Rule 14-1b, which prohibits anchoring the club during a stroke, does not go into effect until January 1, 2016, meaning that golfers may use that technique with long and belly putters for two more years. However, based on a survey of putter exhibits at the PGA Merchandise Show last week, it seems that belly and long putters are virtually extinct.
Two years ago, as Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and a number of other touring pros were achieving success with anchoring, belly putters were all the rage at the Show. This year, it was harder to find a belly putter than a seat at the bar at Tommy Bahama during peak hours.
I asked a number of representatives of putter manufacturers how they have responded to the adoption of Rule 14-1b. Chris McGinley, a marketing representative for Titleist, told me that Titleist has launched its Futura X Dual Balanced putter, which has more weight in the head and the butt to enhance the stability of the stoke. “Our goal is to make the best putter that conforms with the rules,” said McGinley. “Players are looking to find a stable golf stroke.”
McGinley explained that the Futura X putters tend to run three inches longer than a conventional putter. The counterbalancing contributes to a more stable stroke by “slowing things down” and reducing the activity of the hands. “We’re always trying to find putters that help players putt their best,” he said.
Kyle Urlickson, the PGA Tour representative for RIFE Golf, said that RIFE has incorporated counterbalancing in some of its putters, but predicts that such technology will be a passing phase. “Some players have had success with it, but if you move the weight higher you can lose feel and distance control,” said Urlickson. He estimated that as many as fifty Tour players have tried counterbalancing but only a handful have stuck with it. Urlickson predicts that the “arm-lock” technique used by Matt Kuchar, where the club is braced against the forearm, will emerge as the most popular method to achieve stability after the demise of anchoring with belly putters.
Tony Starks, a marketing and public relations representative for TaylorMade, said that TaylorMade is introducing a new counterbalance putter, the Spider Ghost SI, which has a high MOI (moment of inertia). Starks explained that the new putter is very stable because the counterbalancing – with more weight at the head and the butt — keeps the face square. “This is our response to the belly putter going away,” said Starks. He commented that, even though anchoring will be permitted for two more years, “it doesn’t make sense to invest in belly putter technology.”
Bob Ochoa, Director of Marketing for TourEdge, noted that belly putters have not entirely disappeared from the scene. He said that many players will use mid-length putters (35-38”) with a longer grip that provide options to use techniques like Kuchar’s. (Rule 14-1b prohibits anchoring, but not longer putters themselves.) Ochoa said that demand for belly putters dropped off substantially last year in the wake of the anchoring controversy.
The anchoring debate is not entirely closed. Next month, PGA President Ted Bishop and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem will attend the USGA Executive Board meetings, where they will advocate for a grandfather rule for recreational players. However, the prospects for such a modification of the rule seem dim. But whatever happens on the rules front, one thing seems clear: virtually all major club manufacturers have fled the belly and long putter market. If you need one, try eBay.
Jack Ross, a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly, was on-site at the PGA Merchandise Show last week.