In this caveman’s opinion, belly putters look pretty funky. Not the suave or stoic look you would really expect from professional golfers, John Daly aside. But Big John probably wouldn’t be caught dead with one of them stuck up against his sternum.
But the New York Times begs to differ. They argue that long and belly putters not only win events but also converts:
After three PGA Tour players — Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson — used a belly putter or a long putter to win a tournament in recent weeks, it is no surprise that amateur players are suddenly eyeing the clubs with increasing curiosity. It is among the sport’s oldest traditions: what works for another player, golfers think, could work for me.
“I’ve noticed more people trying them in the store,” said Nick Grappone, a sales associate at a Golfsmith store in Bridgewater, N.J. “As far as stocking more of them, we’re not doing it yet. More people are curious about them.”
Scott Paris is the head professional at Plainfield Country Club, the site of this week’s Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs. Asked if he would be stocking more belly and long putters in his pro shop, he said: “I think I’m going to have to. I think you’re going to see more and more of it, especially the belly. I have a lot of members that can benefit from it.”
Belly and long putters help eliminate movement. They make it easier for golfers to stay steady over putts, especially shorter putts, where nerves often lead to a shaky stroke.
One of Plainfield’s top players is Mike Stamberger, the 2003 Met Amateur champion. “He’s used the long putter on and off, and he putts very well with it,” Paris said.
Matt Kuchar, the winner of last year’s Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., uses a long putter and rests the shaft on his forearm.
“We’ll probably see more guys tinker with it,” he said of the belly and long putters. “Anybody that does something well, and is different, everyone wants to check it out and try it.”
Kuchar was one of five players in the top 17 on the FedEx Cup points list entering the Barclays who was using a belly or long putter. The others were Simpson, Bradley, Scott and the Scot Martin Laird, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. A number of other players in the Barclays field were also using the putters, including Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Carl Pettersson, Nick O’Hern and Billy Mayfair.
After winning the P.G.A. Championship with a belly putter two weeks ago, Bradley said he was proud to be the first player to win a major championship while using one.
“I remember people telling me when I first switched, they would go, ‘But nobody has ever won a major with it,’ ” he said. “And I remember looking at them and going, ‘I’m going to be the first one to win a major,’ just joking pretty much. It’s a surreal thing that it’s true.”
Kuchar, who finished second in this year’s Barclays, two shots behind Dustin Johnson, said: “Maybe we’ll have more kids trying it and fiddling with it. It seems for a while that cross-handed putting was the fad, that every kid should learn to putt cross-handed. That was a better method. And now it may be the belly putter may be the better method. We may see kids trying that.”
One obstacle to switching to a belly or long putter is that a golfer probably needs to be fit for it to get the correct shaft length.
“I know Adam Scott just picked one up and found it comfortable,” Grappone said.
But he was an exception.
“You have to factor in the player’s height, build, stroke and also the head design that will work best for them,” Paris said. “It would be nice if the companies did something with fitting the belly and long putters like they do with other clubs and putters.”
Phil Mickelson, a four-time major champion, said that although the belly and long putters worked wonders for some, they are not for everyone. Although he did not rule out switching to one someday, and has occasionally pulled one off the rack to try it, he said it was not for him.
“I think there are certain things technique-wise that you have to understand to do it well, to putt well with it,” he said. “It swings differently than a normal putter in your hands, and so I don’t know those little idiosyncrasies, those little secrets, if you will. And so I don’t really putt very effectively with it.”
Maybe they are something to look into. But do you think they are worth the awkwardness? I have been told that if you feel comfortable, you aren’t doing it correctly.
So, Rock Heads, Would you use a belly putter?