Innovation/Global Risk

Belly Putters: Golf Innovation

By Shlomo  Maital   


  Modern golf originated in 15th C. Scotland.  Despite golf’s long white beard, there is still room for innovations.  Take, for instance, the ‘belly putter’.   Unlike the conventional putter, which ends at the wrist grip, the belly putter is longer and the end of the shaft  ‘anchors’ against the stomach.  The stomach, therefore, becomes the fulcrum, not the wrists.  Under the rules of golf, belly putters are legal. Pro golfer Paul Azinger made the belly putter popular when he began using it on the PGA Tour in 1999.  Now, top golfers Vijay Singh, David Love III and Fred Couples are using them.  The original patent for belly putters goes back to Richard T. Parmley and Phil Rogers, issued in 1965 and called a “body pivot putter”. 

   Azinger reinvented the belly putter in a golf pro shop.  There, he discovered a long putter that had been cut down for a shorter person. Azinger pressed it against his belly button – and started sinkins putts all over the pro shop carpet.   In 2003, belly putters won eight PGA events (four to Singh, two to Couples). 

   The basic idea of the belly putter is to take the wrists out of the play, because wrists are inherently unstable and inconsistent, especially when the golf player has the jitters.

   The cost?  Steep – upwards of $120 – $150.  Golf is still for the well-heeled.

   What do we learn about innovation from belly putters?  Azinger had an open mind, tried something, it worked – and he went with it.  But there is left brain logic and analysis, too, that accompanies the right-brain “this just feels right”.  A putter with a more solid fulcrum will achieve more consistent results than one with wobbly wrist actions. 

   And – one more thing.  Older golfers do develop bulging bellies, sometimes from beer.   The belly putter makes this an advantage, because the fat bellies offer a firm welcoming place to anchor the end of the shaft. 

    Apparently, even a game dating back to the 15th C. still leaves room for innovations, and within the rules.