Woods, Palmer and other opponents of the belly and long putters believe they should be outlawed. They say because the clubs are anchored to the body, it is not a true golf swing, and doesn’t conform to the rules of golf. Jack Nicklaus, in his words, doesn’t see what the big deal is. “I’m not offended by it,” he said. “You’ve still got to knock it in the hole. That’s the only way I look at it. I always feel like the game is a game that is a very difficult game to start with. You try to figure out how you get the ball in the hole. As long as you’re using a legal stroke and a legal club … I don’t have an issue one way or the other with it. I just don’t see the big deal about it.”
The United States Golf Association and the R&A, the rules-making bodies for golf, are studying the issue. In early February 2012, Mike Davis, the executive director for the USGA, said the group was taking a “fresh look” at what is called “anchoring.”
Now we have a number of players using a belly putter of long putter including three of the last four major winners, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els. Other players include the Open runner-up Adam Scott, 2011 FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, Phil Mickleson and Jim Furyk have both used a belly putter in tournament play. Many of the new breed of belly putter users are in their 20s or early 30s and have won PGA Tour events and majors with these longer putters. Paul Azinger was the first player to use the belly putter on the PGA Tour. He’s also the first one to win an event with one – in the 2000 Sony Open. Since then, the numbers have continued to grow and seven of the thirty players in last year’s Tour Championship used a belly or long putter. In addition eight of the twenty four competitors in the Presidents Cup used them.
Adam Scott said he employed a long putter just a few weeks before playing in the 2011 Masters. The result? His best finish ever in a major. In 2012 he came so close to winning the Open just losing out to fellow long putter player Ernie Els. Scott said “I putted last year at the Masters the best I’ve ever putted in a week. Obviously, that had a big impact on my result there. I played fantastic the year before last there and really struggled on the greens. So that was the difference.”
Simpson was always a good putter, but once he went to the belly putter early in his college career, he had more success, and has stayed with it. He says “Putting has always been my strength, ever since I was little, even at the time I switched. When I first grabbed the belly putter it was more of a joke. I’m like, this thing looks terrible, I would never use it. I took it out on the putting green, messed around, made a few putts and took it to the back nine with my dad that day and made everything. I almost put it back thinking I can’t switch to that. But I stuck with it and started putting a lot more consistent than I was that first semester at Wake. Since then, I haven’t switched putters.”
One of the greatest putters ever, Brad Faxon said “It’s like the two-handed backhand in tennis, twenty years ago, it was not the norm. Now it’s the better way to go. The belly putter and the long putter are going to trend that way. Young kids are not going to be afraid to switch.”
The debate will go on but we think belly putters are here to stay!