The arm-lock putting method remains one of the hottest topics in professional golf. Billy Horshcel stated publicly that he’d be in favor of bringing “the belly putter back and [taking] away the arm-lock.” Xander Schauffele followed suit and claimed arm-lock putting was a form of anchoring — then promptly employed an Odyssey O-Works Red #7 CH with a SuperStroke WristLock grip to keep up with the Joneses.
Even Rory McIlroy questioned whether professional golf had truly eliminated the anchored method during his pre-tournament press conference at Torrey Pines. “No, probably not,” he stated. “Yeah, [arm-lock is] certainly something that I would like to see addressed, as well, and I think there’s a common consensus with the players on that one too.”
There’s no question the putting method is under intense scrutiny, but for those currently using an arm-lock wand, it remains business as usual — at least for the moment.
Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele are the most recognizable names currently resting the putter grip against their forearm. The other name generating interest is Will Zalatoris, the wiry twentysomething who came oh-so-close at the 2021 Masters with an Odyssey White Hot Pro #7 long putter.
Unlike Simpson and DeChambeau, who switched to arm-lock to combat balky putters, Zalatoris’ game was in a good spot when swing coach Troy Denton put one in his hands a few years ago to try out.
Then came the round that solidified the putter switch.
“I had been playing some decent golf, but a couple weeks later I shot 60 out at Bent Tree, which I grew up playing out of in Dallas,” Zalatoris told GOLF.com’s Fully Equipped podcast. “I love it, obviously it’s gotten me, it’s helped me get to where I’m at. I really had to work at it, and the speed aspect of it is not, it’s not like you just pick it up and it’s a natural thing, the speed. I mean, you’ve really got to work at it.
“And you’ve got to find the right weighting, and find the right necks. It definitely helps with hitting your lines a little bit better. But, I mean, I remember when I first picked it up, it made me look like a 30-handicap trying to get the speed right. So I’ve really had to work at it pretty hard the last couple years. Especially working on speed.”
Zalatoris initially used the same claw grip as Webb Simpson until short game coach Josh Gregory suggested he try to get his elbows to match up in an effort to improve his posture.
“Went on a nice little run when we got back, because I started doing that during our four-month layoff last year, and then went on that little run on the Korn Ferry where I was like 6th, 4th, 3rd, win, and so I just kind of stuck with it. I mean, it’s different. It’s obviously worked for me. I think with Josh, I joke with him he’s got the hardest job in the world because he sees me with an arm-lock and an unconventional claw and it’s like, ‘The hell do you tell this kid?’ I go out and have days like the first day at Colonial and I make 200 feet of putts the first day, and he’s like, ‘Well, I guess just do that.’ I mean, so, it’s just kind of funny.”
“But yeah, obviously, kind of going back a couple years ago, it was just to understand my golf game a little better, and see what works. I may not tinker with equipment as much, but I’m not afraid to tinker with my golf game, that’s for sure.”
While Zalatoris has found success with the arm-lock method, he’s also aware of the scrutiny it’s under with some of his peers.
“There’s ebbs and flows when it comes to it in the media,” he said. “Xander is trying it. Billy Horschel had talked about how he thinks it should be banned, too. Look, we’re all entitled to our opinions.”
And what would it take for the USGA to intervene and do something?
“I think if the USGA were to mirror what they did with the anchoring ban, I think it would take guys winning multiple majors in the next couple years for them to reconsider their stance,” Zalatoris said. “But, I think for now, that’s still on a little bit of a research phase.”
For the moment, Zalatoris doesn’t have to worry about the future of his putting stroke. But if he winds up winning a major and Bryson, Webb or Xander follows closely behind — don’t be surprised if the heat gets cranked up to another level.