Putter Length: What is Right for You?

Man putting on a golf green
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There are hundreds of variations of putters out there, but there are three basic types when it comes to putter length: the conventional putters, belly putters, and long putters.

What putter length is best for you? The easiest answer is that it's completely a matter of personal preference. If you're thinking of going away from a conventional putter to a belly or long putter, you simply need to get on a putting green and see which putter length feels best and produces the best results.

Each type does have qualities, however, that might narrow the choices.

Conventional Putter

Most teaching pros agree: If you can use a conventional putter, then you should use a conventional putter. And a short one at that.

To achieve the ideal putting posture, take your stance and lean forward so that your eyes are directly over the line of the putt. Let your arms hang loosely down, then bring your palms together. Voila - your ideal putting posture.

Obviously, you can't take that posture unless your putter length is a conventional one (putters traditionally range from 32 to 36 inches).

So why do some pros (and more amateurs) go to the belly or long putters? Conventional putters require nerves of steel and an absolute minimum of wrist action. Poor putting nerves are often called the "yips"; those with excess wrist action are said to be "handsy."

If you suffer from the yips or are too handsy in your putting, then trying a belly or long putter could be for you.

Michael Lamanna, director of instruction at The Phoenician resort in Phoenix, Ariz., says of the conventional putter, "It allows for the perfect blend of feel and mechanical precision. The problem for poor putters is that it allows some wrist action to occur."

The Belly Putter

The selling point of the belly putter used to be that provided a third point of contact - the abdomen (along with each hand) - between the putter and the player, which provided stability and balance to the stroke. However, since the anchoring ban went into effect beginning in 2016, bracing belly putters against one's belly is no longer allowed under the rules.

That doesn't mean a golfer can't still use a belly putter, however, and some golfers may like the longer length (typically from 41 to 44 inches) and typically thicker grips that help quiet the hands. Also, while anchoring is no longer allowed, bracing the longer putter grip against one's arm is okay, and belly putters work well for this "arm lock" putting method.

The Long Putter

The long putter turns the putting stroke into a true pendulum swing, totally eliminating wrist hinge. Golfers take an upright stance, so those who suffer from weak or aching backs get a bit of a break.

But the long putter - typically 48 to 52 inches in length - is even longer than the belly putter (it ain't called the "long putter" - or "broomstick putter" - for nothing!), and that means even less feel and feedback. It also means that controlling distance becomes a bit more problematic.

It does have the advantage of taking wrist action out of play. As Lamanna says, "This is usually the last hope for a bad putter. If this one does not cure the yips, you have to take up tennis!"

As with the belly putter, note that anchoring of long putters (or any golf club) is no longer "legal" under the Rules of Golf. Long putters themselves, however, are still perfectly fine to use if you like the fit and one helps your putting.