Published on April 3rd, 2012 | by Tony Portz0
The Long/Belly Putter Controversy
All this talk about the Belly Putter this year is making me hungry(for controversy)! You know the controversy, “Should Belly/ Long Putters Be Legal?” In this post I’d like to really get down to the nitty gritty concerning this Belly Putter Controversy, and try to parse out the variety of attitudes that seem to accompany this much-talked-about issue. Personally, I remain pretty hysterical toward the issue, by that I mean I have no idea what to think. But I think writing this post will help with that.
A Short History of The Long putter:
Let’s first give ourselves a “Short” History of The Long Putter, so we can get some context on the issue. According to Long Putter.com, the first belly putter was introduced in the 80’s, the first tour professional to champion the belly putter being Johnny Miller. The long putter is more popular on other tours besides the PGA, but there are a few Big Guys who have used or currently use a belly putter. Minnesota native Tom Lehman comes to mind, of course, as well as some of the European Tour guys like Sam Torrance.
The “Controversy” has come to the fore recently, however, due to the growing popularity of the belly putter on the PGA. One of the Tour’s most notables, in fact, has even gotten in on the controversy. Yep, that’s right, according to a recent featured post on the TheSandTrap.com, Tiger Woods in a recent press conference admitted that he’d been trying to convince Peter Dawson of the R&A for a number of years to ban the long putter (to see more discussions on this specific topic click HERE to see TheSandTrap.com Forum Thread). So, one can surmise that one reason for the sudden interest in the Long Putter’s USGA status is that more and more high-profile players these days are commenting on the Belly Putter; either promoting it or disowning it, which brings us to the next subtopic of the day, The Two Sides.
The Two Sides:
“The Belly Putter is a Godsend,” why? Because a typical putt-stroke has two levers, one on the right arm and the other on the left; when the wrists break during a putt-stroke it causes miss-hits. By removing one of the levers from the equation by ‘anchoring’ the putter against the body, the Long Putter can improve your putt-stroke consistency. Additionally, the belly putter is easier on the back due to the more up-right position used for putting, this being one of the reasons why senior players were among the first to really get on the Long Putter bandwagon.
“The Belly Putter is an Aberration,” why? Because the Belly Putter allows you to anchor it to the body, helping to eliminate one of the integral factors of the conventional putt-stroke—that is to say that the possibility of the wrists breaking is a factor in the putt stroke, and to remove it degrades the skill required to play the game. Much like the new 2010 groove rule, banning the Long Putter from tournaments promotes better play by raising the level of skill required to be competitive. Additionally, the Long Putter also puts some players at an advantage when it comes to ball drops that require a “club’s length” of distance from the original lie.
On a personal level, after doing the research for this posting and going through the info, I would have to say that I’m in favor of banning the long putter. Why? For the same reason I’m actually for the 2010 groove rule change, which is the fact that I like when new rules are added to the game that DO NOT make things easier on the players, but try to make play even more competitive and interesting. I think that professionals should be encouraged (haha, or forced) to always play BETTER, and not easier.
Additionally, with new putters coming out, such as the 2012 Ping Nome Adjustable-Shaft Belly Putter (the first ever USGA-approved adjustable shaft belly putter), I do agree with some who say it’s simply “Too Late” for the USGA to crack down on the Belly Putter. However, that doesn’t mean that someday soon we couldn’t see the PGA tour crack down on it. I’m all for keeping the Belly in the USGA, but I’d like to see the pros staying as competitive as possible, even in the short game.
I try to keep these posts as short as possible (not very good at it yet), so I know I’ve kept out a lot of information pertaining to the “Controversy.” This is where all you guys come.
Please share YOUR thoughts!