You may as well put your broomstick in the closet, folks. Say sayonara to your beloved belly. It’s only a matter of time before they ban the long putter.
Word on the street is that golf’s rulemakers, the USGA and R&A, will soon announce an end to “anchoring,” the practice of placing the butt of a long or belly putter against the body to create a fixed-fulcrum, pendulum stroke. While belly and long putters have been around for decades, recent major victories by pros including Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els have put these magic wands in the spotlight.
It may soon be lights out.
There are solid arguments on both sides about why extra-long putters should or shouldn’t get the heave-ho.
Those in favor of a ban make two primary points: 1) Anchoring eliminates hand and wrist action while providing a set pivot point, which effectively takes nerves and stroke imperfections out of the equation and gives users an advantage in crunch time; and 2) It looks silly.
Golfers who want long putters to remain legal – most of whom rely on them to make a living – note that there’s no statistical data showing the clubs provide an edge. Simpson points out that none of the PGA Tour’s top 20 in the “strokes gained putting” category this year wielded a long putter.
Back to the “ban ’em” camp. Anti-long-putter types cite examples of players like Els and Adam Scott, whose putting clearly received a boost after they switched. (Forget Scott’s Open Championship meltdown, which handed the Claret Jug to Mr. Els.) The other side counters that many more golfers’ fortunes have flourished after a mere grip change (Chris DiMarco, Mark Calcavecchia et al).
Heard anyone suggest outlawing left-hand-low lately?
Indeed, the supposed benefits of anchoring are hardly cut-and-dried. If they were, every player would use one. Imagine if aluminum bats were legal in the big leagues, or stickum reintroduced to the NFL. Think you’d see any center fielders swinging Louisville Sluggers, or receivers going bare-handed?
Not a chance.
Even in a sport as tradition-bound as golf, no pro would put himself at a disadvantage on purely aesthetic grounds. Otherwise, you’d see a dozen guys smacking 250-yard tee shots with persimmon drivers every week.
Which raises another issue. Why take aim at long putters when real, quantifiable damage has been done by supersonic equipment, namely hot balls and massive clubheads?
Distance gains over the past 20 years have been – to quote Will Ferrell from Blades of Glory – mind-bottling. Architects have reacted by building longer courses, and longer means harder for the average hack. Even worse, it means higher land and maintenance costs, which add up to heftier greens fees and fewer players.
I have yet to hear of an architect altering his green designs to combat the belly putter.
To be honest, I’m no fan of the elongated flat stick. I’m far too self-conscious to ever use one myself, for fear that I’d be ridiculed by another golfer as snobby as me. But unless someone can prove that the long putter offers a competitive edge, I say keep it legal. It may not be pretty, but no one’s ever called the claw grip a thing of beauty, either.
Daniel Mitchell is a golf writer and Golf-Newz.com contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.
You can read his regular musings at a-gamegolfblog.blogspot.com