Nothing is more obvious than a straight line. That is why the Shaftlign putter works. It is one of those ideas that is so obvious -- there's that word again -- you wonder why it hasn't been done before or done this well.
The Shaftlign CJ1 putter model was designed by Louisiana-based inventor Clay Judice, an avid golfer. He needed something to help with his putting problems. All right, he'll be honest, he was battling the yips. Necessity is the mother of invention but the yips, they're just a mother.
Judice tried using a longer belly putter and, in fact, had started a nice business selling the Belly Putt, an adjustable club he designed so golfers could turn their regular-length putters into belly putters. Then the USGA announced its ban on anchored putting. At its peak, Judice was selling 70 Belly Putts a day online. "As soon as the USGA came out with that ruling, my business was killed overnight," Judice said.
So you've still got the yips and anchored putting is illegal. Now what do you do? Judice went back to the drawing board.
"In retrospect, alignment was always an issue for me," Judice said. "When I got to those three-footers, the alignment killed me. My yips were caused by insecurity on the speed. It wasn't necessarily hitting the target line, it was hitting the putt the right speed or distance."
He experimented with a putter that had a stripe down the shaft to help with consistent alignment. That was promising but not quite what he wanted. Then he came up with a modification that led to the Shaftlign.
One look at the club and you get the idea because, remember, it's obvious. (Check the video at Shaftlign.com, which is the only place you can purchase the putter besides golfballs.com, by the way.) The Shaftlign has a white shaft attached to a black putter head. Atop the putter head is a white bar from toe to heel. All you do is address the putt until the white shaft aligns with the white bar. When you've got it right, all you see is one long, unending white line to the toe of the club.
Judice knew he was onto something after he passed out the first batch of prototypes to some friends, which included four former Louisiana state amateur champions -- good players. They liked the putter and began playing with it.
Judice showed a prototype model at this year's PGA Show in Orlando. He wasn't ready to mass-produce the putter then but he wanted more feedback. One show attendee grabbed the putter for a look and said, "Oh, that is cool. It reminds me of the old Bulls Eye." Judice checked the man's name tag. He was Steve Jones, former PGA Tour player. "Hey, you won the U.S. Open," one of Judice's friends said. Jones smiled and nodded and said something approving about the putter.
The Shaftlign CJ1 has a milled face and a soft-but-not-too-soft feel. I added it to my bag with modest expectations but after two rounds, I'm feeling pretty good about it. I like the way the ball comes off the face smoothly, and I feel more confident that I am aligned correctly. I close one eye and look down the white shaft until it merges into the white putterhead bar. Then I know my alignment is set and I can start the stroke. It's a comforting routine.
"There are two types of putters, those who use horizontal lines and those who use perpendicular," Judice said. "Everybody wants to use the horizontal line on top of or behind the putter head because it seems the most logical. In reality, it is the most difficult to line up and very few golfers line it up accurately. Perpendicular is the most consistent but you're not as comfortable with it until you get used to it. Your brain leads you to the exactness you need with that perpendicular white line."
That may not be obvious but the Shaftlign is. The Shaftlign CJ1 comes in two versions, milled ($249) and milled face ($199).