Lost in the hysteria over belly putters these days is one of the most crucial elements in making these things work: Fitting.
In fact, a survey of Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Best Clubfitters suggests that one of the reasons players may resort to the belly putter in the first place is, unknowingly, because of a poor fitting putter in the first place.
"With the recent peak in interest, those looking are generally trying to 'fix' their poor putting," said Dana Upshaw at Dana Golf
in Warner Robins, Ga. "The overwhelming majority of these golfers have a poorly fit putter anyway whether it's an improper lie angle, or the wrong length, or the head's too light or too heavy, or even, and this happens a lot, the grip is on crooked. So there is little chance for them to putt effectively if the belly putter is also misfit."
While belly putters are flying off store shelves (a call to a local Golfsmith store in Norwalk, Conn., revealed belly putters were going out the door almost as fast as they were being delivered), many fitters urge patience to get the right setup.
"We see fitting the belly putter as strictly custom," says Brandon Collier at Pure Performance Golf Lab
. "Not every golfer uses the same length or even same grip. Some do better with a round grip and some do better with a squared off grip. You really need to be custom fit with Tomi or SAM PuttLab to understand which belly putter works best for you."
Steve Dresser at the Steve Dresser Golf Academy
in Pawleys Island, S.C., has some interesting fitting advice for those looking for a short cut: Add 10 inches to your inseam. Like many fitters, though, Dresser uses a telescoping shaft to get the right length, he says, "because players anchor it differently and the actual belly size matters, too."
And then there's the advice offered by Odyssey Golf's principal designer Austie Rollinson, "Sometimes the proper length changes from before dinner to after dinner."
In any case, what you shouldn't do is assume any longer putter will be right for you. What you should do is assume that getting fit (maybe even for a shorter putter, not a longer one) is always the first step toward improving.
"The average golfer should be aware that most golfers are playing with putters that are too long for them," says Craig Zimmerman, general manager at Redtail Golf Center
in Beaverton, Ore. "This goes for both belly putters and conventional putters. You want your putter length to match where your hands fall naturally when you set-up to putt while placing your eyes directly over the ball."
Presumably, an hour after eating.