

Sure, this is a lot of trouble and you might have some explaining to do at the practice green when other golfers see you putting with a dowel-rod. But it's all well worth it because finding your optimum stance and shaft length is a major requirement in perfecting your putting game.

After you find the stance and length that produces the most stable stroke, make a mark on the dowel rod about two inches above the heel of the top hand of your grip - one inch to allow for the height of the putter head and another inch to give some leeway for your grip.

Then measure the length from the working end of the dowel-rod to your mark. Round that up to the next whole inch, and this is your optimum putter shaft length.

This figure is the shaft length you should request when ordering your next putter.

Shaft Angle (or Lie Angle) of Putter

Shaft angle (a k a lie angle and represented by "A" in the diagram) is the angle of the shaft as measured from horizontal; declination angle (B) is this angle as measured from vertical. So declination angle is the 90-degree complement of lie angle, and vice-versa. USGA Rules require putters to have a minimum 10-degree declination angle and that equals a maximum 80-degree lie angle.

As with shaft length (L), your best shaft angle depends upon your physical stature and your putting style and stance.

Here is how you find your best lie angle:

  • On a sunny afternoon take a golf ball and the dowel-rod you used to find your best shaft length, along with a friend who has a digital camera, and find a vertical reference point such as a street light, utility pole or flag pole.
  • Put a ball in the shadow of this vertical reference and using your perfected putting style and stance, get ready to putt the ball down the shadow line.
  • Then have your friend go farther down the shadow line and take a picture of you, making sure that some of the shadow, some of the vertical reference that is casting the shadow, and all of you is in this picture.

After this picture is printed, it will be easy to use a protractor to find your optimum declination angle (it's the angle between the shaft and the vertical reference), then subtract that angle from 90 degrees to get your perfected shaft angle.

This is the lie angle you should use when ordering your next putter.