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. And we'll take a look at those now:
Conventional PutterMost 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 belly putter provides a third point of contact - the abdomen (along with each hand) - between the putter and the player, which provides stability and balance to the stroke.
The main advantages of this putter length (which usually ranges from 41 to 44 inches) are that the putter is anchored against the body, and wrist action is easier to control, while the player remains in a posture that is close to the ideal.
However, since belly putters are longer and generally have a thicker grip, feel is reduced. Distance control is dicier as well due to the longer shaft.
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.
But 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!"
Note about Belly, Long Putters
On Jan. 1, 2016, Rule 14-1b will take effect. That new rule will outlaw, as of that date, the anchoring of putters into the body. This obviously reduces the utility of longer putters, since they were originally designed to be anchored. However, they will still be worth experimenting with for some golfers. Other options for using them - such as bracing the shaft against the lead forearm - exist. And long putters will still help golfers who need a more upright stance; those golfers will just need to move the butt end of the grip away from their body.