Desperate Darren Clarke is planning a return to the belly putter in next month’s Australian Open.

The Ulsterman, 40, is furious over his lack of success on the greens and plans to spend the next fortnight experimenting with the long putters in the 200-strong collection in his garage.

He groaned: “I'm just fed up struggling with my putting and I'm fed up talking about how bad I'm putting so that's why I'm going to get the belly putter out of storage and give it another go.

"I just need a change and hopefully by switching back to the belly putter I can start holing some putts.”

Tied for 14th in Singapore, the world No 61 was annoyed that he failed to break 30 putts in any of his four rounds.

The top 50 in the world at the end of the year qualify for the Masters and Clarke is banking on top performances in the Australian Open and South African Opens to get him over the line.

He said: “Putting has always been the key to my on course demeanour because if I putt well, it rubs off on all parts of my game.

"I feel as though I need a change of method and that's why I am going to mess around with one of the belly putters I have at home or the next few weeks.”

Clarke has collected close to 200 putters since turning professional in 1991, explaining: "I wouldn't have as many Lee Westwood but it's pretty close and really that's just an indication how I've struggled over the years with my putting.

"So it's just time to do something drastic for a change and going back to the belly putter is a drastic change. If it works out, I'll be a very happy chappy. This game is so fickle that changing a putter or whatever can do the trick."

Putters, or "cleeks" as they were first known, have been an integral part - some say the most important part - of golfing equipment since the game's inception in the 15th century. There have been thousands of designs to the conventional putter, although to this day putters are either of the classic blade or mallet variety or a combination of both. The average length of the putter is 32-35 inches (Tiger Woods' is 34) and are either centre-shafted or heel-shafted.

Pioneered by the former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance in the early 1980s, the "broomhandle", or "long" putter is on average 50 inches in length and made to rest against the chin or the chest. Most players then employ a grip similar to the way you would hold a broom - one hand at the top, the other midway down the shaft. The advantages are the removal of wrist action and a true pendulum swing, although there is a reduction of feel and distance control.

Developed in the late 90s as an update on the broomhandle, the belly putter was first to used to winning effect by Paul Azinger at the 1999 Sony Open. Typically 38 to 43 inches in length, the belly putter - now used by Nick Faldo - uses the abdomen as a third point of contact along with each hand to deliver balance and stability throughout the stroke. Advantages are the same as the broomhandle although pros say they gain more "feel" than with the longer implement.


Switched in 2001 and within a year had leapt from being ranked 100 in the PGA Tour's putting rankings to being in the top 10. The Fijian claims "it doesn't make that much difference", but critics point to his incredible consistency on the greens and his rise to No 3 in the world rankings. Unique in that he uses a "cack-handed" grip as well.

Freddie Couples persuaded the Scot to try the belly putter in 2002 telling him the effect it had on his game "was the difference between night and day - but more so". Montgomerie was converted and within seven months had jumped from No 40 on the European Tour putting stats to No 2. But nevertheless believes they should be declared illegal.

The 24-year-old defied conventional wisdom that the belly putter was for older players suffering the "yips" when he began using it at the British Masters in May after being inspired by playing with Vijay Singh. Two weeks later he won the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany where he raised the ire of his fellow South African Ernie Els.

Goes through putters like Darren Clarke through Havanas although seems happiest with the belly or broomhandle putter. The 1996 Open champion admitted that his putting horrors meant "it was no fun playing" and ignored the advice of fellow American Rocco Mediate who said that "using that thing will make you feel like the Antichrist"