How to putt from the gut
September 25, 2012
Did you know that your belly could help your golf game?
I have often rationalized that while the size of my equator is on the increase, it must be beneficial — perhaps better weight shift or a lower center of gravity. Alas, there has been no significant change.
But wait, almost every week on the PGA Tour, we see a new player using his stomach to lower scores. It's not sit-ups or crunches or a belt with a battery pack. It's a "belly putter".
Yes, a longer shaft on the putter is anchored to your mid-section by your left hand (for a right-handed player) and the offhand is used to propel the putter head.
The advantage for this is a solid base. We often talk about a putting motion being similar to a pendulum. The putter head is "swinging," steady as a result of the top being constant.
Of course, nothing is perfect, or everyone would be doing it. A negative is the distance between your hands. One hand is near your chest, and the other is well down the shaft. This separation can leave the unanchored hand with a lot of possibilities. Up, down, left, right — it can go anywhere.
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Many of those who use the belly putter will fix the upper arm to their torso to provide some stability, while still allowing an amount of freedom to move the putter.
Another drawback is the distance one's hands have from the putter head. The farther you get from something, the more difficult it is to control.
However, if we can't control it with the traditional putter grip, what could it hurt to try a new piece of equipment that is "attached" to a solid base?
If you're wondering how much this might help, here is an interesting tidbit. The boys who make the rules might not allow them to be used on tour. The decision won't be made until 2016, but the conflict lies in the definition of a golf stroke.
We already know that we can't putt like croquet, and we can't get on the ground to hit the ball like a pool cue. So at what point is the motion not fundamental to golf? That will be decided in a few years.
In the mean time, take advantage of a long belly putter if it's an advantage to you. Or if you're like me, my putter length hasn't changed, but it's looking more like a belly putter all the time.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.