A belly putter has a longer shaft than a conventional putter (but not as long as a long putter, or broomstick putter). The longer shaft was the right length for "anchoring" against the golfer's stomach (the end of grip pressed into the golfer's stomach), which serves as a fulcrum for making the stroke. Belly putters typically range from 41 to 44 inches in length, compared to a typical range of 32-36 inches for conventional putters.
The form and function of a belly putter is much closer to that of a conventional putter than a long putter. Like the conventional putter, a belly putter is used by employing a two-handed stroke with similar putting posture. The connection to the body through anchoring - at least until anchoring is outlawed under the rules - with a belly putter helps stabilize the wrists through the stroke.
Belly putters have been somewhat controversial since they first started showing up on professional tours because of that connection between the shaft and the stomach. Traditionally, the only part of the body touching the club is the golfer's hands.
And on May 21, 2013, the USGA and R&A finally acted to address that extra point of contact between club and body that is achieved through anchoring: The governing bodies announced the adoption of Rule 14-1b, which spells out a ban on anchoring.
Under that rule change, as of Jan. 1, 2016, anchoring will no longer be allowed. Belly putters themselves, however, will remain "legal," golfers just won't be able to anchor them into the stomach. Angel Cabrera won the 2009 Masters putting with a belly putter that he did not anchor, so some golfers might find belly putters a good option even after the ban on anchoring takes effect.
Anchored belly putters grew in popularity because that extra stability created by pressing them against one's belly was very useful to golfers who were too "handsy" or "wristy" with a conventional putter.
Paul Azinger is generally credited with gaining a measure of popularity for the belly putter; he began using one on the PGA Tour in 1999.
Using a Belly Putter
The basics of anchored belly putter technique
Belly putter fitting: If you are considering switching from conventional putting to anchored belly putting, here's how to choosing the right length.
Return to Golf Glossary index