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Fire in The Belly Putter

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.”

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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  1. What happens if they ban the belly putter? Will it erase previous records or add asterisks, such as they are doing in baseball with steroids players?

    Frankie C


  2. Good question! I don’t think it would be retroactive.

    This is simply equipment regulation, which ebbs and flows over time. For example, the USGA is set to outlaw sharp U grooves on wedges, which are currently very popular.

    Similarly, there’s talk in baseball of banning maple bats.

    This issue is more akin to the maple bat than steroids.

  3. I’m going to respectfully disagree about the maple bats. The reason they are going to be banned has nothing to do with performance enhancing issues, rather that they have proven to be dangerous as they break so easily.

  4. I hear you, Frankie. My intent was to correlate maple bats to belly putters and U-grooves as legal equipment that, even if they’re later banned for whatever reason, won’t result in asterisks for those who used them at the time they were sanctioned.

    Barry Bonds used a maple bat, but it’s the steroids that got him the asterisk!

  5. What an interesting article, you guys have made a great job, I like this post.

  6. What an interesting article, you guys have made a great job, I like this post.

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