After the second round of the 2009 Masters, PutterZone.com remarked: “Several players in contention heading into Saturday…are wielding long putters and belly putters. If one of them wins, look for the debate about these putters to be rekindled.”
Sure enough, Angel Cabrera won with a belly-length putter, and the debate about long putters has been rekindled as expected. Sports Illustrated, for example, questions the efficacy and ethics of long putters in its latest issue. It’s one thing when someone uses a long putter to win a regular PGA Tour tournament or Champions Tour tournament. It’s another when the Masters or another Major tournament is won with one of these unconventional sticks.
For now, however, the debate is more of a spark than a fire, as Cabrera actually didn’t use his putter in the manner that agitates the “ban the belly” crowd. In other words, he stroked his putts as with a regular-length putter, without anchoring the shaft to his body. A belly putter is typically anchored to the stomach. A longer putter can be anchored to the chest.
It’s the anchoring that calls into question the legality of the belly putter, as some feel it violates the “traditional and customary” rule regarding club use. The same goes with anchoring a long putter to the chest or chin.
PutterZone.com doesn’t have a strong opinion on the issue as it regards tour usage. No tears would be shed here if they were outlawed, but it seems as though the genie has been out of the bottle far too long to suddenly ban the belly putter.
The more relavant question is whether or not the average golfer should consider using one, especially if his or her putting game has gone off the rails.
A few years ago, PutterZone.com wrote: “You want to exhaust your available options before switching to the belly putter. The belly putter can add stability and balance to your stroke, but at a potential cost of overall control and feel—a trade-off that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
That opinion still holds around here. As Tom Lehman told Golf World last year, “I can always be an average putter with the long putter. But if I wanted to be a really good putter, I had to go back to the short putter…I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of pain in the short term to make myself a great putter.”