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Arnold Palmer says no. Sir Nick says, sure, why not. Keegan Bradley won the PGA with it, the first ever major won with a long putter. Adam Scott resurrected his career with it. As did Freddy Couples. It’s easier on the back. It takes the left hand, if held still, out of the stroke completely. It creates a pendulum action on par with a grandfather clock. But should it be legal? The King is very clear on this, saying that no golf club should be anchored to the body. Anchoring the club to the body, as with the belly or long putter, creates an advantage that a free swinging putter does not have. It removes a variable that has been with golfers since the inception of the game.  To hold the butt end of the club against the body provides a stability unavailable to those using putters of usually no more than 35 inches.

It’s a matter of confidence, which is at the core of successful putting. Putting simulates the movements of a pendulum, and a golfer’s skill is dependent upon how pendulum-like he or she can control the club. If the end of the club is fixed to the torso, half of the work is being done by the torso, not by the ability of the player to keep the body, especially the head, still. No other club in the bag affords this kind of advantage.

On the other hand, the USGA and the R and A assert that it will bring more people into the game, giving golf the boost it needs. They argue that long putters have been around a long time, and they haven’t created an unfair advantage, according to the stats. Phil tried one, and quickly went back to his traditional putter. Bernhardt Langer has used one with great success on the Champions Tour, but he hasn’t dominated that Tour, as Hale Irwin did with the standard putter a few years before. Luke Donald has played over 350 holes, to date, without a 3-putt, using a standard putter–an absolutely amazing statistic as all of us true golfers know.

I tried a long putter once, as a trial, but couldn’t get the hang of it. It seemed cumbersome and unwieldy, heavy and awkward. And I was still left with the eternal conundrum of putting: determining direction and speed. The long putter won’t do this for you, nor will it make it that much easier to do so. It requires you keep your left hand rock still and anchored against your chest. This is an important distinction since it is not the putter against your chest but your left hand (right hand for the left-hander), which makes it a little less anchored. As for the belly putter, you need to not have much of a belly for it to be effective. Most of us amateurs have too much of a belly too keep the butt end of the club quiet. With this putter, you hold the club with two hands but move the entire upper torso to effect the stroke. It takes the hands, wrists, and arms out of the stroke. I think you lose feel with this method, since the hands, wrists, arms translate a great deal of sensitive information to the brain. And when trying to coordinate direction and speed, that information is vital.

So I don’t have a problem with keeping these putters legal. The long putter can help many of us who have bad backs, since you can stand up straighter at address and throughout the stroke. And the belly putter can be an inspiration for many of us to reduce the size of our bellies. Will they lower your handicap? I doubt it. Will they motivate more people to take up golf? Possibly but not probably. I say let the free market decide. In ten years, they may be an historic aberration–I’ve seen almost no one on the public courses which I play use them– or the reason for golf’s resurgence. Handicaps will be about the same as they have been for the last 50 years.

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9 Responses to The Anchored Putter

  1. Will Dugdale says:

    I agree with you entirely, Stephen.

    I use a belly putter, and when it works well it works brilliantly! On the other hand can go cold just like any other putter.

    You’re right that you can lose some feel using a long putter, and that it’s not always an advantage. When you choose to use one or not is entirely up to you and you do so knowing there are advantages and disadvantages.

    If it were blatantly easier to putt with a belly putter or a long putter, then we’d all be doing it and of course there would then be no advantage for anyone.

    Thinking that there is some unchallengeable way of playing our wonderful game seems to me to disregard all of the technological advances that have been made since golf started. Even though the R&A and USGA should in my opinion draw a line in the sand on driver head sizes and head “springiness”, as thankfully they have now done, golf is really about getting the ball finally into the hole and we should be able to do this in any way that is not blatantly unfair.

    PS since I found it so hard to find instructional tips on how to use a belly putter, I put up a webpage of my own (I used to be a touring professional). You can find it at http://www.best-putter.com/belly-putter-instructions.html

    • Thanks very much for your comments, Will, especially that it adds perspective from a former touring pro. You know golf from a highly competitive angle and realize that the game is more challenge than any technological advance can overcome. There are just too many variables, the most daunting of which is the human mind. I will check out your website. Who knows: maybe the long putter will help me sink more of those 5-foot par putts.
      Wishing you much golfing pleasure in the new year.

  2. Marcel White says:

    Hello Stephen,
    I really like your blog, your thoughts and your writing. I looked for a way to contact you but couldn’t find any so I decided to do it here. I’m sorry for that.
    The point is that I wrote a comment to this post that wasn’t accepted. Of course you have the right to choose but I’m not sure if the cause was poor quality, comments closed, or a slight disagreement about a few details. Or, perhaps, there was a problem and you didn’t receive it at all. It would be nice to know.
    Congratulations for the high quality of the blog.
    Marcel White

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I’m so sorry your previous comment was not accepted, Marcel. I don’t recognize your name so I’m sure it was a technical glitch. I only reject comments that are unintelligible or completely off the mark. I’ll accept most of what comes in even those who don’t agree and can be downright rude. So, please, feel free to comment anytime, in response to any post, past or present.
      I’m happy you enjoy the blog. Please spread the word about it, and, if you’re so inclined, please subscribe. It’s free, and you’ll be notified of my new posts straight away. I’m curious about your putting lines ebook and will check it out. Perhaps we could exchange links. I’ll contact you via email.
      Thanks, Marcel. Hope to hear from you again.

      • Marcel White says:

        I’m glad to know it was an “accident” and will post the comment again. I look forward to your contact via email and I’m sure we’ll find ways to cooperate.
        All the best.

  3. Marcel White says:

    Hi Stephen,

    This is an interesting subject I love to discuss. But your post was so well written, so balanced and showing a so educated manner that I must be careful to keep the overall tone. Let me try.
    I’m an amateur, I don’t use belly or long putters and don’t like seeing golf pros using it. When this subject is discussed there are several points that, in my opinion, miss the target. Let’s see some of them.

    a) “The long putter can help many of us who have bad backs”
    Yes! It’s true, but the young Keegan Bradley, that certainly spends several hours a day hitting balls, doesn’t have that kind of problem to make putts with a normal putter. This is just an example, not any kind of animosity towards him.

    b) ”It will bring more people into the game, giving golf the boost it needs”
    Perhaps, but don’t bet on that. My experience is that are the most challenging activities that attract people the most. I’m sure that doubling hole’s diameter would make golf easier but I suspect it would not attract lots of people to the game.

    c) “long putters have been around a long time, and they haven’t created an unfair advantage, according to the stats”
    The stats mainly refer to people that used normal putters for decades and then changed to those new devices. No wonder that they are not getting the most out of it. But wait for the young guys that started using it as they learned golf and perhaps there will be surprises.

    You said “I’ve seen almost no one on the public courses which I play use them”. The same happened to me. This isn’t, definitely, an amateur’s problem. Who cares if someone conceded a 5 ft putt to his buddy? Or if someone with back problems uses a special device to putt? The great majority of amateurs are in the golf course just for fun and if they move fast and respect golf etiquette, let them enjoy. This will attract people. But golf pros, in my opinion, should play the game as it has always been.

    Congratulations for your site and the useful posts we can find there.

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      Some great points here, Marcel. I agree with your aversion to these broomsticks. Golf clubs have evolved but holding a club against your body for stability gives an unfair advantage. And, yes, this should apply to pros but not amateurs. I’ll have more to say on rules and specifications for amateurs versus touring pros in an upcoming post.
      Thanks very much for your good comments.

  4. Marcel White says:

    Hi Stephen,

    It seems that this discussion ends here. Finally the governing bodies of Golf decided to end the scandal of anchoring the putter. Why it took so long I don’t know but recently there was further alarm when 14-year old China-born Guan Tialang won the right to tee up in next year’s Masters and British Open using a belly putter to win the coveted Asian Amateur title.

    I am a common golfer and wrote this, months ago: “The stats mainly refer to people that used normal putters for decades and then changed to those new devices. No wonder that they are not getting the most out of it. But wait for the young guys that started using it as they learned golf and perhaps there will be surprises.”

    If I was able to anticipate it, why didn’t the experts? I don’t know but I’m very happy with this ruling!

    Marcel White

    • Stephen Altschuler says:

      I too am happy with the ruling, Marcel, although, other than in USGA or R&A sanctioned competition, I have no problem with amateurs using and anchoring putters. My definition of bifurcation is that amateurs can define the game according to what they decide at the first tee, either by themselves or with their playing partners. As far as competition is concerned, I completely agree with the governing bodies. There has to be one standard for competition, amateur and professional.
      Thanks for commenting.

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