Keegan Bradley won a major with it. Bill Haas won the FedEx Cup with it. Webb Simpson had a career year with it.
Of course, we’re talking about belly putters. And, they’ve caused quite a stir. Many of golf’s greats and other observers make the case that using a belly putter isn’t a “real” golf stroke because the end of the putter is anchored against the body. They also decry the use of the long putter, where the left hand anchors the putter near the sternum. Bernhard Langer is the most noted user of this method.
Are these putters really a problem? If you look at the year-end statistics for the PGA Tour, no one who uses a belly or long putter is in the top eight of the “strokes gained” category, the most accurate way to measure putting success on Tour. Scott McCarron, who uses a long putter, is ranked ninth. What about those young guns who are causing traditionalists much consternation over their use of the putter? Bradley is ranked 97th; Haas 84th; Simpson 57th. Doesn’t seem to be much of an overall advantage to those guys, does it? How about Adam Scott, who claims the long putter has revitalized his putting? He’s ranked 143rd. Some revitalization.
We can see statistically that using such putters is no magic elixir. So, let’s go to the next question: Is the stroke made with the long or belly putter a “real” golf stroke? No less than Ben Hogan considered putting not even a part of “real” golf. He proposed a new scoring system where putts only counted as 1/2 of a stroke, thereby emphasizing the tee-to-green game.
This writer agrees with Hogan. Putting is simply different than other golf shots. The technique is completely different, the ball is rolled instead of elevated, and the instrument itself has its own set of rules apart from the other clubs. One example: Want to use a 52″ driver? Can’t do it. Want to use a 52″ putter? Have at it.
If even one touring professional would separate themselves significantly from their short-putter-using peers statistically, then we might agree the issue needs to be revisited. But for now, we say belly up to the bar…er, green…and putt away.