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Long Putters - Are They The Future?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I've never been tempted, other than to roll a few putts in a golf shop, to transition to a long putter. But, damn, seeing Phil Mickelson using a belly putter this week, has me thinking....well, maybe it's time to try one. Sure, many pro's have experimented, went long for a while, then returned. My money would bet that Phil will return to his traditional, very short putter. As a side, I putt with a very short putter, and, when friends make fun of it, I've always told them to look at the short length of Phil's putter. My thinking is that it would take a fair amount of time and practice for the transition, especially if one selected the shoulder length type. The technique is just different especially if you try the low hand grip where the palm faces down and the club is held between thumb and index finger, (claw grip ?). How many are willing to spend the time to develop a new stroke to the point when you just trust it? How do you really know if it works as nobody is a perfect putter.


Recently, there has been some flap to ban long putters and return to the traditional length only. Some get upset when a player improves his putting like Adam Scott is doing right now. I don't understand or agree. Golf equipment, especially balls, have antiquated some great courses, so why get concerned over a longer putter?


Golfers, generally, rush to embrace new, even better equipment (ha, ha, ha), but, I've not seen a stampede to longer putters in recreational golfers. Perhaps, a longer putter only makes sense to a pro when the statistics begin to shout that putting must be improved, alla Sergio. It is well documented that putting skills are among the first to diminish with age, so older pro's may benefit. My history of making poor investments in miracle clubs holds me from investing another $150 just to give it a try.


If nothing else, Calloway, Phil's sponsor and owner of Oddessey, must be smiling at the thought of more transitioning to a longer putter. Note to self, stop being so cynical!


Here's to a great fall season on the links!

post #2 of 20

Several years ago I read an article in Science Digest about a test they did with non-golfers. They had them putt (something they had never done) with a regular grip and reverse grip.  They found that people naturally putted straighter with a reverse grip, but closer than 3 feet it did not matter. This prompted me to try reverse grip putting for a season.  I eventually gave up because, after a lifetime of putting one way, I may have been hitting long putts straighter, but the feel and sensation never felt right.  A couple years later I had shoulder surgery and could only chip and put for several months, so I tried reverse grip again. After months of practice I finally began to feel comfortable with it, and then it took a while longer before it really felt natural and "right.".  I believe the total transition period was probably 18 months before it felt completely natural in all situations.


Based on my experience with a major grip change, and playing for years with a friend who is close to a scratch golfer and changes putters fairly often, including back and forth from short to belly putters, I can assure you that if you switch to a long putter you can expect an extended cross-over period before you can take it on the course successfully. 


The "new club syndrome" usually leads to increased focus resulting in short term good results, but after years of putting one way, do not expect to get consistent results with a completely different club and grip for quite some time.  Like any good relationship, if you want it to work you need commitment.

post #3 of 20

Putting - It's all in your head. When my head gets messed up from too many missed short putts or problems with speed I switch putter styles for a while and then go back to my PING. Long putters should be banned!! What's next?





post #4 of 20

I'll never go over to the dark-side.  There are many who feel those longer putters should be illegal - I'm sort of on the fence about it, but don't really care either way.

post #5 of 20

Long putters make it nearly impossible to have the "yips" since the butt of the club is in your belly (belly putter) or held around your chest making the stroke as close to a pendulum as you can get.   Some people, as they get older, seem to see the line better from a more upright putting stance.  My issue with long putters is distance control with longer putts. 


Are they the future?  That depends upon the number of aging boomers and the USGA and R&A rules committees.

post #6 of 20

Long putters are great when you get a 2 club-length drop from a lateral hazard...

post #7 of 20

Belly putters are hard to get used to but with a little practice they are better. Far more consistent. I've been using a regular putter until this year where I switched. By far my best putting year I've ever had.

post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 



Bill Hass has $11.4 M good reasons to like his month old, belly putter.


Nick Watney and Bradley Wiggins came very close with similar putters. The future belongs to whatever the young guns accomplish, so expect to see more in the future. Did not work magic for Phil, but, it's looking like his #2 reign is about over.

post #9 of 20
I've been plagued with missing short putts to the left because of wrist breakdown. For a while I tried the claw grip with some improvement but felt awkward on long putts. I've never felt comfortable with a cross hand grip.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the local golf shop with the intention of buying a long putter. The prices were steep and my putting on their indoor mat was no better than with a traditional putter. I tried a couple of belly putters but concluded I don't have a big enough belly to anchor it properly.

I then tried an inexpensive traditional length putter with an oversize grip. Same brand as the one K J Choi uses but not quite as big. The wife and I were visiting her aunt in Ohio the next weekend so I sneaked out and got in 18 holes at a local track. I managed a three over 73 and never came close to a 3 putt. Have used it since a few times with similar good results. Who knows how it will work in the future but for the present I'm a lot more confident on the four footers.
post #10 of 20

I've been using a belly putter for 11 seasons now, since my second year of playing. I'd heard they were easier and I didn't have a lot invested in an old putting stroke. I had somehow bent my first putter and did not notice until I took a lesson and the pro said "you're putter's bent" like you could not putt well with a bent putter. When I made a 30 footer with a 6 foot break on the first try, he decided not to give me any putting tips. But I found myself at the end of a ski show a month later with some free time and a bunch of golf booths in the back. These guys that were just selling putters were starting to pack up, but were happy to help me out. I tried a couple of models on their little practice runway and wasn't impressed. The guy helping me watches me putt a couple, grabs a putter from the rack, makes a few tweaks here and there and then hands it to me. A couple tips (e.g. move the ball forward in the stance to directly under the left eyeball), and I proceed to make 10 ten footers in a row. End of show discount = 1/2 price? Sold! As much as I love my putter, no one who has ever borrowed it for a couple of test swings has ever said "wow!". Getting it fit for me is what really made this thing work.


What I learned#1 - Get fit for your putter!



I got a belly putter (vs a long one) because I walk a lot and the belly was long enough sticking out of the bag. It was pretty easy for me to adapt to a pendulum swing vs a screen door swing because I had no idea what kind of a putting swing I was using anyway. I quickly started using a claw grip, naturally without being taught to just because it seemed right. Separating the hands eliminates left wrist flipping. I did not anchor the putter end into my belly because I didn't know any better. Instead I anchor my left wrist to my belly. Strangely enough (as I understand it), this bypasses one of the purist digs against long putters (the argument that anchoring the club to your body violates a rule of golf). When I fool around with short putters, I still use my long putter technique. I just have to bend over a little more. A taller putting stance is more comfortable. I also believe a taller stance makes it easier to make a pendulum swing and see the target line.


What I learned#2 - Find your own stance, grip and swing that is comfortable.



My observation is that left eye dominance is a huge advantage for putters. When you can set up with your left eye directly over the ball, you not only see everything square to the target line, but you are also making contact with a slight upswing. I've seen a lot of right eye dominant putters line up out of square so that they can get their eye kind of behind the ball on the target line and set the ball up closer to their right eye to reduce the angle. The result is most often a trig test for aiming the ball and putt that starts with a hop bouncing out of its resting position instead of topspin rolling right from the start.


What I learned#3 - Some people are going to have a harder time putting no matter what kind of putter they are using



From all the putting instruction I've taken, read and watched - a pendulum swing is a simpler swing. You just rock your shoulders. Direction is a given if you line the ball alignment mark to your starting line and start with your putter square to that line. Distance is controlled by how far you rock (in my case back to the right side of my right foot is ten feet, 15 degree angle is 20 feet, 20 degree angle=30 feet - calibrated slightly more or less to green speed). Putts over 40 feet are more problematic with a long putter than a traditional one because each degree of arc increase introduces a logarithmically higher margin of error. A long putter makes it easier to make a pendulum swing.


What I learned#4 - Pendulum swing makes more putts for me. Making more putts inside of 30 feet more than makes up for any loss of strokes from over 40 feet away.



I play as a single a lot. I play with a lot of different people. I get asked a lot about my belly putter. I also get a lot of perplexed "is it you or is it the putter" stares on the green (this is just weird). And I hear a lot of comments (e.g. that's such a smooth stroke, I've never seen the ball roll like that, that's it I'm getting a belly putter). I still misread break and distance and miss short putts with the best of them. I still have good days and bad days. Based on the people I play with, I think I make more than my fair share of putts. Based on an average of 32 putts per round - my results are not spectacular. When you're fit for a putter, you can feel the difference in how much easier it is to putt. When you get consistent feedback from different sources, you know you're on to something.


What I learned#5 - I know the long putter works because ... regardless of whether it really does or not, it makes me "know" that it works.



Bottom line - if you want to improve your putting it's going to take time, money and/or effort. The more you put all 3 into the pot, the better your results will be. Regardless of the club and your technique, green reading is still half of the equation. There are lots of reasons why a belly putter alone won't do a damn thing for your putting. There are lots of reasons why a belly putter can be the beginning of a giant leap forward in your game. In my case, there are three good reasons why a belly putter has been a great investment:

1) Hearing "Son of a ... BITCH!!!" twice a round

2) Seeing the wheels turn in my golf buddy's head when the beers are on the line because he knows I can make any putt and he only has a snowball's chance at Cataloochee in July of making anything over 12 feet.

3) Watching the last 6 feet of a long putt dropping into the hole gives me a really good feeling

post #11 of 20

After yesterday, I'm thinking maybe Tiger needs to switch to a long putter.  Yikes!

post #12 of 20

I found a great article on long putters on the golfwrx forum:



I only found one item I didn't agree with: "belly putters have more of a swing arc" and even that quote is contradicted in the article. Further on it explains that this is true only for golfers who putt on an arc with their short putters. This article has a lot of fitting tips. A lot!

post #13 of 20

I'm curious, how many of you using a long putter anchor it to your body?  I've come to the conclusion that if you're holding the club upright and not anchoring it into your chin or chest or something, I'm cool with it.  Any body anchoring I think should be against the rules... since it kind of already is.

post #14 of 20
Originally Posted by JayT View Post

I'm curious, how many of you using a long putter anchor it to your body?  I've come to the conclusion that if you're holding the club upright and not anchoring it into your chin or chest or something, I'm cool with it.  Any body anchoring I think should be against the rules... since it kind of already is.

It is not illegal now.  The question is if anchoring alters a natural or traditional stoke.  Rather than get into the putter length debate, the R&A and USGA will probably (according to published articles) look at potentially modifying what constitutes a stroke.  What concerns me is that many people chip by anchoring the butt of the club in their forearm and then simply turning their hips.  Could a new rule make a modern chipping technique illegal too?  Or will the rule makers define anchoring in another way?


I play with modern and hickory shafted clubs.  I use a belly putter with the modern clubs since I don't have to think about the stroke, just the line and distance.  It is anchored into my belly.  When playing with the hickories, tradition demands a regular putter length.

post #15 of 20
Originally Posted by quant2325 View Post

When playing with the hickories, tradition demands a regular putter length.

Quant - That is just .... "quaint" (sorry I could not resist)



I anchor the side of my left arm against my chest so that my left hand is holding the top end of the putter slightly away from my body. Thinking about all of this has led me to understand the swing arc comment that I disagree with much better. I can see the truth in the statement now. Like anchoring being illegal, I love wisdom that is both true and false at the same time.

post #16 of 20
Lots of buzz these days about doing away with them
post #17 of 20

Anchored putters are going to be banned next season - this is pretty much already a done deal and supposedly some players are going to file lawsuits (and lose).  Long putters are okay so long as they are not anchored to the body.  I agree with this completely.

post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

It should be fun to watch how  banning of the long anchored putter plays out on the PGA tour. At present, the tour plays in accordance with the rules of golf established by the USGA ( US Golf Association ) and both are independent entities. During the Ryder Cup, there was an interview with Tim Finchem, Director of the Tour, where he stated that there had been no formal discussions between the groups on this issue. The Tour has stated it does not want to establish rules different from the USGA & R&A. My belief is that the Tour will permit the long putter for an exteded period of time. 


The real issue that needs addressing is the distance modern drivers and balls permit the ball to carry. It's making traditional golf courses obsolete.

post #19 of 20

I figure the long putter will be banned in the near future.  I remember Sam Snead putting crocket-style for a short time with some success late in his career, then getting shut down.


As for modern drivers & balls, I don't see any of that getting banned soon.  $400 drivers and $4 balls are being sold in vast quantities; and there's too much money at stake for the manufacturers.  The pros might be averaging +320 yds per drive, but the average weekend schmoo is still lucky to get 250.

post #20 of 20
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post

The real issue that needs addressing is the distance modern drivers and balls permit the ball to carry. It's making traditional golf courses obsolete.


This is done - there are scientific limits already in place.  The traditional golf course aspect is old news at this point.


As for the anchoring - it's a done deal pretty much:



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