This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of LINKS.
Adam Scott’s final putt in last year’s Masters was one for the history books, not only because he became the first Australian to win the tournament, but it also might be the first and last time a player wins at Augusta with an anchored stroke. In less than two years, the USGA and R&A ban on creating a fixed axis with the putter will take effect, leaving players like Scott adrift.
Although there’s been a grand slam of anchored champions (Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA, Webb Simpson at the 2012 U.S. Open, and Ernie Els at the 2012 Open Championship), no one has been a better poster boy for the advantages of anchoring than Scott, who turned his career around after going to the broomstick three years ago. A week after the governing bodies announced the ban in May of last year, Scott started practicing with a standard-length model. Of course, he could keep using his current putter—a 49-inch Scotty Cameron Futura X, which he helped design—as long as he moves the grip away from his body. (That’s what Fred Couples plans to do with his Bettinardi belly model.)
But a better solution for Scott might be Cameron’s new Futura X Dual Balance, which has a 50-gram weight in the butt of the shaft to “counterbalance” the weight of the clubhead and slow the hands to produce a smoother stroke. The standard Dual Balance is 38 inches, positioning the counterweight three inches above the hands for maximum effect.
“If you’re looking for an alternative to anchoring, if you struggle to make a consistent stroke with a conventional-length putter and want maximum balance and stability in a non-
anchored stroke, Dual Balance is a fantastic way to go,” says Cameron, who’s been working with Scott and other Titleist staffers to get ready for the Rules change. “We’ve created a 50-50 balance point that dramatically slows down the butt end of the putter so it doesn’t shift back and forth in your hands. It promotes an easygoing, flowing stroke.”
Counterbalancing isn’t new (Jack Nicklaus had counterweights in his woods and irons for years), except when it comes to putters produced by the major manufacturers. Some players compare the difference between a standard-length putter and one that’s counterbalanced to the difference between a sports car and an SUV. And just as SUVs have grown in popularity, so have counterbalanced putters. Ernie Els has resurrected his putting touch this year with a Yes! model, while Justin Rose used a TaylorMade Spider Blade to win the U.S. Open last year.
“I am a firm believer that counterbalancing is the future of putting,” says Frank Firman, TaylorMade’s production creation manager for putters. “We don’t offer a belly or a long putter at this point. Sales plummeted after the ban, but we would have launched this even if the anchor ban had not been implemented because we feel this is a better way of putting.”
All this weighty talk is nothing new to Steve Boccieri, developer of the Heavy Putter. For a decade he’s been singing the praises of counterbalancing, which raises the balance point about three inches up the shaft so the hands are less active. “That’s the key,” he says. “Higher handicappers flip the putter with their hands and add loft. The higher balance point deactivates your hands. It’s the total weight that keeps it on path, but it’s the higher balance point that keeps your hands from being active.”
Some equipment engineers aren’t sold on counterbalancing because the heavier weight can make long putts a little more difficult. But there’s no question counterbalanced putters are easier to adapt to than a belly or broomstick because there’s no need to alter the stroke. “People went to the anchor method for a reason,” says Austie Rollinson, principal designer at Odyssey. “It was a solution to a problem, but there isn’t just one solution to a problem. I think counterbalancing is a great solution for people having inconsistencies in their stroke. It helps smooth it out.”