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Cleveland Golf's Almost Belly Putter: Stability without the anchor

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Cleveland Golf - Almost Belly Putter
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Cleveland Golf's Almost Belly Putter provides stability without anchoring to your body. (Courtesy of Cleveland Golf)

The belly putter was patented in 1965, sparking controversy that has smoldered and flared, on and off, ever since.

Keegan Bradley's victory at the 2011 PGA Championship using a belly putter fanned the flames once again, and now we find ourselves in a full-blown conflagration.

Later this year, it is expected that the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient will make a joint decision as to the fate of all putters that are "anchored" on the body, including belly putters and full-length "broomsticks." If the ruling bodies of golf drop the axe on these putters, countless pros and amateurs will be affected.

What is it about belly putters that's so controversial? Well, there are many players who feel that using any body part other than your hands to hold or stabilize a club is cheating. By anchoring the putter to the body and turning the body to make the stroke, the hands, wrists and forearms are removed from the equation -- the usual culprits when a player gets "the yips."

If you happen to be one of those players struggling with the yips, and perhaps considering buying a belly putter, what should you do? It would be a bit of a waste to drop serious coin on a new putter only to have it ruled non-conforming in a few months.

Cleveland Golf has come out with a possible solution: the Almost Belly Putter.

The Almost Belly Putter ($130) is a 39-inch putter with the company's Tour-proven flanged blade head and extra-long, extra-thick grip. The putter is long enough to be anchored to the belly (for players shorter than 6 feet, anyway) but doesn't have to be to remain stable. A 400-gram putter head, the extra-long shaft and the 21-inch, wide-diameter grip produce the stability.

This weighting scheme is intended to balance the putter in a way that produces the sensation of an anchor without actually being anchored to the body.

But does it work?

How the Almost Belly Putter plays

I took the Almost Belly Putter out to the practice green at my home course to see if it provided the stability of a true belly putter.

On the practice green, I started to play with different set-ups: crouching low to anchor it to my belly, bracing it against my left forearm, taking a standard putter grip, using a split grip and claw grip. What struck me was how the Almost Belly was generally effective no matter how I used it. There was good feedback on putts struck on the sweet spot, as well as on mishit putts. It was fairly forgiving on those mishits, too.

Was it exactly the same as a belly putter? No. But in some ways, that can be considered a good thing, as some players (like me) don't like the feeling of a shaft stuck into my rock-hard abs. (And by "rock-hard" I mean "doughy.")

To confirm my impression, I handed the Almost Belly to Karl Newton, Jr., an 11-handicap who stands around 6 feet 4. Newton wasn't interested in anchoring the Almost Belly. But he liked the feel and agreed that there seemed to be a number of ways one could play it.

An interesting observation he made was that with the long grip, it's possible to adjust one's stance more than with a regular-length putter. If your back is tired, slide your hands up and stand more upright. If you have a touchy little downhill putt, slide your hands down for more control. Once he pointed that out, I even tried a few side-saddle putts with the Almost Belly -- and sunk every one of them.

Cleveland Golf's Almost Belly Putter: The verdict

The Cleveland Golf Almost Belly Putter provides the weighting and balance of a belly putter without the anchoring that is under such scrutiny by golf's governing bodies. If you're considering going to a belly putter, it's worth a look. If you've already grown accustomed to a belly putter, though, it will feel less "solid," as even with the weighting, it is not quite the same as anchoring the butt-end of the shaft into your gut.

The flexibility of the Almost Belly, though, might just be unparalleled on the market today.

For more information, visit www.clevelandgolf.com.

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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