Legality of the Long Putter - Part 2

By Frank ThomasMarch 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Fred, with his question about The Legality of the Long Putter.
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More on the Legality of the Long Putter
Matt, Gish, Jim, Joe, Andy, Joe and many others,
The long and belly putter issue has stirred up a hornets nest ' again.
When I tried to explain some of the problems associated with a rule trying to control or dissuade the method of use, people weighed in to give me their suggestions and also let me know in some cases how much they disliked the long or belly putter.
The flood of emails weighing in on this subject started when I tried -- in my answer to Fred last week-- to define some of the many problems associated with trying to enforce a style or method of use rather than adopt an equipment specification which would make this style awkward and therefore dissuade golfers from using this method.
I find that those who object to the long and belly putter, do so based more on the style of the stroke than the advantages that these putters may provide.
Below are some (only some) excerpts from comments I received;
I have never really had an issue with the long putter per se because of it's benefits to the bad backs of the world like Freddy Couples. I do take issue with the belly putter because of how it makes 3 points of contact with the body. I would suggest a rule that limits the points of contact directly to the body'- Matt
Actually, the length of the club is not the objection. It is the anchoring.
No part of the club can touch or come in contact with any part of the body above the wrist or the torso or head, except for incidental, unintended brushing contact. would eliminate Bernard holding the club against his forearm'- Gish
Sorry Frank, youre just being too P.C on this subject. If kneeling on a towel (ala Craig Stadler) is building a stance, then sticking the butt end of a putter into your gut or anchoring the long putter to your chest creates a fixed artificial pivot point. If you cant putt go to one of the mini tours.'
- Jim
I think long putters and belly putters and the saw and claw grips should be illegal, left hand low like Jim Furyk is fine. No one has won a WGC or MAJOR with out using a standard putter or putting grip VIJAY SINGH IS GREAT PROOF he has won all his majors with a 'standard' putter and grip.' -Andy
Just make the rule state that the putter length must be equal or less in length than the shortest golf club in a players bag or used by a player. Joe


Bottom line:
I believe that the only practical way to deal with the objectionable manner--to some--in which these clubs are being used is to make this style of putting awkward through equipment specifications.
Joes suggestion (with some edits) The length of a putter must be equal to or less than the shortest golf club in a players bag is the most practical solution. Because monitoring any other restriction regarding how to hold the club or what it may or may not touch will be a nightmare for those who must administer and enforce this rule.
A problem with doing away with the long and belly putter is that we may lose some very valuable golfers who, without the option to use these instruments under the Rules of Golf, may find the game too frustrating to play because they are victims of an uncontrollable affliction, The yips. The conundrum is how to best help those in need while not supporting those who are just exploiting the altruistic rule.
Faster Courses
Dear Frank,
Just completed reading your book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had some hesitation in buying as I thought it would be more technical and I would not understand all the tech jargon. I was pleasantly surprised by the book and think you put just the right amount of tech info in the book so that I understood exactly what you meant.
I take it you are a 'purist' which is a good thing!
I read the last chapter of the book 'Saving The Game'and understand what you are saying. I wanted to ask you about point #4. Build Faster Courses. Are you also saying we need time limits on a round of golf? If so, do we pay for the round by the hour or a set fee for 18 holes?

Thank you for your kind comments and I am so pleased that you enjoyed my book, Just Hit It.
I tried to minimize the technical jargon and provide only the important stuff to get a basic understanding about how equipment works. I then provide a guide of how best to select your equipment to enhance your performance.
I believe that golf is one of the most addictive sports available to us, but also a very personal activity which we enjoy in the company of others, outdoors and even to get some exercise. When we understand that our wants and our needs are sometimes at odds we are in a better position to appreciate why we play this game. The challenge is the very essence of the game. If we ever found that magic club ' which in looking for it is so much fun and part of the charm of the game ' the search would be over. Then what?

Unfortunately, commercialism has had a good and bad effect on the game. We have been picking the fruit but not fertilizing the tree. As a result, participation is decreasing and we are not attracting new golfers into the game and making it less attractive to those who are already participating.
Some of the major problems are the cost and time it takes to play as well as the difficulty of many course layouts. Course designers are starting to recognize that the average golfer does not enjoy a course longer than 6,600 yards and based on our extensive survey, most golfers would prefer a 6,200-yard course. By providing multiple sets of tees we are tempted to move to a set longer than the appropriate challenge for our game affecting our enjoyment of the round. Unfortunately we let our egos get in the way of good common sense.
If we are able to get our egos under control and play from the right set of tees as well as change some of our bad habits we would reduce the time to it takes to play. This would make the game more enjoyable and when approaching the 18th green, we would wish that there were more holes to play rather that being relieved that the -- nearly five hour round -- is over.
Dennis, I dont think that we should charge by the hour or by the hole but have an option of playing six, eighteen or even twenty-seven holes if we wanted to. And play a course which will provide an adequate challenge for our skill level. Par should be an achievable score on every hole from where we play the hole, not impossible even with our best shots. If this is not the case we are playing the wrong set of tees or the course is inappropriately set up.
We all need to get together and help resolve some of the problems the game has and certainly make the introduction to the game more user-friendly. We can all help and I hope my book will get us started on the right track.
Thank you for your support.
To those of you who have not ordered 'Just Hit It' yet, this week I will be sending signed copies to the first 50 orders recieved. Click Here to order.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email
Frank Thomas

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.