Center-Shafted Putters Pros and Cons

Example of a center shafted putter
A "center-shafted putter" is one in which the shaft attaches to the putter's clubhead at or near the center relative to the clubface. Many putters have a sightline, an aiming aid, on the top of the putter head to mark the center of the putter's clubface. A putter with a center shaft is a putter whose shaft enters the clubhead closer to that sightline than to the heel.

Most putters are heel-shafted, and all other golf clubs are heel shafted: The shaft attaches to the clubhead at the heel end. (A clubhead's heel is the part closest to the golfer at address; the toe is the part farthest from the golfer at address.) Putters are the only clubs in which a center shaft is permitted.

We'll get into the pros and cons of center-shafted putters, and what types of golfers might want to try one, below. But first, let's take a quick look into the history of center-shafted putters.

Development, Ban, Tour Use of Center-Shafted Putters

The first center-shafted putter to gain notice was called the Schenectady. As you can see in the following photo, its shaft attached about halfway between the center sightline and the heel, and it was, for its time, a mallet.

The Schenectady putter was patented in 1903 by Arthur Knight of Schenectady, New York. It caught the golf world off-guard when Australian-born Walter Travis, a naturalized American citizen, used the Schenectady to become the first American winner of the British Amateur Championship in 1904.

The Schenectady was the first center shafted putter
The British golfers that year couldn't get over the feeling that a putter with a shaft like that was just ... wrong. The controversy over center-shafting grew, and in 1910, the R&A banned center-shafted putters. But with center-shafted putters becoming common in golf, the USGA declined to follow suit.

While center-shafting other golf clubs remained illegal under the rule, center-shafted putters were legal under USGA and illegal under R&A rules through 1951. In 1952, the governing bodies came together to produced a single set of rules, and the R&A relented. Center-shafted putters have been legal under the Rules of Golf ever since.

What about today — how common is usage of center-shafter putters by the pros? An article published on Golf.com in 2020 stated that, on the PGA Tour, "less than 10 percent of the field on a given week" uses a center-shafted putter. So heel-shafted putters are definitely the strong preference of most better golfers.

But there have been some big stars win some major championships in the modern era using a putter with a center shaft. Those include, as Golf.com pointed out, Payne Stewart at the 1999 U.S. Open and Adam Scott at the 2013 Masters. Both of Zach Johnson's major championship wins came with a center-shafted putter.

Pros and Cons: Golfers Who Might Want to Try Center Shaft

One of the key technical aspects of center-shafted putters is that they are usually face-balanced. That is, the balace point of the clubface is in the middle. Why is that important? Face-balanced putters, and, therefore, center-shafted putters, are best-suited to golfers who use a straight-back-and-through putting stroke. So if your stroke is an arc (also called a swinging gate stroke), center-shafted putters probably aren't for you.

However, if you are currently using a heel-shafted putter that is toe-balanced and find that your misses tend to be toward the push side of the hole, a center-shafted putter is worth trying.

If you like to use a forward press to start your putting stroke, a center-shafted putter is probably not for you. With this type of putter, a forward press, because of the shaft position, can obscure part of the golf ball. At the very least, that's a distraction.

Related to that, most heel-shafted putters have offset shafts. Most center-shafted putters don't. If you are accustomed to using an offset putter (and most of us are), then standing over a center-shafted putter can look a little ... off.

So a center-shafted putter is best suited to golfers who use a straight-back-and-through putting stroke, who stand at address with their eyes directly over the ball, and who do not use a forward press.

One of the biggest obstacles to switching to a center-shafted putter is simply the different look at address. Since heel-shafted putters are what most of us have played our entire golfing lives, the different look of a center shaft can feel really weird at first. But, in the end, what it all comes down to in putting is feel and results.

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