By Scott Kramer
With possible rule changes on the horizon, many golfers who used the method of anchoring a belly putter to their bodies are now experimenting with alternatives that help them maintain their level of putting performance.
For those who employed the anchoring method, short of returning to conventional-length putters, you have several options that may help you drop even more putts than when you were using the belly method. Even golfers who’ve been using conventional putters may find these three approaches to be more to their liking, as they seemingly give players more control over distance and accuracy without having to stray too far from their current stroke.
The first is an approach taken by PGA Tour pro Matt Kuchar, who holds the inside of his left arm against a long putter throughout the stroke. Enlisting the help of Sea Island golf putting instructor Mike Shannon, who Golf Digest lists among America’s Top 50 Greatest Teachers, Kuchar abandoned a short putter and went to this method three years ago. Since then, he’s seen plenty of success on tour. This arm lock method conforms to the United States Golf Association rules.
“Players who’ve used a belly or long putter know that the best part of these putters is that there are no hinges, therefore there are no wrists in the stroke,” Shannon explains. “This creates a very consistent stroke. Matt thought that holding a conventional-length putter the ‘normal’ way was too loose with respect to arm motion.”
With loose-hanging arms comes unwanted wrist motion that can cause a golfer to putt the ball much too hard. Thus, Kuchar tried pressing the putter to the inside of his left arm during the stroke, to eliminate any wrist movement.
If you try this method, start in exactly the same address position you would with a conventional putter. The putter should rest against the inside left forearm. The putter’s grip should be the same as on a traditional model. Whether you use the right-hand-low or left-hand-low grip doesn’t matter. Once the putter is positioned correctly, take the same stroke as you would with a short putter.
A warning, though: You’ll need to change one more putter characteristic before using it. “You’ll find that because the putter rests on the left arm, there will be a lot of forward tilt to the putter shaft,” Shannon explains. “Thus, the conventional three or four degrees of loft won’t provide a true ball roll because the lack of loft will push the ball down into the putting surface, causing it to bounce. Based on the amount of forward shaft tilt, loft has to be added to the putter—until it’s six or eight degrees. This should provide a more accurate roll.” Shannon says this method is a truly viable option for amateurs who have already switched to belly putters but don’t necessarily want to return to using a conventional putter.
The next alternative is trying a short long putter. “This would be more for players who have used the belly putter in the past,” Shannon says. “It involves reducing the belly putter length by two to three inches and stroking it just like it was a regular putter. Because the putter is still longer than a conventional model, it gives you the perception that you’re using a belly putter. Thus, you’re likely to keep the butt end of the club in the same place and not move it around—even though it isn’t fixed to your belly.” Davis Love III employed this method at the end of the 2012 season.
The third alternative method involves using a putter with a much heavier head than a conventional putter. The theory is: Once a heavier putter is in motion, it tends to stay on path during the stroke. Where a conventional putter has a swing weight between D-3 and E-0, this model should have a swing weight in the high E to low F range. “This is done by adding weight to either the putter head or the shaft,” Shannon explains. “You want to add weight to the point where your stroke is less likely to change direction.” Getting to that point can be done in three ways: You can buy a putter with a heavier head, you can buy an adjustable-weight putter and set the weights to the heavier options, or you can apply lead tape or powder to your current putter head.
The experts at the Sea Island Golf Learning Center can help you find which of the putter options is best for your unique short game. And in the end, you’ll find a sense of calm as you take command on the green.