We’ve all been waiting for the shoe to drop in this issue, and yesterday, it did. Tiger Woods stated that the belly putter does not square with what he feels to be “implicit in the art of putting,” which is a “controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion.” Fair enough. That’s a pretty good description of all the elements you need to hit a ball, lying on the ground, with a club, and have a reasonable idea of where the ball is going to go.
What that has to do with belly putters, though, is beyond me. The motion Woods describes is an exact description of both the way Woods putts and the way Webb Simpson putts. If you wanted to distinguish between the two styles, that description doesn’t make the distinction. I willing to let that go as him saying what he thinks, and he can certainly put in his two cents just like the next fellow.
Woods, however, does not want to solve the problem by outlawing anchoring a putter against a player’s body. He wants to eliminate belly putting by regulating the length of the club, and that is an entirely different matter.
“My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag,” Woods said. “And I think with that we’d be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring.”
Yes, we would, but that would at the same time take the game away from thousands of golfers who have a difficult time with short clubs. I take this personally, because one of those golfers could be me.
[Note: The Rules of Golf say: “The overall length of the club must be at least 18 inches (0.457 m) and, except for putters, must not exceed 48 inches (1.219 m).” Why woods, hybrid irons, irons, and wedges may continue to be constrained by the 48-inch limit, but a putter could not, can be discussed, but separately.]
Last week I had surgery on my spine to correct an urgent condition. In three months I am going to have another spine operation to correct something else. I have known for years that all this would would have to happen sometime, and now is the time. What I am concerned about is the future.
I am hoping to be back out on the course in July, at least chipping and putting. I would like to putt with my 48″ split-grip putter that for most golfers would be a belly putter, but since I’m 6’6″ tall, is merely a different putter. It does let me stand up straight when I putt, though, and that is a big help to me over using a putter that was built for someone a foot shorter than I am. Essentially, it lets me putt like everyone else does. This putter lets me play.
My personal concern is over where my back will take me in the coming decades. If Woods’s plan gets adopted, will I have to give up golf if the time comes that I can’t bend over enough to putt with a putter that is required to be shorter than I can manage without discomfort? Could the rules of golf be changed such that a large class of golfers might be shut out of the game?
In all the discussion of belly putters, you keep hearing, “They’re not fair.” Well, Woods’s plan is not fair. This not just his game. It’s my game too, and shutting me out, and others like me, in this way is not fair.
I have written about belly putters in previous posts, and likely will write more about them this year when two more major tournaments are won by players using them. But this plan, this one needs to be deep-sixed. If the belly putter is harmful to golf, then Woods’s club-length plan could be fatal to many of us.