Drive for show, putt for dough.

Anybody who has played the game of golf with any degree of regularity is probably familiar with that saying. You can slice or hook your drive off the tee and still be able to recover with a decent second or third shot and then, just when you're about ready to sink that putt for par alarm bells go off in your head and you either push or pull the putt and miss the hole entirely. If you’re lucky, you’re not coming down with a case of the yips and wind up heaving your clubs into a nearby lake in frustration.

If you’re anything like me, chances are that you’re using what’s known as a “conventional’ putter. By saying that I mean that it usually averages somewhere between 32 and 36 inches in length and is held away from your body. Like all the other clubs in your bag, the only thing that comes in to contact with the club is your hands.

The “belly putter” is much different. Depending on your height it will usually be anywhere from 41 to 44 inches in length and even though the grip is the same as the conventional putter there is huge difference. When a golfer uses “belly putter” they will wedge the end of the shaft of club into their stomach. This creates a fulcrum and rather than have only two points of contact between the golfer and the ball there is now three. This adds another layer of stability for the golfer.

Recent controversy

There’s been a recent debate lately about the use of the belly putter and whether it provides an unfair advantage to those who choose to use it. After all, it’s been around for over a decade now and many young golfers who are looking to turn pro have never used anything else. Golf purists continue to insist that it provides an unfair advantage over the conventional putter. The United States Golf Association is currently reviewing the pros and cons of the issue and is expected to render a decision shortly.

Personal thoughts

I don’t use a belly putter and probably never will. That doesn’t mean I’m against it though. Thanks to technology golf balls are flying further and straighter than they ever have before. Does that mean we go back to the days when your “woods” were really made of wood or when the ball itself was not made of space aged material invented by NASA? I don’t think so.

Did you ever go to a golf tournament and watch the pros play? They play a much different game than you and I and the stakes involve more than a few Nassau’s and a round of beers in the 19th hole. To deprive them of something they’ve been using their entire career seems a bit unfair to me.

If you’ve ever played a five hour plus round in 90 degree heat on your local municipal dirt track and watched in frustration as somebody took five minutes to line their putt in order to card a snowman you’d also be likely to allow them to use anything that helps speed up the game.

Update 11/28/2012:The Golf Gods Have Spoken

Both the British and United States golf ruling bodies have determined that the use of belly putters and other extended clubs will not be allowed in the same format as today. Beginning in 2016 use of them will still be allowed however the golfer will no longer be able to wedge the putter against any part of their body. Anyone who violates the new rule will be subject to a two shot penalty in strokeplay or the loss of a hole in match play.

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