Getting In The Swing With A Long Putter

Golf purists can't stand them, partly because they're so goofy-looking. But those odd, long-shafted putters are starting to catch on at golf courses from Montauk to Monterey. First popular with older players, including President Bush, the long clubs got an added boost this spring when a young fellow named Rocco Mediate became the first PGA Tour member to win with one.

The shaft on a long putter ranges from 41 in. to 54 in.--vs. about 35 in. for a regular putter. To use a long one, hold the very top with your left hand (assuming you're right-handed) and press it to your sternum. Then grasp the shaft about 12 in. down with your right hand. Bending over slightly, swing the club with your right hand only, keeping the top pressed to your chest with your left hand.

Why does this help some people's putting? With a traditional putter, you hunch over and swing the club with both hands. Many golfers, especially those whose nerves aren't so steady, have trouble keeping their wrists firm as they putt, leading to misdirected shots. Sometimes, their wrists actually twitch -- an infuriating affliction known as the "yips." Separating your hands on a long putter helps eliminate the problem. Equally important, anchoring a long putter to your chest makes it easier to create a smooth, pendulum-like swing-- vital to keeping the ball moving on line.

Many golfers would like to see long putters outlawed. Armed with a clause in the Rules of Golf, which states that clubs must be "traditional and customary," they will take up the issue at this June's U. S. Golf Assn. executive committee meeting. "It's a major concern," allows USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas.

The controversy hasn't kept a good many clubmakers from cashing in. DynaPro Products was among the first to succeed on the mass market. Its long putter, around for three years, is the one favored by Orville Moody--the once-pitiful putter who became a star on the Senior PGA Tour. The Orville Moody Pendulum Style Putter sells for about $100.

NEW ENTRIES. Another popular brand is the Pole-Kat ($100 to $130), Bush's putter-of-choice. It comes in two models, one with a flat-bottomed head and one with a rounded head. A newcomer to the party is Ping, whose B90 arrived this year. Selling for $80, this is the one Rocco Mediate uses.

Even the venerable Otey Crisman Golf Co. is getting into the act. Best known for making supertraditional clubs with hickory shafts and leather grips, owner Otey Crisman couldn't resist the long-putter craze. True, his Long Oteys ($100) don't look old-fashioned. But a product that makes putting a little easier "is good for the game," he argues. This summer, he'll find out if the USGA agrees.

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