Should long putters and belly putters be banned from the game of golf (#2)
Essay Draft 1
Dr. Cone Smith
Should long putters and belly putters be banned from the game of golf?
Golfers – polite, honest, well-mannered, good sportsmanship. Well, at least they used to
be. But underneath this gentle exterior, a fierce battle rages. Many professional golfers
believe the game is being destroyed. By what? Making the hole two feet wide? No. By
cheating? No. By technological advances? No. It would appear it is the adding of a mere
ten inches to a putter that is creating the current hysteria. How can this make such a
difference? It can’t. But in the last two years, people who have used long putters or
belly putters have won three out of four of the golfing majors. Funny enough,
complaints are now being raised about their use. Are these golfers just envious of their
achievements? Or do they have a point?
Having played golf around the world, I’ve seen and played against many different
people, all of whom have had different styles and techniques, and I have never thought
that the use of a long putter could have changed the outcome of a match. Because of this
I don’t believe they are worth the fuss. What are long putters and belly putters, and why
have they become such a contentious issue? A long putter is a putter that comes up to
either be anchored at your chin or at your sternum. A belly putter is a putter that,
instead of coming up to the waist (at around 35/36 inches), it ends up at chest height
(45 inches) and is anchored onto the body at the belly. So what’s the problem with these
anchored putters, and why are some golfers making them such a big deal?
Many golfers believe that the game of golf is about how well you can manipulate
your hands, but by anchoring the putter against your chest, you are taking the skill away
from the game. Golf isn’t all about the manipulation of the hands; the stroke requires all
parts of the body to be relaxed and work together: tempo, rhythm, and alignment all are
still required to make the ball go in the hole. However, the psychological side of the
game also plays a huge part in the success of the competitor; opponents of the long
putters would argue that the steadying nature of the club gives an unfair advantage to
those who don’t use it.
But if a belly putter is such an advantage, then why doesn’t everyone putt with
one? Every week on tour, someone with a different style and technique wins. An
anchored putter is a matter of preference; if they had such a massive advantage, you
would see that every player on the tour used one. Webb Simpson, first player ever to
win a major with a long putter, pointed out that, last year, nobody using an anchored
putter was in the top 20 of the most improved putters on tour:
“If anybody says that it’s an advantage, I think you’ve got to look at the stats and
the facts. Something that big and that costs manufacturers millions of dollars,
you’ve got to have some pretty good facts. Personally I think just because some of
us are winning majors or winning tournaments with the belly putter, that’s not a
good enough reason to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take them away’” (Webb
Simpson, PGA Golf).
And I have to agree with him.
The debate is currently raging on both side of the Atlantic; and is being discussed
by the two ruling bodies the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the
Royal&Ancient (R&A). The final decision was made in November 2013, but the rule
cannot be enforced until 2016. In a game where you can be disqualified for the simplest
error, it will be extremely difficult for the two ruling bodies to enforce the rule as the
wording will play a crucial role as to which part of the body the putter can or can’t touch.
Another difficulty for the authorities will be the deep pockets of the senior professionals
on tour, who will see a ban as an infringement on their ability to do their job as they
have done for the last 15 years, so they will do anything to stop this. All major golf
companies will be in support of keeping the belly putter around because they will lose
out on millions of dollars if they are no longer allowed to sell the “cheating stick.”
Technology develops and modifies every other part of the game and every other club, so
why not the putter? Bubba Watson, in the 2012 Ryder Cup match at Medinah, hit a 595-
yard par 5 in two with a driver and a 9 iron; that should not be possible, but with the
new technology in drivers and in golf balls, it was. The list of equipment evolutions is
nearly endless. People should be more worried about the 420 plus yard drives that
people are hitting instead of not complaining about the extra 10 inches that have been
put on the putter.
Using these putters is not against the rules. However, Tiger Woods was caught
glaring at Jim Furyk, who was practicing with a belly putter when warming up on the
putting green. Woods made it publically clear that he believes people who are using the
anchored putters are cheating, and this has changed the opinion of many. Some players
may have a strong view on this debate, as they refer to the long putter as “the cheating
stick,” but to call it cheating is unjust. On a blog, it says, “that it is for people who simply
can’t putt, and are finding ways to get around it. There is no way around a bad golf
swing so why should there be a way around a bad putting stroke?” (Doug Ferguson)
However, whether or not you use an anchored putter, the stroke still has to be taken
away square and brought back square, the nerves have to be channelled into positive
energy, the stroke must have the right tempo, the right line must be chosen as the
gradient varies on all greens, and the ball has to be struck at the right pace – all this just
for the ball to go in the hole. I believe there is enough evidence above to silence those
who believe that people who play with anchored putters are cheating.
The game golf is being destroyed with the amount of new equipment and the
impact of new technology, not the length of a putter. The USGA and R&A alliance
provides many great aspects to the game, but they need to find a limit. I don’t believe
that rolling back equipment rules now will achieve anything towards promoting the
game. But enough is enough; a stopping point has to be taken with regards as to how
much equipment should improve the distance a ball can be struck. Is the 10 inches on
the end of the putter more important than the 50 yards further the ball is being struck? I
would strongly suggest the game should look more closely at the latter. So the question I
ask is, are the authorities missing the elephant in the room, in the fact that the ball is
being hit an extra 50 yards and that’s not a problem… but the adding of 10 inches to a
putter is causing the sport world to erupt?
Kelley, Brent. "Readers Respond: Should Anchoring Be Banned From Golf?" About.com
Golf. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Ferguson, Doug. "Simpson Believes Long Putters Should Stay, Preparing for Them to Be
Banned." PGA. N.p., 8 Aug. 2012. Web.
Ferguson, Doug. "Woods Offers Solution in Putter Debate." PGA. N.p., 7 Feb. 2012. Web.
Description of my process of writing and revising
Should long putters and belly putters be banned from the game of golf?
This essay is the only essay that I wrote about something that I was very
interested on and had a strong opinion about. This essay came to me, as it was
something that I was already thinking about, so when I heard about the topic it became
clear that I should write about it. This essay was originally given an A-. When I came to
revising it was suggested that I should make the argument clearer, I tried to do this by
explaining the basics of the game and the basic principles that the authorities were
discussing. I feel that it made the essay stronger and easier for the reader (with no
golfing background) to understand.
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