Size Matters: Battle Lines Drawn in Long Putter Debate
Where do you stand on extra-long putters? Chest putters, belly putters, anchored putters or whatever you’d like to call them.
Do you consider them a godsend for yips-afflicted golfers, or a sure sign that the apocalypse is nigh? Those are pretty much your only choices.
It’s one of those matchups that forces everyone to choose a side, like Tiger vs. Phil, Ginger vs. Mary Ann, or ketchup vs. catsup. (For the record, I’m a Tiger-Mary Ann-ketchup guy.) Thank goodness politics isn’t this divisive.
Even Tiger chimed in recently and eluded to the idea that there is serious talk about the matter, within the ranks of the USGA and Royal & Ancient.
Tiger thinks the putter should be restricted by length, plain and simple, this would end all discussion and provide very clear and understandable language for the rule book.
Golf Tradition v Golf Progress
Long putters are the latest litmus test in golf’s tradition vs. progress battle, which has raged ever since Old Tom Morris won the first Open Championship using whalebone shafts. (Look it up.) The controversy intensified in 2011, when Keegan Bradley became the first long-putter wielder to win a major while Adam Scott and Webb Simpson enjoyed huge successes with their extended flat sticks.
Heck, even Phil Mickelson tried a belly putter, though he quickly dropped it like a rattlesnake.
To date, the game’s governing bodies have had next to nothing to say on the matter. The USGA and R&A seem content to clasp hands over ears, ignoring the outcry from the keepers of golf’s tradition-fueled flame.
Not sure which side you favor in this epic battle? Here’s a primer on the dueling factions:
The Pro-Long-Putter Camp
They say leave long putters alone, using these points to define their argument:[custom_list type=”check”]
- Anything that makes golf easier for the masses should be legal (within reason of course).
- Long putters allow golfers with bad backs to play without pain.
- If a pro who’s a great ball-striker but lousy on the greens finds his stroke with a long putter (see Scott, Adam), more power to him. Putting is overemphasized as it is.
- Isolated successes aside, the long putter hasn’t made that big of an impact. Simpson is the only player among the world’s top 10 currently using one.
- You want to preserve tradition? Fine, let’s see you play forged blades with a sweet spot the size of a dime and tiny-headed persimmon woods at the next member-guest.
The Anti-Long-Putter Camp
This group argues even more vociferously, demanding that long putters be banned via the following logic:
- Anchoring the putter to the belly or chest eliminates much of the skill required to make a sound stroke.
- With the butt of the putter held firmly in place, the effect of nerves is minimized – a huge advantage under pressure.
- Long putters are an aesthetic abomination. In other words, they make you look like a total doofus.[/custom_list]
Oh, there is one more faction in this little ground war. Let’s call them…
“The Difference Splitters”
These non-partisan independents propose banning long putters in the professional ranks while letting everyday hackers keep their magic wands.
The concept is called “bifurcation” and its proponents believe the golf ball and other equipment should also fall under two sets of rules (pro and amateur).
I wonder what Bobby Jones would make of all this up in Amen Corner. At his age, he probably broke down and bought a long putter years ago.
Daniel Mitchell is a golf writer 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.