Why don’t more women use arm-lock putters? LPGA pros weigh in
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Arm-lock putting has gained considerable popularity on the PGA Tour over the last few years and, of late, has even become a hot-button topic. However, in the ranks of the women’s game, the controversial technique is conspicuously absent.
Consider the scene at the opening round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday. On the expansive putting green outside the clubhouse at Atlanta Athletic Club, countless players dotted the Bermuda surface as they prepped for their rounds. Arm-lock putters were mostly nonexistent.
“I think [it’s] because it’s fairly new,” mused Yealimi Noh, who fired a three-under 69 in Round 1, on the lack of arm-lock representation in the women’s game. She’s one of the rare players in the women’s game that embraces arm-lock putting.
Arm-lock putting has measured benefits on the greens and has been widely used on the PGA Tour since the anchoring ban in 2016. Instead of anchoring the club to the body, players instead lean the shaft into their lead arm and “lock” it into place. The result is face stabilization that is, as one GOLF Top 100 Teacher put it, “darn near idiot proof.”
“For me it was just kind of always my setup for putting. Bending down was a little harder for me,” Noh explained. “I have longer arms too, so the arm lock fit really well and looks natural … Some people don’t realize I’m using an arm lock, but it fits really well for my proportions of my body.”
It might be “idiot proof,” but that doesn’t mean the technique has permeated into the women’s game just yet. Noh pondered that she was the only player on the LPGA Tour to use the technique last season. But — slowly! — that trend is changing.
Three-time LPGA winner Christina Kim has recently been experimenting with arm-lock putting as well. Prior to last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic, she contacted a PXG rep and asked them to send one for her to try out.
“I’m just going to give it a try and see how it goes,” she said. “I’m willing to try any and everything available within the confines of the rules.”
As a self-proclaimed “golf nerd,” Kim follows the game closely. When she read the news that Xander Schauffele — who is one of the best putters in the world — was giving arm-lock putting a try, she decided to test it out.
“The traditionalist in me is not necessarily happy with this concept of it,” Kim said. “But at the same time, it’s just an extended version of the wrist-locked putting, which has been deemed legal.”
The trend of sticking to traditional flatsticks might not be a decision to buck the latest technology, but rather because of lack of access. While equipment trucks on the men’s tour are outfitted with a bevy of equipment options, the spread for the women can be a bit sparse.
Defending Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov theorized that women don’t switch to arm-lock putters is because they are shorter — not off the tee, but in height.
“Most arm-lock putters I grab are built for guys,” Popov said. “They’re higher up, so it’s basically like a belly putter for me … I don’t even know a single girl out here that has played around with it or even tried it.”
Popov went on to say she didn’t know many women on the LPGA Tour who had struggled enough to consider an arm-lock putter. If it’s not broke, why fix it? Nelly Korda was much more to the point when posed a similar question.
“I think a majority of the girls out here are really great putters,” she joked after her round.
It’s impossible to pinpoint one reason for the arm-lock drought in the women’s game, but for now, one of the newest fads — and controversies — has yet to consume women’s golf.