By Brant Brice
What do we do when our putter fails us? How do we feel when that once beautiful piece of shiny exotic metal lets us down? Or that putter you’ve had for years and years that has always been the one club you swear you’ll never replace in your bag becomes replaceable, and no longer easily guides your ball into the hole? So starts the agonizing search for the new “it” girl in your golf bag to cure your newly found yips.
We have all found ourselves on the indoor putting green in a local golf superstore wading through 400 putters heavily promoted by 10 different mega brands? You get basically three choices: those that are identical in some way to Karsten’s original Ping Anser style putter, those that look identical to the 8802 iconic putter or the ones that look like a spaceship on a stick? Fourth option … Have you been glancing over at those hot new belly putters that will make you look cool like Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson, or the senior tour broomstick long handle putters that make you look like Bernhard Langer? Did you actually pick one up and strike a ball with one secretly praying none of the sales guys would see you? Worse yet, a member from your club witnesses you taking a rip with a 43″ spaceship made out of outer space alloy. Don’t fret, I’m here to help … hopefully!
Like most of you I have gone through many, many putters. My collection sits at about eight right now. I play a mallet style from TaylorMade. I also have two putters that I am in love with that I purchased only as collectors pieces — a Ping A1 with the sound slot and an Acushnet Bullseye a la Corey Pavin. I also own a few Anser style putters including a broken Scotty Cameron, a Rife 8802 copy, and now a 41” replica of Fred Couples’ belly blade putter. And oh, a 27″ blade I cut down to see if Robert Garrigus was on to something (turns out he wasn’t, and my back still hurts from that experiment). I think I am a pretty good putter. I can read greens well, I have an amazing number of putts that I make from 20 to 40 feet, I lag very well, I tend to consistently start my putts on line, but my ego shattering misses are from inside 4 feet. That last part has become so insidious that naturally I started the search for the putter that could make me putt like Freddie C.
I was incredibly uncomfortable in the local shops testing the belly and broomstick models, especially the broomstick conceding in some way that I was a lousy putter and needed a crutch. I also felt dumb since I basically own one of each style already including a heavy putter. So why was I here? Every week on the TV we hear how the long putters will fix the yips, and how they have resurrected careers like Langer, Senior, Scott and Couples. The R&A and the USGA haven’t outlawed them (yet) and they have had some newly found success on the tours. So I built a belly putter that is 41″. I tested every belly putter in the usual stores and found 41″ to be well suited to my build. I took it to a course I don’t play and spent days testing the new weapon against my arsenal of dust collectors. What did I find? I found out quickly I needed to add weight since having the ability to manhandle the thing was a bad idea. I added a lot of lead weights, and the putter is now nearly 400 grams total. Results: I loved it from 40′-4′. I made a ton of long distance putts, and I start the ball on line very well. With it, I am a great lag putter, but I wasn’t very good from 4 feet and in and was still pushing the ball to the right. Turns out after four weeks practicing and tinkering, I was the same putter as I was with all of my other putters. I spoke to a PGA professional and within five minutes he had me rolling in 4 footers like they were 6″ putts. My ball position was too far back which encouraged me to push the ball and to take an ever wider open stance to counteract the push.
So do the longer putters help amateurs? I emphatically say no. Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, etc. are still far better putters with a standard blade than you or I are with our best putter. To them and to you, your best putter is going to be the one that feels the best in your hands and allows you to make a smooth tension-free stroke that inspires confidence. If you are going to venture into the belly market, understand that a belly putter swing comes from the shoulders not the hands. They do promote a much more relaxed swing, so if you find one that just feels better than what you have, you will in fact putt better.
Go see a professional and have your favorite putter fit to your swing, posture and grip. Then instead of dropping $300 on a new flatstick, pay the pro to give you a lesson after he or she sees your flaws. Finally, and here is the absolute secret to GREAT putting … PRACTICE. Stop machine gunning 100 balls with your driver once a week and wonder why your putting doesn’t improve and spend some quality time on the putting green practicing distance control, starting putts online and reading greens. Practice with one ball, not three. Put together a practice routine that adds pressure and covers distance, line and touch. You will save a ton of money and will actually lower your handicap.
P.S. If the fine folks at Cameron are reading, I could be persuaded to put that Taylormade putter back in my collection if a 34″ or 41″ Kombi shows up at my doorstep! Turns out my broken Studio Select 2.5 Cameron was a fake … but that’s another story!