How to Use the Long Putters
THE MOST COMMON FLAw bad putters have is too much wrist action, which usually leads to a loss of control of the putterhead before impact. Add the fact that greens are faster and in better condition than ever before–which places even more of a premium on precision–and it’s no surprise players at every level are experimenting with different ways to get the ball in the hole. A few tour pros, such as Mark Calcavecchia and Chris DiMarco, are using unconventional grips, while still more top players are trading in their traditional-length putters for longer models.
Following this tour trend, many club companies now offer an extended “broom-handle” putter designed to anchor against your sternum. Many make mid-length versions as well. The goal of both putter types is the same: To minimize the role of the wrists in the putting stroke by anchoring the putter to a fixed center–the sternum or belly. The tips here will help you get these clubs in your hands the right way–and perhaps even help you start making a few more of those five-footers.
LONG PUTTER: THINK PENDULUM
The beauty of the long putter is that it gives you one fixed center around which to stroke the putterhead back from and through the ball. The sweeping, pendulum stroke is more consistent than the handsy stroke poor putters use with a standard putter. Plus, practicing with a long putter is easier on the back. That’s good, since the most common complaint about this club is trouble with distance control due to the fact that the fine motor muscles of the hands are deemphasized. Spend some extra time on the practice green to get the feel.
To use the long putter, place the top of the grip against your sternum with your left hand. With your right hand, you can grip the club as you would a regular putter, or you can try something different. I’ve seen players grip it like they’d hold a pencil, or hold on to the shaft between the curled index and middle fingers of the right hand. As with any club, getting the right fit is crucial. The top of a long putter should end about at the height of the logo on your golf shirt when you’re in a slightly upright putting stance and the sole of the putter is resting flat on the ground.
You have two options for supplying force to the putterhead: The bending and straigthening of the right arm or the rocking motion of the shoulders. Some players use the right arm to pull the putterhead back smoothly, then push it through the ball. The main objective is to keep the upper body steady so your chest can act as the fulcrum of the pendulum. Others prefer to rock the shoulders to create a smooth, pendulum like stroke, with the right arm holding steady. The goal with both methods is the same: to have one fixed center and one source of power.
MID-LENGTH PUTTER: LET YOUR GUT GUIDE YOU
The mid-length putter is a less-dramatic alternative to the long putter. Most mid-putters have an extra 10 or 12 inches of shaft with either an extended grip or two separate grips. When picking out a putter, use the same criteria as for a regular putter, but make sure the one you choose is the right length. The butt end of a mid-length putter should rest about two inches above your belly button when you’re in your putting stance.
Using a mid-length putter is not much different from stroking a standard-length model. Take your normal putting stance and grip, but anchor the shaft in your midsection. Your height and body shape will dictate what length putter you should use.
THE STROKE The anchored shaft does one critical thing for your stroke–it acts as a stable hinge point. Your options for powering the stroke are the same as with the long putter. You can put the putter in motion by using the right arm or by moving the shoulders and upper torso.
Tom Ness is one of America’s 50 Greatest Teachers, as ranked by his peers in Golf Digest. He’s based at Chateau Elan Golf Club in Braselton, Ga.
COPYRIGHT 2002 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group