Almost a year ago to the week, Keegan Bradley won the USPGA Championship with a belly putter. This year, half the majors won have been done so by players using the longer-than-usual golf stick.
So the question is,what is your stance on the belly putter issue?
It is strange to think that the belly putter is not a very recent invention; it has been around on the tour for several decades and was initially viewed as a tool to help older golfers play, or to assist those golfers who had back problems, or spinal issues which saw their putting stroke decline.
Over time though, the belly putter has become increasingly more common on the professional tours as well as the senior tours. Bradley’s victory in the USPGA last year brought their use into sharp focus once again and this year, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have lifted Major titles while brandishing the long stick.
Three wins in the past five majors has brought their use into sharp focus once again and both the R&A and USGA are reported to be ready to consider the issue during the autumn.
Royal and Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson stating “the subject is firmly on our radar, and we need to clarify the position as soon as possible.”
Players too have been wading into the argument, in the video below, you can clearly hear the thoughts of eminent professionals such as Fred Couples, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.
More recently, several high profile players have come out against the use of the putter in the professional game. Former US Open winner Graeme McDowell stated that the long putter “makes putting under pressure with that type of putter easier.
“It’s just kind of a physical fact…Let’s get everyone with a short putter back in the bag as the game is meant to be played.”
Padraig Harrington argued that if “somebody invented the belly putter tomorrow, there is no way they would let it through.”
Yet there have been several players who are sympathetic to its use. Webb Simpson argues that the difference between a 35-inch and a 45-inch putter is far smaller than the difference between an old wooden driver and the large, titanium drivers commonly used today.
Simpson also notes that the statistics don’t prove that it offers pros a huge advantage; none of the players ranked as one of the top 20 putters today based on statistics on the green uses a belly putter.
Keegan Bradley too has argued that outlawing the putter, which makes games more enjoyable for golfers of all abilities, would be a bad thing.
Perhaps the most telling statement though was delivered by Ernie Els (above) last year, who despite once being a vociferous opponent of the belly putter, began to use it after losing confidence on the greens.
The Big Easy stated comically and memorably at the time; “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”
With golf’s governing bodies set to rule on the use of belly putters this autumn, with the ruling set to be in place by the start of the 2016 season, will those players using them have to revert back to the traditional putter, or will golf’s lawmakers decide that the belly putter is legal once and for all?
Golfers across the globe will be watching the developments with anticipation.
At GGB our view is that while we like any equipment that helps golfers improve, we do agree that the equipment must not alter the fundamentals of the game.
Unfortunately, given that the belly putter anchors the putter, allowing it to be restricted in terms of lateral movements, this does, in our view, alter the fundamentals of putting and as such, should be outlawed, certainly in professional play.
However, we think that dispensation should be made for those players who need to use such putters for medical purposes or over a certain age (such as those players eligible to join the seniors tour) and that no such laws should be in place for amateur competition.
That’s our take on it; what do YOU think? We’d love to hear your responses below!
Images courtesy of GGB and Odyssey Putters