July 29, 2020
By GolfWRX, PGATOUR.COM
- Charl Schwartzel posted his best PGA TOUR finish in more than two years last week at the 3M Open. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The unique-looking back-shafted putter that Charl Schwartzel has used for the last 18 months – and that helped carry him to a T-3 finish in last week’s 3M Open -- initially had to be retrieved from a trash can at PXG headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Depending on your view of the aesthetics of the putter, perhaps you’d be tempted to snicker. But given that the South African just posted his best PGA TOUR finish in more than two years, gaining nearly a stroke on the field with his putter, you’re likely more intrigued by the science behind the putter and why it’s so effective for Schwartzel.
First, the backstory.
According to a PXG spokesman, the putter was an early prototype that never moved into production. In fact, the company already had scrapped the design before Schwartzel visited headquarters to work with PXG engineers.
“Charl initially expressed interest in testing an armlock style putter,” the PXG spokesman said. “After testing out a traditional armlock design, Charl explained he was looking for more forward shaft lean, while maintaining the forward ball position he always uses. This couldn’t be achieved with a traditional head design.
“Thinking about the requirements, we grabbed a back-shafted design out of a scrap bin; it had dents and scratches all over from chucking it in the trash. We built up the putter and Charl instantly felt that it was a much more natural fit.”
Analytics likely played a part in Schwartzel’s search for a putting change.
In 2010, his Strokes Gained: Putting average was 0.899. He made just 11 PGA TOUR starts that year, with 36 rounds played, so he did not meet the minimum required number of rounds played to officially qualify for any statistical categories. Had he did, he would’ve ranked No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Putting that year, ahead of the official No. 1, Luke Donald (0.874 average).
The next season, Schwartzel won the Masters. But since then, his putting numbers have fallen off. In 2013, he ranked 43rd in Strokes Gained: Putting. In 2014: T-86. In 2015: 169th. In 2016: 124th.
He climbed back inside the top 100 in the category in 2017 and 2018 but was still not satisfied.
But then PXG pulled the putter out of its trash bin and into Schwartzel’s bag just prior to the 2019 Puerto Rico Open. The payoff was immediate, as Schwartzel finished T-6, ending a string of four consecutive missed cuts and a WD.
Two months later, a wrist injury knocked him out of action for nearly the rest of 2019. But he’s back now and looking to make some noise in his next start at the PGA Championship with his 37-inch, heavy-handed mallet. His Strokes Gained: Putting average this season is 0.398, which ranks him 37th on TOUR.
So, what’s the science behind it?
“The shaft location is behind the center of gravity, so the golfer is pulling the head on the backstroke instead of pushing it,” said the PXG spokesman. “Our initial concept was that pulling the head makes it easier to start the head on its path consistently. The configuration creates significant forward shaft lean while keeping the ball position more forward in a player’s stance, two aspects that Charl specifically requested.
“Ergonomics plays a key role in the armlock style of putting, and this putter fits Charl’s stance more naturally.”
While the putter length is a bit longer than standard, PXG said the club is not counterbalanced to counteract the weight of the head.
“We actually added more weight to the PXG club head based on Charl’s feedback,” the spokesman said. “We have found that players tend to like significantly heavier builds with the armlock style. The tricky part with this putter was measuring the loft, lie, and length because it does not fit in our standard measurement fixtures.”
Nothing seems standard about the club, which continues to create a buzz with each tight camera shot. But it’s certainly working for Schwartzel.