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Long putters, belly putters, whatever - ban them for good

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

People wonder why Tiger Woods doesn't spout off about the hot issues of the day. Look at Ernie Els.

Els badmouths Trevor Immelman's use of a long putter after Immelman winstheTournament Players Championship of Europe, and suddenly it's a ragingtopicagain. That's the nature of golf. Most big-name golfers say little of substance because, God forbid, they might offend sponsors and/or equipment manufacturers.

When they do speak out, tsunamis ripple through the golf world. These guys are worse than Wall Street investors.

So now it's long putters, belly putters, stomach strokers, call them what you will.

Haven't we been through this before? Remember Rocco Mediate? Remember Bernard Langer?

Of course long putters should be banned from tournament play. They remove the yips from the putting equation. You take the choke out of the game, and what you're left with is Greg Norman.

Skill is more than just physical. It also involves mental strength, the ability to overcome innermost doubt and fear. Free throws in basketball should be easy, but put the NBA championship on the line with no time ontheclock, and suddenly the hoop looks a mile away.

One of the most perverse thrills in spectator sports is watching a man come apart on the golf course. And nowhere does he come apart more completely and in a more public way than on the green.

The battle of professional nerves is there for our viewing pleasure. It can help the players, too, in a roundabout sort of way. Norman attracted legions of fans after his collapse in the 1996 Masters. Mortals sympathize with human frailty.

Paul Runyan started the whole thing with the long putters. In the 1936 Belmont Open in Boston, with the wind howling, Runyan stuck the end of his putter into his waist, took a wide stance and slid his hand down the shaft of his putter, all for stability.

It worked great for short putts, but he lost control on longer ones. So a few years later he got a longer putter. Problem solved.

"An advantage I hadn't expected is that this system minimizes the adverse effect of nervous tension," Runyan wrote in an article for GolfDigest.

Els was a little less diplomatic, saying golfers who cannot control the irnerves should join the Prozac Nation.

There are actually two kinds of long putters. Belly putters are around 45 inches long, 10 inches longer than most putters. The butt end rests on -orin, in the case of your more portly golfers - the belly. The belly acts as a sort of fulcrum, making the stroke less prone to error due to nerves.

The belly putting golfer can stand in more of an upright position and thus have a better line of sight to the hole. Most belly putters place their bottom hand much lower than the upper hand, for more control.

True long putters are in the 50-inch range. Langer uses one in an effort to tone down his much-publicized and embarrassing yips. The principle is the same, except the sternum acts as the fulcrum. A radical version has the player resting the butt of the putter on his chin.

Notables using long putters include Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Azinger.

Bruce Lietzke used a long putter with success on the Senior Tour, and many hoped it would stay there.

Until Els gave his proclamation, golf's governing bodies showed little inclination to deal with long putters. Even now, The Royal and Ancient has no immediate plans to ban them, and neither apparently does the USGA.

Conventional putting gurus have mostly bad things to say about them, which is no surprise considering they have a vested interest in sticking with the standard method.

The United Kingdom's Andrew Rogers, for example, said the basic premise is faulty.

"Long putters are now seen as the standard cure for the yips," Rogers told Travelgolf.com. "This is an illusion. "

Rogers said only steely nerves can overcome nerves, not a longer stick.

"The bottom line is that players who use long putters will never be quite as consistent with them as they would be if they learned to use a normal putter properly," he said. "So in the long run they are no threat to other players who use normal putters."

I'm not saying all new, radical equipment should be banned. Metal woods were allowed, as were cavity back irons. But, those improvements were different; they didn't tinker with golf's basic strokes.

Long putters should be banned because they employ a stroke that isn't quite golf. Golfers are supposed to stroke it, not push it, like they're lawn bowling.

What's next? Where does it end? Why not just drop down on all fours and use a cue stick?

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Long putters

    Garret wrote on: Dec 15, 2005

    I don't know what you people are talking about, regarding the use of the long putter to cure a nervous problem. I just switched to the long putter because I think it's better from a standpoint of pure physics. I have always been a great putter, to the point where everyone calls me the Jedi master of putting. They were shocked when I wanted to try out a long putter. I always felt in the back of my mind that it's the most accurate way to put physiologically. When I tried it the first time, I knew my thinking was correct. I can pop ten footers in all day like 3 footers. Why would anyone talk bad about something that can make you play better. Why should they ban it like this article says they should. After all, look at all the clubs out there that replace other clubs that were suppose to do their job. For example, they make green side chippers to replace chipping with an iron. And look at the advances in irons. Should we tell all the people who took their 3 and 4 irons out of the bag and replaced them with rescue clubs or some kind of hybrid long iron, that they can't use them because it makes the long iron to easy to hit. Of course not. That's why a better and easier type of putter that makes more sense, should be no big deal either.


    • RE: Long putters

      Jeffrey Capers wrote on: Mar 11, 2011

      Lies, if you were such a great putter, why would you even consider the switch. IDIOT!


  • Long putters banned!!

    Stephen Mantz wrote on: Dec 13, 2004

    long putters banned in professional tournament play, or banned by the USGA, thus no golfer regardless of ability could use it? Try this scenario. I'm a 17 year-old high school senior who recently finished the season. As someone who has struggled with putting since I began playing in youth tournaments around the age of 9, the longer putter has been a most helpful. Three of my high school teammates (one has since graduated and is enjoying a successful golf career at Drexel), who's father happens to be a PGA professional, have used these longer putters. The one attending Drexel is an exceptional golf talent, but the other two
    average in
    the mid to upper 70's, as do I. Their PGA professional father has strongly emphasized the long putter to all of his sons, finally influencing me to
    lose my
    conventional 34-inch Odyssey and go over to a 43-inch Odyssey, which I use
    as a
    long putter because I'm on the short and stocky side. Getting to the point, I guess my gripe is what happens if one of the four of us gets to the level
    we are able to play professionally, and suddenly the USGA bans these long putters from competition? The what? You're saying that these putters need to go because it takes most of the nerves and skill out of putting. But what
    the size of these driver heads on tour? They look like someone stuck a metal
    rod into a cantaloupe. There's obviously an advantage in having a 460 cc
    driver. And you certainly swing differently with one of these metal behemoths than with a persimmon-headed club. You wouldn't train an up and coming
    player with a regulation wooden bat, and then when he starts hitting a few
    runs, give him one of those 18-inch souvenir bats, would you? And it isn't impossible to develop some hiccup in your putting stroke with the broomstick, either. I think people are only starting to complain now because a few
    with the long putter have won some tournaments. If they're such a
    problem, they
    shouldn't have been allowed to begin with. Like I said, the only reason they weren't banned right away is because nobody was having breakout success with them. And having extra inches on your putter doesn't mean extra confidence standing over that 4-foot downhill slider.


    • RE: Long putters banned!!

      Matty wrote on: Jan 4, 2006

      I cant believe Long putters have been banned i have been playing for a year know and am knopw saving up for a chin putter and am sad to hear that they have been band my dream is to get on the tour and i cant play without my long putter because thanks to the long putter i manged to reduce my handicap from a 23 to a 16 noy bad for only playing a year.
      i also want to say that the usga are also thinking about taking away the htbrid clubs but nothing has come up so far........... thank god!!!!!!!!!!!


    • RE: Long putters banned!!

      Donald Bertsch wrote on: Jun 20, 2005

      I agree


      • RE: RE: Long putters banned!!

        tony wrote on: Apr 27, 2012

        yeah ban long putters when someone wins a tournament with one.when somebody wins with a standard putter nobody cares about long putters and how they lost the tournament.what a bunch of clowns.let leave it alone


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