When it comes to deciding what putter you want to use, it is an entirely personal decision. Some golfers will always choose a milled putter and others prefer a face insert.
The putter has the ability to cause any golfer emotions ranging from huge elation to complete stress during any given round. Your putter is the club you use most in your bag and arguably has the most influence over your performance.
Choosing a putter can be a difficult decision, with so many types and styles to choose between. However, there are two types of putter that always cause debate among golfers; milled and insert. So, what is the difference and which one should you get?
What is the difference between a milled and insert putter?
A milled putter is one that is made from a solid piece of metal. Most commonly this metal is steel, but putters can be made from a number of different metals.
An insert putter is still made from metal, however the face has been replaced and a different material has been inserted. Typically, many insert putters will have a lighter and softer material added. This material creates a soft feel off the face as well as allowing for redistribution of weight for more forgiveness.
Do milled and insert putters perform differently?
The use of new milling techniques and different insert materials have lessened the difference between milled and insert putters in recent years. However, there are still some common traits that remain true for the majority of putters.
Insert putters tend to feel softer with a deadened sound, compared to the noticeable metal ping of a milled putter. You can find metal and even milled metal insert putters though, which are designed to perform more similarly to a typical milled putter.
The lightweight material used in an insert putter allows for weight to be moved to the perimeter of the putter for improved MOI and better forgiveness. Combined with the softer feel, insert putters are often favored by higher handicappers or golfers that use harder distance golf balls.
Milled putters give an immediate vibration and audible feedback for misstruck putts. This forces putts to be struck more accurately in the centre, which some golfers find produces more consistent results. Milled putters also typically have a slightly firmer feel. However, manufacturers are now using a process known as deep milling to create softer feeling milled putters.
How do I select which putter to use?
Deciding what putter you want to use goes way beyond choosing between milled and insert. That is not to say you won’t have a preference between the two. But, there are so many other factors to consider when choosing a putter and it is about what feels the best to you personally.
You need to select a putter that inspires you with as much confidence as possible. Sometimes there may be no logical reason, but some putters just ‘don’t feel right’. When it comes to putting, this is just as important a factor as anything else.
With so many different styles and ways to personalise your putter available on the market, it is helpful to test out a range of options. You need to select a head shape and weight, hosel/shaft location, shaft length and grip size. All of these factors, on top of whether it is milled or an insert, will influence the way your putter performs and how it feels when you are putting.
Putting fittings are becoming more popular and commonplace among amateur golfers. By using a launch monitor to measure your putting data you can test for spin and roll performance as well as overall consistency. You should definitely not decide what putter to buy simply based on the data alone, but you can use this to help you make a more informed decision. As an added bonus, a PGA Professional can also use these sessions to help improve your putting stroke.
How much should I spend on a putter?
This will essentially come down to your budget, however it is worth noting that some golfers will keep their putters a very long time. So, if you find the perfect putter it could be a worthwhile investment.
Putters can vary in price from $20 to $1000s depending on how old it is, the brand and any specific design features. More expensive putters tend to have the latest technology, but over a certain price point this can become largely redundant and it becomes style and craftsmanship.
Technology has improved forgiveness, with better weight stability and higher quality inserts. However, the advancement of putter technology does not carry the same impact as with the rest of the golf clubs.
Milled putters will tend to carry a higher price tag than insert putters. Milled putters require much more metal and the milling process is incredibly expensive and labor intensive. They are highly durable though and will last several years, if not your whole golfing life.
No matter your budget though, every golfer should be able to find a putter suitable for them.
A putter has the potential to both save and ruin your round. It can be your favorite club or the one you want to throw into the nearest water hazard. Buying a putter is so personal that nobody else can tell you whether you’ve made the right or wrong decision.
When it comes to choosing between a milled or insert putter you might have a specific preference. However, make sure you do not blindly reject an entire section of putters on a preconceived idea from one putter you tried 10 years ago. You may just be surprised at the performance of all modern putters, regardless of which face they have.
With that being said, if you are a golfer that uses hard golf balls then a soft face insert might help with your feel when putting. Equally, low handicap golfers that like more feedback or regularly putt on fast greens may prefer a milled face.
There are no definitive rules though, so try out as many options as you need before you are happy with your choice. Just remember that getting a newer or more expensive putter is unlikely to improve your putting performance. But, it might help your confidence.
When you do finally find a putter you are confident with, keep hold of it!