No other shot in sports is more frustrating than the missed 3-footer in golf. How difficult could it possibly be to guide a 1.68-inch diameter ball into a 4.25-inch hole? It sounds simple, especially considering that four balls could theoretically fit within the diameter of the hole at the same time, with room to spare.
But putting is the most challenging, confusing, and frustrating shot in golf. The world’s best often circle the green, lie close to the ground, and confer with their caddy, only to miss a seemingly straightforward putt.
In an attempt to make this impossible yet simple task that much easier, golfers have begun to experiment with alternate putters. A standard putter is 33 to 35-inches in length, yet some golfers have strayed far from that standard in an attempt to improve their short game.
A strong advocate of the ‘broomstick’ putter, which measures roughly 49-inches in length and is steadied on the players chest, is world no. 21 Adam Scott. In Scott’s opinion, the club has vastly improved his putting game and put him in position to move back up the world rankings.
"I love it, and feel the best I have for years on the putting green, which is giving me a lot of confidence generally,” said Scott before the 2011 Masters. “Basically from the first day I tried the long putter it felt right and putts started going in, so I'm very hopeful that will be an ongoing pattern at my tournaments this year."
Though Scott feels comfortable with the putter, his rhythm seems astray as he ranks 164th on tour in putts per round in 2011. To many golfers (excluding Scott), the fact that the club is touching another part of the body constitutes cheating. If nothing else, it looks like an absolutely ridiculous use of a club intended for senior players on tour.
On the other end of the spectrum is Robert Garrigus, who sports a stubby 28-inch putter. An awkward and aggressive bend at the waist is required to ground the putter. Garrigus views this stance as an opportunity to place his eyes directly above the ball. Unfortunately for him, he too has performed poorly on the greens in 2011 (140th in putts per round).
Note that the overwhelming majority of top putters on tour use standard putters.
But it’s difficult to argue that a change in putters is a pointless exercise when considered in a historical context. In 1996, the longest hitter on tour was struggling mightily with his short game. After transitioning to an unorthodox putter, measuring nearly 63-inches in length, he went on to capture the Tour Championship.
So if you have the urge to make a change, take comfort knowing that Happy Gilmore accomplished that feat no more than 15 years ago.