QA The Legality of Long Putters

By Frank ThomasAugust 8, 2007, 4:00 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
Hi Frank,
What is your view on long putters? I mean putters that are anchored to a golfer's body at the butt end. Many pro golfers use the them to cure putting woes. Do you think that anchoring the club end to a golfer's body basically change the essence of a golf stroke? Traditionally a golf stroke is made with a swing of a club by a golfer's hands gripping the shaft alone. No other part of the golfer's body contacts the club. I think the swing motion of a club only by hands is fundamental to a golf which should not be changed. Anchoring the shaft to the body or any additional contact between the golfer's body with the club should be forbidden. It is ridiculous to see Bernard Langer use his long putter for a free drop measurement.

Let me first say that I believe that the long putter is here to stay; both the belly putters and those 48-52 inch long broomsticks used to anchor the butt end to the golfers body and also used in getting club length relief.
There is one way to resolve the club length relief problem of using an inappropriate club to take advantage of the situation and this is to permit only the club one intends to use after relief (or one close to it in the set ) to be used to take relief. It will be infrequent that a putter or driver will be used after relief has been taken.
This, however, is not the crux of the matter as I read your question. You seem to be more concerned about the long putter itself and trying to get rid of it by devising rules based on its use.
Anchoring your hand, holding the butt end of the putter against your body is something very difficult to control or monitor. Some very good golfers 40-50 years ago used to anchor their right forearm to the upper portion of their right thigh when putting and used a very wristy-type of stroke which otherwise looked very traditional. Similarly one could anchor the left forearm to the left portion of the chest and use the long putter pivoting about the left wrist to make an almost identical stroke to that when anchoring the left hand to the chest as is done in most cases when using the long putter.
Steven, unfortunately having considered almost every option in an attempt to make using the long putter look more traditional, there seems to be no alternative other than limiting the length of the putter itself. Trying to dictate how to use the instrument or make a stroke has all sorts of problems associated with it. What the USGA has tried to do in the past is to limit the physical properties of the equipment such that it becomes very awkward to use it in a manner that is offensive to most traditionalists. This was not done when the long putter was approved after Orville Moody won the U.S. Senior Open using one.
There is no doubt that the long and belly putters eliminate up to 3 degrees of freedom in making the putting stroke and thus also eliminate the errors associated with those degrees of freedom (e.g. no more wrist break, wrist rotation or up and down motion to worry about).
I am not yet convinced that long putters (the instrument) will make a good putter (the person) into a great putter, but they have made mediocre putters into reasonably good putters in some cases.
Steven, this is a long answer to your long putter problem but I think the long putter is here to stay.
Aloha Frank,
I really could use your help. I have a 8.5 degree driver with an innovative shaft. It's 52 grams, 4.0 torque, mid kick. I really love this shaft. I'm a senior and can get about 250-260 yards off the tee. My problem: too high a launch. If I tip the shaft, will it lower the launch angle? Will that affect the torque? I need to keep my drives under the Hawaiian winds.
Thank you, sir, aloha,

Aloha Joe,
Any time of the year is a good time to be in Hawaii, but the wind does give you something to contend with most days. This is good for sailing, but not always good for golf. If you presently get 250 to 260 yards on your drives, then you are about 55 to 65 yards longer than the average golfer and should be very pleased, but if this is with a high trajectory into the wind then it will create a few problems as you say.
By tipping the shaft (trimming it in size from the tip end) you will make the tip a little stiffer and lower the trajectory a little. It will also make the shaft feel a little stiffer. You will not measurably affect the torque, so dont worry.
For general information, in golf we often incorrectly refer to the resistance to a torsion load as torque. In fact, the technical term torque means a force applied to a body (in this case the shaft) tending to make it rotate or twist. It is NOT the amount that body will twist, which is what manufacturers mean when they talk about this property of their shafts. This doesnt affect my answer to you, Joe, but I had to get it off my chest.
The affect of your trimming the shaft will depend on how much you tip it. If it is only an inch, then the differences in performance and feel will be minimal. If its two inches or more, you will definitely have a different-feeling shaft.
If, as you say, you love the shaft, it is important not to do any tip trimming if you dont have to. To lower the trajectory, you may be better off changing to a lower lofted clubhead. If you dont want to mess with the clubhead or the shaft at all, and feel comfortable with slight changes to your swing, I would suggest that you try something else like choking down on the club, move the ball back in your stance, or lowering the tee height when hitting into the wind.
We would all like to have your problem, especially in Hawaii, wind or no wind.
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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
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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”