Keeping in Balance

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Frank,

Can you explain why some say face balanced putters are ill suited for someone using an arced putting stroke?  Does the face of face balanced putter have a tendency to close with this putting method?  If so why?

Thanks!

– Kevin

Kevin,

There is a little confusion about face balancing, which happens to be a very good design for putters. If the putting stroke and face balancing were better understood there would be no question as to the benefits of face balancing.

First, let me explain exactly what face balancing is and then describe why it is the preferred design for a putter.

If you balance a putter between the arms of a chair, the center of gravity of the head will try to align itself with the shaft axis in a vertical plane. If the center of gravity is directly in line with the shaft axis the head will take on a random position each time you place it between the arms of the chair. If the putter is face balanced the face will point directly upward which means that the center of gravity is aligning itself with, but directly below the axis of the shaft.

When the putter is in this position and I apply an upward force to the shaft close to the head, the putter face will not change its orientation. This is good because when you accelerate the putter into the impact position, from the start of the forward swing, what you are trying to do is keep the face at right angles to the path. A face balanced putter will try to correct for an open or closed face – relative to the path of the head.

A good putting stroke has a natural vertical and horizontal arc dictated by the axis of rotation and the plane of the swing. The horizontal arc is dictated by the plane of the swing, i.e. ball position (under your eyes), relative to the axis of rotation, which should be between the shoulders at the base of your neck.

In the forward stroke, the shoulders, the arms, hands and the putter are essentially one single unit. If the axis point of this unit, the ball and the target were all in a vertical plane then the stroke would be in a vertical plane like a true pendulum. If this was the case then there would be no horizontal arc that the putter head followed.

Fortunately, our personal physiology dictates the arc the putter head will follow. We should not fight or try to alter this natural arc. Knowing this and understanding that the putter face should always be at right angles to the arc, a face-balanced putter will try to align itself if it is slightly off during forward swing  to arrive at impact in the correct position. This correction is due to the acceleration forces we apply to the shaft during the forward part of the putting stroke.

If the putter is not face-balanced – toe down when between the two arms of the chair -- there is a slight tendency during the forward part of the stroke for the face to open. These forces are very small but we don’t want any sources of error to interfere with a perfect stroke.

Kevin, everybody should putt with the natural arc and a face-balanced putter is the best for this or any other style of putting.

Hope this helps.
Frank

Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com