Legality of the Long Putter - Part 2


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