Ernie Els Says He’ll Keep Cheating

by Jeff Skinner

Ernie Els has always been a straight shooter.  While many golfers are hesitant about speaking their mind, Els has a reputation for being honest and direct.  He was the first golfer to stop hemming and hawing about Tiger’s ability a dozen years ago and said it quite plainly, Tiger is just better than us he said then.

Now he has come out and used the dreaded “C” word.  There are two C words in golf and both will send out shock waves whenever they are used.  Johnny Miller likes to use “choke” when he needs a bit of excitement during an NBC telecast.  But Ernie Els isn’t a choker; he’s a cheater, at least by his own definition.

Els has recently switched to a long (belly) putter in an attempt to get his putting game back on track.  He was a long time critic of the longer putter and thought they had no place in golf.  That thought hasn’t changed but he’ll still use one.

“As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them” Els said at the Frys.com Open.

“Right now I’m glad they haven’t banned it” Els said as he plans to keep using the belly putter for awhile. “Guys can have a laugh at me, that’s fine I’ve done it to them. It is what it is. And until they ban it, you know, we can use it.”

He’s absolutely right, it’s cheating.  I’ve gone back and forth on this topic but I’ve concluded that there is something wrong about those long putters.  Tom Watson has been outspoken about this saying that using a long putter is not a golf swing.  Anchoring the club against your body, whether it’s your belly, chest or chin isn’t a natural swing, at least that’s what many believe.

I tend to side with that thought.  It seems contrary to the traditions of the game.  You swing the club with your arms, hips, shoulders and all the rest of your body.  This talk of “pivot point and fulcrum” has no relation to a traditional swing.

I agree with Ernie wholeheartedly, it’s cheating.  But it isn’t illegal.  Until the USGA and the R&A take some action, if they ever do, the long putters will be a source of controversy.  It’s not too late to pass some rule that would outlaw the broomsticks.  They did it with square grooves and every professional was playing those at the time.  So for those that think “it’s too late, so many golfers are using them” think again.  The USGA banned a club that was in every professional’s bag.  It happened once, it can happen again.

Until then Els and the rest will continue to play them.  Remember, like Ernie says, it may be cheating but it’s not illegal.





  1. Ernie Els does not speak for the thousands of golfers who have been using long putters for many years.

    I have been using a long putter, Ping B90, for over 12 years including in USGA sanctioned competitions. If a rules change were to be considered, it should have been done when these putters were first introduced and popularized. Now the USGA will be discriminating against those who not only have invested in this equipment, but also have spent countless hours practicing the technique the USGA purport to forbid.

    While there may be some advantages to the player who uses an anchoring technique with a long putter, there are also several obvious disadvantages. For example, a conventional putter and technique allows the player’s eyes to be closer to the green, better able to see the contours of the green. The real advantage in putting goes to the player who has the most skill and has developed his/her skill and technique through practice.

    The most common reason I’ve heard for players using a long putter is that it’s less strain on the back.

    The USGA should focus on rules changes that address more fundamental problems in the game. Due to continual improvements in driver and ball technology, many courses are becoming obsolete for tournament play. Endemic slow play threatens course profitability, reduces access to the game, and diminishes the overall golf experience. Instead of mandating a rules change regarding putting technique, perhaps you should consider more effective rules to speed up play, especially on the putting greens.

    In tennis, there are no rules about racket materials, technology or size. Relevant rules regarding tennis equipment apply to tennis balls. Can you imagine tennis officials restricting the techniques for strokes? Should tennis officials ban the two-handed backhand? Outlaw the drop shot? Should basketball ban the underhanded foul shot? Should baseball ban bunting?

    In short, golfers should be allowed to play and compete, using putting techniques they prefer, without adding any additional restrictions.

  2. Ed, Thanks for you thoughtful and insightful comments. And you are absolutely correct, the USGA missed the boat with not controlling the ball.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *