QA The Legality of Long Putters

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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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
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.
--Steven

 
Steven,
 
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.
 
Frank
 
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,
--Joe

 
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.
 
Aloha,
Frank
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com