I think I’ve noticed a subtle shift in the way the long putter debate is being framed. When the recent run of long putter wins began, including Adam Scott winning with the sweeper and Keegan Bradley winning with the belly putter, the commentators were talking about the use of the “long putter.”
Then Bones Mackay was on Feherty’s show, and said that he thought putters that are in contact with the body, or anchored putters, should be outlawed. (I thought that would lead to an interesting debate with Fluff Cowan, given that Jim Furyk uses a belly putter these days. But I bet Phil Mickelson’s foray into belly putting led to much more entertaining conversations.)
Phil using the belly putter elevated the debate, and I noticed commentators beginning to talk about the “anchored putter” rather than the “long putter.” I suppose if an argument for outlawing either the sweeper or the belly putter could be made, it would be much easier to do it based on contact with the body rather than putter length.
Belly putters obviously need contact with the body if they are to be belly putters. You could use a sweeper without making contact anywhere but in the hands and get a good pendulum motion. Whether or not that would be more effective than a traditional putting style would probably vary with each individual golfer. Face-on putting with a long putter is unlikely to rely on anchoring the club to chest or chin. You can get stability by resting your forearm on your torso, and many putting other styles rely on holding body parts together (elbows to sides, Arnold Palmer knees, whatever).
Whether or not it should be illegal to anchor a club to the body will be up to the USGA and R&A, not me. I suppose you can argue that it isn’t a golf swing as originally intended if a club is anchored, but the modern ball isn’t a golf ball as originally intended. I don’t think it’s true that “it’s gone too far to be made illegal.” It’d be easier to outlaw an anchored putter than it was to outlaw square grooves.
The argument that makes the least sense to me is that the long or anchored putter is an unfair advantage. Anyone can use any putter or putting technique if it works better for them. It’d be more logical to say that top of the line clubs and balls are an unfair advantage – we all can’t afford them. And I don’t think they’re going to make Wal-Mart specials the only legal equipment on tour.
I hope the USGA/R&A take a hard look at the technique of anchoring a club to one’s body (or anchoring a hand). Play any length putter you want, just don’t stick it into a part of your body.
I’d like to see the USGA/R&A resolve the issue. I agree with you that any length putter should be fine. I’m torn on the anchoring issue. I see the argument against anchoring anything to your body to artificially stabilize the club, direct the shot, etc. It seems antithetical to golf played at its highest and purest level.
On the other hand, I know that anchored putters have extended the playing life and enjoyment of a lot of folks that just play for recreation, and I’d have trouble adopting different rules for players at different levels. One of the best features of golf is the universality of the game.
I can live with a decision either way, but I’d like to see a decision.