Watching the Masters this weekend demonstrated emphatically why the long putter, the so-called “belly putter” is the ONLY putter to carry in your bag. Adam Scott, a big hitting Aussie was finished on the PGA Tour. Why? He couldn’t consistently make the short putts in tournaments. Not so during the Masters. His entire career has been resurrected. He finished second, not because he didn’t make his short putts (he made almost all of them over four days), but because another player finished with four birdies in a row (which of course entails a lot of “the luck of the roll” - especially on extremely fast greens.
All of us need to make short putts if we want to score. Woods lost the Masters because he missed short putt after short putt - over the weekend especially. Same with Michelson. So, what’s the big deal about the long putter?
First and foremost it forces you to SEPARATE your hands. When your hands are touching, even just a single finger overlap (the Vardon grip), your brain receives conflicting messages. In fact, your brain doesn’t know exactly what you want your hands to do (let alone your body). Many infinitely subtle things have to occur for you to be able to keep the ball on line while putting. One hand is used to keep everything as steady as possible (the upper hand), and one hand is used to provide the force to get the ball to the hole.
Exactly like a juggler, each hand knows what it’s supposed to do. The brain knows what you want your hands to do. The confusion is minimized to tolerable levels. Back to the Masters. Cabrera was the first player to win a major with a long putter (2009 Masters). And it caused an uproar. The USGA doesn’t like the way it looks. People claim it's against the "rules." The rules say you can’t have a putter shorter than 18 inches. Nothing about how long a putter can be.
Frank Thomas, who once was the USGA’s technical director, said “It can make a bad putter a good putter, but it can’t make a good putter a great putter.” In 2004, Singh couldn’t putt his way out of paper bag. He went to the long putter and moved from 100th in putting (missing short putt after short putt), to 10th in putting, which translates into making a ton of short putts. In short (no pun intended), the long putter is here to stay. It has saved a lot of “careers” in golf. It can help you.
Getting your body more into your putting. . .
I’ve advocated for years a new style of putting that gets more of your body into the act. Here’s how. Take the putter back with your shoulders, a short rotation to the right if you’re right-handed, to the left for lefties (like me). Then think about “striking” the ball with your body, mostly your lower body. On short putts think about forcing the ball at least two feet past the hole. Do not be short! On long putts think about getting the ball four to five feet past the hole. Why? Because even on the PGA Tour, most putts are short. From his mindset alone, I thought Arnold Palmer was the best putter on tour - ever. He rammed the ball into the back of the hole on putt after putt. "Take most of the break out of the putt," he said. Then his nerves went (with age) and perhaps a little ego got him back to the hesitant style, and that was the end of him.
Watching the Masters on Sat and Sun I began to count. The number of putts that were short were at least 60 percent of the total putts. That means you don’t even have a chance of making the putt 6 out of 10 times. 6 out of 10! And these are the pros. What about you? I’ll bet you’re short 80 percent of the time, especially on long putts. You’ve got to trick your brain into "allowing" you to strike the ball firmer than it “appears” necessary if you want to get the ball to the hole. If it doesn’t get to the hole, there’s no chance.
In future posts, I'll get into more specific technique about how to use the long putter. I don't recommend that you place it against your "belly." But again, that's for another post. Stay tuned.
Many of the principles of getting our bodies far more into the short game are incorporated into my Mongoose Golf Swing video tutorial DVD. To ORDER a personal copy, simply go to the BUY NOW button in the right column, click on it, and follow the instructions. You do NOT need an account to use PayPal. Have a great summer on the links. Learn to play better golf. My swing can save your knees, back, hips, and your final score. You’re gonna love it!