Belly putters to be banned
London - "Anchored" putting, whereby the club is pivoted by a player's
belly or chest, is set to be outlawed by 2016, world golf's two law-making
bodies announced on Wednesday.
In a joint statement, the Royal & Ancient (R&A) and the United
States Golf Association (USGA) unveiled proposed changes to the sport's rules
that would prevent players 'anchoring' the club in making a putting stroke.
The proposed rule would prohibit strokes made in such a way but would not
alter existing equipment regulations which allow for the use of so-called
'belly' or 'long-handled' putters.
However, the R&A and the USGA said that prior to taking a final decision
they would "consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout
the golf community".
Last year Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a
putter anchored on his midriff at the PGA Championship. He was swiftly followed
by Webb Simpson at this year's US Open, and Ernie Els at the British Open.
But golf traditionalists have long argued that 'belly-putters', which do not
allow a free swing, as is the case with all other golf shots, go against the
fundamentals of the sport.
"Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the
game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the
ball," said USGA executive director Mike Davis in a joint statement issued
with the R&A.
"Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve
the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice
of anchoring the club."
It is a view supported by golf great Tiger Woods, who said this week:
"I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and
"Having it as a fixed point, as I was saying all year, is something
that's not in the traditions of the game."
Nevertheless, with so many leading players now using belly or long-handled
putters, perfectly legal equipment under the rules as they stand, golf
officials are holding off from confirming a rule change they would like to take
effect from January 1, 2016.
"We believe we have considered this issue from every angle but given
the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in
the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for
consideration," said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
However, concerns have been raised that both leading players and club
manufacturers could take legal action against golf chiefs were
"anchored" putting to be outlawed, given it has been allowed for more
than 20 years.
Even though officials were careful to say they did not intend to ban belly
or long-handled putters, it is hard to see how a market for these clubs would
still exist if the anchored-style of putting on which their use depends was