MGS LABS: Putter Looks vs. Putter Performance

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Does the way you perceive a putter's looks impact its performance?

The majority of you believe it does. A putter has to look good, to perform well. Am I right?

If a golfer doesn't like the way his putter looks, he's going to miss a comparatively higher number of putts. For many of you, that's the undisputed gospel truth.

In a recent survey we posted on Twitter, 78% of respondents told us that a putter's looks absolutely impact how the putter performs.

looks-poll

Seventy freakin' eight percent. That's massive. It's a huge number to overcome, but hopefully, we can convince some of you that this particular perception might not be reality. Accepting as much could open your eyes to an abundance of putters you may not have considered. Who knows, your game might end up better for it.

About Our Data

ketsch-looks-perf

At the beginning of this year's putter tests, we asked each participating golfer to rate the looks of each putter in the test on a scale of 1 to 10.  At the conclusion of testing, we compared the aesthetic ranking to the actual performance of each putter. The goal was to better understand what, if any, impact Looks (or the perceptions thereof) have on performance.

Do golfers really putt better with putters they believe are better-looking? Here's what we found out.

Group Average: Looks vs. Performance

The chart below compares the five top-rated putters for Looks to the actual performance rank for those selections. Rankings include all golfers who participated in this season's Most Wanted Putter tests. It should be noted that these rankings include both blades and mallets.

Observations:

  • Only two of the Top 5 ranked putters for Looks finished in the Top 10 for Performance.
  • The average performance rank for the putters ranked in the Top 5 for Looks is 18.8.
  • Although mallets were included in the survey, the Top 5 is comprised exclusively of blades.

GROUP AVERAGES: PERFORMANCE vs. LOOKS

In the chart below we examine the average Looks rankings for our Top 5 performing putters of 2016.

Observations:

  • The average Looks rating for the Top 5 performing putters in this year's test was 31.8.
  • None of the Top 5 performing putters was ranked higher than 10 for Looks.
  • While no mallets were listed among the Top 5 rated putters for Looks, 3 of the Top 5 performing putters were mallets.
  • The Odyssey White Hot RX  (ranked 10th) was the most highly-rated putter, on average, for looks among the Top 5 performers.

INDIVIDUAL Top-Rated for Looks vs. Actual Performance

The chart below lists the putters selected as the best-looking by each tester. The bar graph reflects the actual performance rank for that preferred putter. For example, Tester #1 felt the PING Ketsch Heavy was the best-looking putter in this test, however; with regards to actual performance, it ranked 11th overall for Tester #1.

Observations:

  • For five testers, the top rated putter for looks actually performed the best.
  • For 15 testers, the top rated putter for looks was not the best performing.
  • The average performance rank for the individual top-rated putters for looks is 12.35
  • Of 20 testers, only two ranked a mallet #1 for Looks.

INDIVIDUAL TOP-Performing vs. Looks Rank

The chart below lists the Top-Performing putter for each of the 20 testers in this season's test. The bars reflect the Looks ranking each tester assigned to his best performing putter. For example, The Odyssey White Hot RX 2-Ball was the best performing putter for Tester #1. However, he ranked the putter 22nd overall for Looks.

Observations:

  • Five testers felt their top-performing putter was also the best looking.
  • 10 testers listed their top-performing putter among their 10 top choices for Looks.
  • A given individual's top-performing putter was, on average, ranked 15.35 for Looks.

Do looks actually influence putter performance?

When we look at the averages across all testers and all putters, the answer is a definitive no.

4 of the Top 5 performing putters of 2016 were rated in the bottom half of the field for looks. As a group, our testers ranked the #1 performing putter from the 2016 test 38th for looks. Furthermore, three of the Top 5 rated putters for Looks finished outside the top 20 for performance.

While it's true that five testers did putt best with their top choices for Looks, in the majority of those cases, the putter chosen as best-looking on an individual basis was one that performed well across the entire test pool. Simply put, the putters performed well for testers who loved the way they looked as well as the testers who didn't.

In fact, where there is some suggestion of correlation, the individually top-rated putter for Looks finished inside the Top 10 for Performance across all testers.

As the chart shows, it was not uncommon for an individual's top-performing putter to be ranked well below the average for Looks.

In those cases where performance and the perception of good looks appear to align, it's almost certainly a coincidence, not causation. Those putters didn't perform well because individual testers found them visually appealing; more accurately, some testers happened to like the looks of what were proven, by the larger group, to be very good putters. It's also true that many testers gave low aesthetic marks to the mallets that proved to be among the very best performers this season.

But Have You Considered...

We know. Nothing we've shown you today has changed your mind. You remain convinced that looks absolutely matter. You believe that you can't play well if the putter doesn't look good. And despite the fact that year after year we find no significant correlation between the perception of good looks and the reality of good performance, some of you will continue to insist otherwise.

Golfers believe plenty of things that have little basis in reality. That's fine. It's your game.

But have you, even for a moment, considered that you might be wrong? Maybe the best putter isn't the one whose looks you love. Instead of a perfect 10, why not consider an 8, or even a 7. With an open mind and some quantitative data, the results may very well surprise you.

About MyGolfSpy

As the “Consumer Reports of Golf” our mission is to educate and empower golfers. Our goal is to help you get the most out of your time, money and performance.

MyGolfSpy is the only major golf media outlet that accepts ZERO advertising dollars from the biggest golf companies.

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Comments

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Piña January 10, 2017 at 9:43 pm

To a point. For example, the PING putter in the photo above doesn’t look “good” to my eye but the general look is acceptable enough that I could definitely use it. Then there’s some other designs that are just so distracting and strange looking that I simply wouldn’t play them. I think the issue with putters in general is that performance differences are nominal for most players. In most cases, simply finding a player a putter length, loft, and neck that fits their stroke will improve their putting much more drastically than any new insert, alignment aid, MOI, or material.

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Dave Silkroski January 10, 2017 at 12:26 am

Bullseye .

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Robert Dwyer January 9, 2017 at 11:26 pm

If you look down at your shoes and they are ugly you become self conscious, and it affect you. If you look down on an ugly putter same effect. Beauty however is in the eye of the beholder. So ugly to me might be gorgeous to you. Each to his own.

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David Williams January 9, 2017 at 10:24 pm

If I look down at the #1 performing putter and think “I cat line this up, nor putt with it” the “performance” score is irrelevant to me.

There needs to be a certain level of “yeah I love this” to “yeah I could putt with it happily” before any type of performance stuff comes into play.

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Jeff Tavone January 9, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Absolutely. It’s all about confidence in putting. I’ve used the same Yes putter for years now . Love the look of it

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Judd Golden January 9, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Good fit and good grip and all putters perform. Nothing in your test about whether these Putters we’re fit to the testers. Short-term success with a new putter says nothing about long-term performance.

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Paul Kaye January 9, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Confidence and skill are most important part of putting

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Tracey Copeland January 9, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Edels putter fit system is pretty impressive. How your eyes see the shape of the putter can effect how you align with it. Couple that with the types of lines on top or none at all.

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MyGolf Spy January 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm

Everything looks impressive. The only thing that matters though is how those impressive looking things effect a golfer. Meaning does this make him putt better or worse. Lots of theories the only ones worth listening to are those that make you better.

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Tracey Copeland January 9, 2017 at 7:37 pm

I was sold on it after I got fit.

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Kelly Thompson January 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Having designed and developed a very unique looking putter over 10 years ago and putting it on the market, I certainly agree with the conclusion of the article. Very good article and interesting, as usual by you all.

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Mike Wales January 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm

I would say of they do. It almost applies to the placebo effect. If you like the look of it and feel that it matches you, you’ll feel more confident when you use it.

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Tom Duckworth September 28, 2016 at 11:19 am

I always go by what feels best to my swing. I have a moderate arc so certain putters fit that. I like the looks of an 8802 but it just doesn’t feel right. I fight putters that have a strong arc as well as face balanced putters that want a straight stroke. I guess the putters that feel good to me look good to me. Most mallet putters are big and I guess that puts people off but I would still put with one if it felt right.

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Johnny Byrne September 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

It’s like a great meal , if it doesn’t look great, the pleasure is lost .

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Peterpc2828 September 28, 2016 at 8:04 am

Great article, I lean more towards look and style when I comes to buying/ using a putter but since I travel and have to play golf sometimes for work I occasionally rent clubs and have noticed that at times have put supprisingly well with putters I would not even pick up at a golf retailer. Thanks I guess I have to be more open minded

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:41 am

Thanks Peter, glad you enjoyed this one.

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Aaron Estrada September 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

Sabertooth is an eyesore but so easy to putt with

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Bill Presse IV September 28, 2016 at 4:14 am

This is one of the best articles I’ve seen from MGS, well done gents…

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:41 am

Thanks Bill!

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Paul Kielwasser September 28, 2016 at 3:00 am

Good stuff!!!

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Chris Kashich September 28, 2016 at 2:40 am

I use a Seemore Giant and it is as big as the putter Jack used!

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

I found $20 yesterday.

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Nick Wilson September 28, 2016 at 2:25 am

More than feel for me!

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Frank D September 27, 2016 at 10:09 pm

What does a simple scatter plot of looks rank vs performance rank look like? Is there a correlation?

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Les Muck September 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm

I remember Ken Venturi (on an instructional tape) said something to the effect of, “Looks matter. If I give a golfer a club that is perfect for him/her and his/her swing and that golfer doesn’t like the look of that club, they won’t hit it as well as they should. If I give that same golfer a club which doesn’t fit them as well but they love the way it looks, they will hit it better than the more perfectly matched club for their swing. The difference is we golfers don’t seem to be able to have as much confidence in a club that we don’t particularly like the look of when standing over our ball.” He was talking more about woods and irons than putters on that instructional tape but I can’t help but feel it also, at least somewhat, pertains to putters.

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:42 am

I will simply quote the last paragraph of the study as a response and hope you might just consider this:

“We know. Nothing we’ve shown you today has changed your mind. You remain convinced that looks absolutely matter. You believe that you can’t play well if the putter doesn’t look good. And despite the fact that year after year we find no significant correlation between the perception of good looks and the reality of good performance, some of you will continue to insist otherwise.

Golfers believe plenty of things that have little basis in reality. That’s fine. It’s your game.

But have you, even for a moment, considered that you might be wrong? Maybe the best putter isn’t the one whose looks you love. Instead of a perfect 10, why not consider an 8, or even a 7. With an open mind and some quantitative data, the results may very well surprise you.”

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Justin September 27, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I’m pretty sure Scotty had at least one blade putter in the initial testing. I’ve always thought that people are slightly bias against Cameron moreso than for him. There’s no way the majority of people would say the Toulon Madison looks better than a Newport 2. The reason people like the Toulon Madison is because it’s something “new and exciting.” I think Scotty gets knocked because he’s been doing it for so long and that’s unfortunate. He still makes the nicest putter on the market as far as I’m concerned.

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David Couvillon September 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm

OK… now go for cost vs. performance

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

Ohhhh, I like that idea.

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Gary Andrew Ferguson September 30, 2016 at 7:48 am

How about getting the worst putter on test custom fitted to an individual then putting it against the best on test off the shelf.

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steve s October 1, 2016 at 1:04 pm

How about testing cheap putters vs. expensive. Ray Cools, Top Flights, etc.

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Adam Houchens September 27, 2016 at 5:59 pm

It’s 100 percent about performance but has to look good to me

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Brad Robertson September 27, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Too a good putter looks don’t matter!!

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Austin Getz September 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I have his putter. Brand new with matching headcover if anyone wants to buy it :)

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Mbwa Kali Sana September 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

If you are a good putter – I am one – you put well with any kind OF putter .Now ,with THE putters coming on top OF THE GOLFSPYX tests ,you put évén better .I have bought year after year those winners OF GOLFSPYX ,and I have not been disappointed ,my putting average per round is 24/28 puts per round .Today it was évén better ,21 puts .GOLFSPYX Revealed recently THE EVENROLL putters ( I never Heard OF them before ). I immediately ordered one despite it’s high price and cost OF shilling to EUROPE ,plus customs duties .
Let’s see if it performs better than THE other ones I have …
I’m over 82 ,I Play to a handicap OF 7 thanks to m’y putting and short game ,from 100 yards in .
Thank you ,GOLFSPYX

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MyGolfSpy September 28, 2016 at 11:43 am

Glad to hear we have helped your putting and thanks as always Mr Sana.

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Kenny B September 27, 2016 at 1:12 pm

I don’t really care what the putter looks like; it’s what performs the best for me, since I don’t even look at the putter when I make the stroke. Looks only matters to me when it is in my bag!

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Michael French September 27, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I have playing golf for 62 years and looks are not important,only results! As a kid I used a Bullseye,which was a completely different look from the blade putters of that year. When Ping came out with the B69(original hot dog putter) which was considered strange back in the 60’s. I used it for many years. Other golfers laughed until they saw how well I putted and they switched to Ping! In 1988 I started using a Branding Iron by Dynacraft(the original high MOI putter) and other golfers called it my Ugly Stick. Now all you see are variations of this putter. It’s not how they look but they work!!

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jlukes September 27, 2016 at 11:58 am

Definitely an interesting article. Just like with other clubs (mainly irons), a lot of players make their choice on looks. In reality, a player should find the of club that works for them, and then pick their favorite looking one in that style (assuming performance is same or negligibly different).

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PS Chanman September 27, 2016 at 3:49 pm

beauty is in the eye of putts being holed out…

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Dave Alvarado September 27, 2016 at 11:41 am

I wonder if the looks mattering relates to the mental aspect of the game. I think you’re doing a great job with the putter testing, but the one thing missing is the effect of a long-term multi-round commitment. I learned this with the 2015 results–I bought a Ringo 1/4 based on how it performed in testing, but I just couldn’t get along with it. It’s beautiful all blacked out with that simple white alignment line, but I just flat out wasn’t making putts. I’ve since switched to a Scotty roundback which I think is beautiful, but more importantly looking down at it I just trust that the putt is going to go in, and much more often it does.

I don’t know how you test for that in a field of 20 or 30 putters, but I feel it’s a very important consideration when it comes to choosing a putter. Something you trust has to have a strokes gained impact over something that tests well but you hate to look down at.

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jlukes September 27, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Dave – did you get fit into a similar putter before buying the Carbon? Or did you just buy it blind?

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Deon September 27, 2016 at 11:23 am

Hey guys… just a quick comment…. a link to each putter (or even better, a pic) would have been helpful. The whole article is about Looks vs Performance, yet you can’t see how any of the putters look (other than the ketsch mid)

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MyGolfSpy September 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

Thanks for the feedback. Instead of making a traffic jam of pictures we have added links to the putter test so you can view all the putters in the test.

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Gary September 27, 2016 at 11:23 am

Second time I have suggested this, and I believe it is a very relevant factor in putting. How about a putting test with putters that are counterweighted (60 or 80 grams)? Many golfers have the touch and feel of a bull in a china-closet. And I’m not talking about a huge grip that weighs 80-100 grams, I’m talking about a counterweight installed inside the shaft at the grip end.

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MyGolfSpy September 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

We did a counterbalanced test a couple years ago. It showed no benefit in the small scale test we performed.

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Jeremy Williams September 27, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Heck no. I would putt with a turd, if I could putt like a pro.

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Michael Wills September 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I recently went to buy a putter it was time for a change I went with the intent to buy a Scotty Cameron Newport after some testing and talking to the pro who had me roll many putters I left with a Ping Cadence Ansrer2 counterbalanced. It flat out performed for me and after 5 rounds my putts per round are down 4 strokes went from averaging 36 putts per round to 32. Also saved myself 200 bucks going with the ping.

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Brad Taylor September 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm

It doesn’t have to look good but putters are very personal. Looks at address can lead to trust. For me looks help me focus more on the putt in front of me. I don’t like busy looking putters. Trusting the flatstick in the bag matters.

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Tom54 September 27, 2016 at 10:40 am

My putter looks rounded instead of squared, and has no aim line. I was fitted based on that because the fitter thought I made a more natural stroke. Apparently when the putter looks square and has an aim line, I try harder to make a SBST stroke.

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Don September 27, 2016 at 10:29 am

I like your charts but I have a problem reading them my 65 year old eyes can’t read the small type and I ant get it to enlarge am I the only one with this problem?

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MyGolfSpy September 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

Are you viewing them on mobile or a desktop?

We have made them much easier to view on desktop. If you do not have the ability to view on desktop let us know and we can send them to you via: email.

Hope that helps.

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Pointer September 27, 2016 at 11:08 am

My 73 year old eyes agree.
I can pinch spread my fingers on iPhone to expand.

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Pointer September 27, 2016 at 11:14 am

Why is it that the most popular mallet, the Two Ball, is so obviously missing from these tests?

Several of the best female pros and a fair number of the best male pros use the Odyssey Two Ball.

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kevin September 27, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Two Ball is an incredible performing putter!!! So many people buy putters for the beauty and the awesome headcover…. neither of which make a player a good putter. Odysee mallets are all very well performing putters.

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Bryan September 28, 2016 at 6:51 am

I can clearly see odyssey white hot rx 2 ball in each category.

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John Nolan September 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Apparently not

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