Of the three types of clubs - woods, irons, and putters - putters have the most drastic design differences. An iron will always look like an iron, but a putter can look like anything from a simple piece of metal to futuristic space debris. Designed to keep the ball on the ground, there have been many different styles of putters throughout golf's long history as technlogy has changed. Putting, perhaps more than any other kind of shot, relies most heavily on feel. Putters can be defined primarily by club's head shape, the placement of the golf shaft, and the design of the club face.
There are three primary clubhead shapes for putters: blade, mallet, and heel-toe weighted (sometimes called peripheral-weighted).
Blade putters are the oldest and most simple putters; they look a bit like small hockey sticks. They are affixed with a straight shaft and weighted on the toe side. Mostly used by older golfers, Jack Nicklaus famously used this style of putter far after many of his contemporaries had changed putter styles.
Mallet putters are fatter than blade putters, vaguely resembling a wood. These putters have a lower center of gravity and tend to be more forgiving than blade putters. This means that when putts are not hit perfectly, the ball will deviate less from the target line.
Heel-toe weighted putters can look a variety of ways, but in general they have more material at the ends of the putter. This added weight allows for heel-toe weighted putters have more forgiveness than blade putters but with a similar feel. A popular example are "anser" style putters. A variation of the blade putter, the anser putter is a blade putter with a hunk of the middle part of the clubhead missing.
There are also three common kinds of shaft place for putters: off-set, heel-shafted, and center-shafted.
Most putters feature and straight shaft that is offset from the club by a bent piece of metal called a hosel that connects the putter head to the shaft. This allows for the displacement of force during impact and can aid in aiming.
Heel-shafted putters attach the shaft directly to the heel side of the club without the use of a bent hosel. Many simply blade putters feature heel shafts.
Center-shafted putters attach the shaft directly to the middle of the club head. This is really only useful for golfers who putt with their head directly above the ball.
Club Face Design
The three primary face designs for putters are: smooth-faced, groove-faced, and insert-faced.
Smooth-faced putters, like their name suggests, maintain a smooth surface on the face of the putter. This allows for a truer hit and greater feel in your putt. However, they can also make it easier to hit an errant putt if your swing isn't perfect.
Groove-faced putters have grooves placed on the putter's face to create friction with the golf ball. The purpose is to create top spin and help the ball leave the club on a straight trajectory.
Insert-faced putters contain an piece of softer material, usually synthetic rubber, placed inside the club face. The ball should make contact with the softer insert when putting. They may be either smooth or grooved, and allow for a softer feel while putting.