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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Itty-Bitty Putter of Robert Garrigus

If you've been watching the Hyundai event in Hawaii, you've gotten to see a lot of Robert Garrigus, the Tour's longest driver and winner at Disney, the last tournament of 2010. The only reason you haven't seen a lot of his itty-bitty putter is because... well, it's so itty-bitty. A standard putter is somewhere between 33 and 35 inches long. In Robert's case, it's only 28 inches long!

Photo of Robert Garrigus puttingWhat possesses a man to use such a short wand? Does it provide any benefits? What are the drawbacks? Struggling putters want to know!

The photo to the right comes courtesy of PGATOUR.com, and that link will take you to an article Adam Barr wrote about what's in Robert's bag. About the short putter Barr writes:
Advocates of shorter putters... may have difficulty getting their eyes over or just inside the intended line of the putt, resulting in pushes and pulls and other directional nightmares. Shortening the putter requires a more aggressive bend at the waist, as Garrigus does, putting one's eyes in the right place.
If you look closely at the photo you'll see that the clubhead is still under Robert's eyes, even though the ball is already on its way. It certainly appears that his feet are slightly open, indicating that his putting stroke may be inside-out -- in other words, a push stroke. There's nothing wrong with that -- Nicklaus putted that way his whole career, and he bent over this way too. The two appear to be a good match.

But there's another reason you might want to use a short putter like this. If you're big into the Dave Pelz style of putting, copying Garrigus will put you in a great position to make the move perfectly. It's very easy to rock your shoulders when your upper body is nearly parallel to the ground... and for most players, getting in that position pretty much demands you use a shorter putter.

Of course, this position can also be hard on your back. Barr also mentions that you have to get used the feel of the putter head since this is a very different position -- namely, the head feels much heavier in this position.
 In my putting book, I mentioned that head weights are generally measured in grams -- one ounce is roughly 28 grams. The typical putter head weighs 200-230 grams, a belly putter head around 400, and "broomstick" head around 500. I also mentioned that heavier heads -- and a shorter putter feels much heavier -- can slow down your stroke and help you "feel" the head better. What I don't think I mentioned is that I learned this through experimentation.

Several years ago I built some putters to try out, and one of them was a short putter I affectionately nicknamed "Big Mama." She's got a 32-inch shaft, which I generally gripped down on, and a belly putter head -- yeah, just under 400 grams. Big Mama is something of an extreme and I decided I didn't care for bending over so much when I putt, but even now that heavy putter feels very good when I use it. It's easy to keep good rhythm when I swing, in part because it's easy to keep my arms fairly straight, and it feels very solid when it contacts the ball.

I suspect this is the real reason Robert Garrigus uses such a short putter. Shorter putters tend to feel very solid during the stroke, and that breeds confidence. And considering how he's been playing the last few months, he seems plenty confident to me.

3 comments:

  1. You mentioned Dave Pelz and his straight back - straight through style - but Garrigus doesn't use SBST - watch him putt - the toe opens and closes just like it does for most people.

    It's definitely an oddity. Amazing that his back doesn't bother him.

    28", eh ? It looks shorter than that up against that big frame of his.

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  2. I didn't say Robert uses the Pelz method, just that his bent-over position works really well with the Pelz method. With his setup, he'd probably improve if he worked with Pelz a bit.

    Robert's never been a particularly good putter -- according to PGATOUR.com, never better than 113th in Putts per Round and he was 163rd last year. Even this week he's only T11 out of 32 players... but being 1st in GIR covers a lot of ills. ;-)

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  3. Pretty amazing, isn't it ? The guy admits he's not a great putter, and the stats back him up - but now he's a winner on the PGA Tour and pressing for another.

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