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Is arm-lock putting like Matt Kuchar or Bryson DeChambeau right for you?

April 30, 2019
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Hector Vivas

Matt Kuchar’s leadership position atop the FedEx Cup standings might have you wondering whether you should be considering adopting some of his equipment habits, most notably his arm-lock style of putting. But not so fast. If you decide it's for you, you won’t be needing just a change in grip—you’ll want to overhaul your putter and most likely get a new one.

According to Nick Sherburne, founder of Golf Digest 100 Best Clubfitter Club Champion and Dean of Club Champion University, there hasn’t yet been a rush on the style of putter Kuchar has been using—even since the USGA banned anchored putting starting in 2016. That Bettinardi putter (Kuchar Model 1 and Model 2) features extreme offset, extra head mass and added loft, in addition to its added length and oversize grip. For instance, the standard loft on Bettinardi’s range of arm-lock style putters, which designer Robert J. Bettinardi has been working on with Kuchar since 2011, is 5 degrees, while Kuchar’s personal loft is 7 degrees. That’s at least 4 degrees of loft more than what's found in standard putters.

“I don't think it's impossible to retro fit [your existing putter], but without the right fitter and builder it’s going to be pretty hard,” Sherburne said. “I also believe more offset is better with this style of putting, which is rare and hard to find. I like double shaft offset, and that’s what Kuchar uses.”

Sherburne said the obvious first challenge is shaft length, which might be different for each player.

“I think there are a lot of questions on what the ‘right’ length is,” he said. “I always use the rule of thumb of 1.5 inches under the inside of the elbow. But again with a fitter we sometime vary from that.”

After that, of course, head weight is an important adjustment. Something north of 380 grams is a good starting point, but most putters designed for armlock strokes feature 400-gram heads. Bettinardi has several models, including two in the Studio Stock series that come in custom lengths ranging from 40-42 inches. Odyssey also has several arm lock models that have its White Hot Microhinge insert and adjustable sole weights to better dial in the ideal head weight. Other companies have models in their lineups or are expected to add options in the near future.

“It’s really important for you to get these putters fitted for you to make sure that you’re not in violation of the rules,” said Austie Rollinson, Odyssey’s principal designer. “The main thing to keep in mind is that when you address the ball, and you lock the butt of the club against your forearm, it needs to be below the elbow. If it extends above the elbow, it’s a non-conforming stroke.”

One final consideration is loft. Depending on your ball position and how much the shaft is leaning forward at address, you will need more loft than standard. (Less shaft lean means your arm-lock putter might not need as much extra loft, maybe five degrees; more shaft lean and you might need more loft, like Kuchar's 7 degrees.)

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Not only has Kuchar seen success with the arm-lock style of putting, so too have Bryson DeChambeau (SIK Midsize), Bubba Watson (Ping PLD), Webb Simpson (Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line) and Keegan Bradley (Odyssey White Hot 1W). Might be something to consider, provided you get with the right fitter.

“We find it works better on taller, lankier golfers,” Sherburne said. “It's not the easiest position for all golfers to get in, so testing really is crucial before altering a putter and to see if it’s even viable.”