On one side of the green holding the short putter is Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Club of St Andrews. Snarling at him from the other side of the greensward is PGA of America, President, Ted Bishop, who thinks the last thing needed is the banning of the long stick, which is precisely what the R&A have done starting January 1st. 2016.
Bishop is using some pretty low tricks too saying that he finds it, ‘Perplexing given the fact that the R&A has not been inclusive, as evidenced by their unwillingness to accept women as members.’ Ouch!
There is no doubting that golf technology has made the game easier over the years with the advent of the rescue club meaning that high handicappers no longer have to go through the golfing equivalent of death by a thousand cuts in attempting to hit long irons. Similarly, new lob wedges mean that even us duffers have the chance of occasionally getting a ball flying high onto a raised green.
But, and this is a huge but, we still hold these new high-technology clubs, like we held the old ones, namely away from the body. And the belly putter or broom handle most definitely is not. It is anchored to the body.
For professional and top amateur golfers the stroke that is almost invariably the first to leave them is the one that they use for their putting. One well known amateur county golfer who plays off plus two cannot physically make the putting stroke with an old fashioned, short putter any more. His hands go back but the putter head remains firmly in neutral.
Golfing doyen and journalistic legend, Henry Longhurst, had to give up the game when the croquet method of putting was banned because he too, was chronically smitten with yips- out there with its poisonous playmate, the shank, in golf’s horror show.
Recent statistics show that four out of the last six major winners have used long handled putters, with Adam Scott being the latest at Augusta. Although Angel Cabrera said afterwards, ‘I don’t think there is an advantage. If it really is an advantage then why doesn’t everyone play it?’
But, in a sorry state of affairs, harking back to the days when the British golf ball was a different size to the larger US ball, the long putter could still be allowed in American PGA tournaments. Imagine no long sticks in the Open but considered perfectly acceptable in the USPGA championship! Will one be considered tougher than the other?
And does the long putter really help? Scott choked over the closing holes at the Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, albeit beaten by another broom handle man, Ernie Els. At the end of the round, isn’t it all down to who can hold their nerve and keep their game together, long putter or no long putter?