I’ve been talking a bit with David Edel of Edel Golf and just read this research study on putting from Norwegian scientists Johnny Nilssen and Jon Karlsen aimpointgolf.com/docs/Karlsen2010.pdf
Edel Golf (www.edelgolf.com) makes custom putters. The first thing they try to do is fit the putter to the way you aim. They use a laser to determine how you aim the putter from about 6 feet. And you can use your routine to aim, even if you use the line on the ball to aim (the line on the ball trick actually doesn’t work all that well, contrary to what people think). The laser will then show if you tend to aim left of the cup, right of the cup or at the cup. They can also check to see if you de-loft the putter or add loft to the putter at address. They have…IIRC…30 million options of putter heads, hosel designs, and aim lines and sight dots. When they first measure you, they will try to ‘steer’ you in the right direction. Let’s say you tend to aim right of the target…they will then use their knowledge of what types of putter head designs, hosels and aim lines/sight dots that promote a ‘left aim bias’ and keep working to figure out what will get you to keep aiming more left until you are naturally aiming at the target. Then from there once they get that down, they will fit you for your putter shaft and weight to see what works best.
Anyway, the aim part is something David has studied a lot on. There’s a book out by Golf Magazine where he they have a bunch of putting ‘gurus’ and they each write their own chapter. David had his own chapter and he goes over in detail about how to pick a putter and what putters and aim lines/sight dots (and even putter length effects aiming) do what.
From what I’ve read from a different study and the study that Nilssen and Karlsen did, most right handed golfers tend to aim left of the target with putts. Another study, done by David Orr, had the number breakdown like this
55% aim left
25% aim right
20% aim at target
So 80% of golfers cannot aim straight from 6 feet away.
When speaking to Edel, he mentioned that eye dominance plays a factor. Most right handed golfers are also right eye dominant. Thus, they can’t help but use the back part of the putter head to aim their putts. When you use the back part of the putter head, you’re more likely to aim left of the target. Conversely, left eye dominance means the right handed golfer will be using more of the front part of the putter head to aim and that usually causes them to aim right. That’s why you see the breakdown of 55% aim left, 25% aim right, 20% aim straight.
Well, here’s the problem with modern putters. All of those putters with all of those alignment lines and sight dots promote and square edges (i.e. Ping Anser) promote left aim bias. Those giant heads promote left aim bias. The 2-ball putter promotes left aim bias.
And these are the most popular selling putters.
In fact, Edel told me that a large chunk of the golfers he fits wind up not needing any aim line or sight dot on their putter at all….y’know…old school putters.
Also, the Nilssen and Karlsen study says that their subjects claimed that they believed the mallet putters were easier to aim. However, they actually aimed the blade (Ping Anser, Ping Zing, etc designed putters) much better than the popular mallets. They aimed the blades not only more closer to the target, but their dispersion in aim was much tighter. This despite the fact that they believed the mallets were easier to aim.
Also, the Karlsen and Nilssen study showed that the subjects putted much more accurately with heavier putter shafts. They said the problem is that you can only go so heavy with the putter shaft before the golfer doesn’t like the feel of the heaviness of the shaft. But they did putt well with heavier shafts.