The 2011 PGA Tour provided golf enthusiasts with some memorable moments. From the best player in the world Tiger Woods falling outside the top 50 in World Rankings, Rory Mcllroy winning the United States Open in record fashion, and the re-discovery of the long and belly putter.
The number of players on the PGA Tour using either a long putter or belly putter has exploded, the fascination may have reached a tipping point considering several of the top players in the world have made the change and had success. Players such as Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and tour rookie and PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley have all used variants of a long or belly putter in competition.
This influx on tour has led to great interest from the golfing general public where major club manufacturers and retailers have experienced a spike in orders and sales of the putters. The questions still remain, does the long or belly putter truly make a difference? Can these clubs benefit the average golfer? Why should an amateur change?
The traditional putting stroke involves the movement of the hands, arms and shoulders in an attempt to replicate a pendulum motion. This however can be a challenge at times, especially when the yips, or physical manifestations of erroneous thoughts plague the golfer. These physical inaccuracies can lead to pushing, and pulling putts, even trouble-judging distance. With blade style putter the stroke resembles more of a swinging gate, slightly open, square to closed, allowing the putter to release through impact in the same manner all other clubs due during the golf swing.
The long and belly putters by contrast are designed to limit the physical movement of a golfer’s hands, arms and shoulders. In theory this should allow the golfer to anchor the club to their bodies and freely allow the putter to swing back and through in a pendulum motion, which if done correctly should produce more made putts on the greens.
There are those in the golf industry that are not entirely sold on the long or belly putter phenomenon, some have called the putter a crutch, and since it takes the hands, arms and shoulders out of the swing, there could be a loss of feel. From this perspective, the long and belly putters will take significant practice to re-learn the feel that comes more naturally from the conventional putter length and strokes.
Finding the right length long or belly putter could also be more complicated for the average golfer. Most putters come in standard lengths of 34 or 35 inches. When fitting for the belly putter, it is recommend that the golfer take his or her normal stance with the traditional length putter and add approximately 7 or 8 inches which would bring the total to 42 or 43 inches. This should allow the belly putter to rest comfortably against the golfer’s belly. It is recommend that the golfer make sure the length allows for their eyes to remain over the golf ball as it would with the shorter putters.
The average golfer should look into making a switch the long or belly putter when they believe that they have the time to dedicate to practicing and learning a new putting stroke. Or if they have any physical ailments such as bad back, which could be slightly alleviated with the longer shafts as the golfer is required to stand taller.
This golf season should be an interesting on the greens, as it remains to be seen if more players make the switch to long and belly putters or will the traditional hands, arms, and shoulder putting stroke remain dominant in golf.