After watching the British Open Championship this past weekend, I had no doubt that the "powers that be" in golf would have something to say about the impact that long putters are having on our game.
Many of the talking heads on the networks covering the open had a very solid opinion. They seemed to feel they should be banned and removed from the game. Their feeling, and that of many traditionalists, is that they make putting too easy.
As we grow old our nerves tend to make performing certain tasks difficult. I know a lot of guys who can hit a 300-yard driver right down the middle, or knock a difficult chip from out of the rough to within a couple of feet of the hole. Unfortunately, these same guys cannot make a good stroke and knock in that 2-foot putt.
I know that long and belly putters have helped many people enjoy the game. In addition, they have revived the careers of many professionals on every tour around the globe.
A growing number of people in golf feel that they need to be banished from the sport and those who cannot hit a golf ball into a hole without anchoring the putter to their body in some fashion, should just take up shuffleboard.
I attend several PGA Tour events each year. I love to go during the practice rounds to talk to the guys and see the new clubs they are testing and putting into play. A few years ago, you may have found a half-dozen long or belly putters for the guys to try. This year at the Honda Classic, no less than half of the putters the manufacturers had for the pros to try were longer-than-standard.
I know from personal experience they help. My best friend had for years suffered from "the yips." He was more likely to drop a 30-footer than a 3-footer. He simply couldn't keep the putter on-line for those short putts. He'd flip his right hand over or push the club out with his left. As maddening as it was for me to watch, it frustrated him to the point where he found it difficult to enjoy the game.
About a year ago he tried a long putter. It was magic. He now rolls the ball much better, has a ton of confidence and best of all, enjoys the game.
I have tried them myself. I've tried them from several manufacturers, in different styles, sizes, weights and more. I cannot seem to get them to work. I putt much worse with one.
Many people have asked me for my thoughts on the possibility of the Royal & Ancient and the United States Golf Association ruling on the use of them, along with making any stroke that involves anchoring the club to the body, illegal.
While they are not for me, I hope these wonderful putting instruments and the stroke they require are never ruled illegal. If the professional tours feel their use gives those playing the game for money an advantage, then they should ban them from their competition. If an amateur or club event feels the same way, they too should follow suit.
I do not, however, feel they should be banned for the rest of us. One of golf's biggest problems is that it's very difficult. If allowing a recreational golfer to use a long putter keeps him or her in the game or brings someone new to the game because it's now a little less difficult, I am all for it.
The traditionalists and "rules police" will scream about not playing by the rules. I would guess that 90 percent of us do not play by the letter of the rules. Most of us play for fun, relaxation and the fresh air. Do we honestly care if a club helps the guy two holes ahead of us make a putt and go home a happy man?
To those who complain that a putting stroke with a long putter is not a golf stroke or swing, I ask you this: does anyone's putting stroke look anything like what you see with any other club? No. You wouldn't hit your driver like a putter, or the other way around
So, to answer the question I've been asked this week, I say this: keep the long and belly putter in the game. Life's too short for those of us playing the game for recreation and if they do rule them to be illegal, you'll still be welcome in my foursome.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.