London - Golf's governing bodies approved a new rule on Tuesday that outlaws the
putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, going
against two major golf organizations that argued long putters are not
hurting the game.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and US Golf Association said Rule 14-1b would take effect in 2016.
recognise this has been a divisive issue, but after thorough
consideration, we remain convinced that this is the right decision for
golf," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.
The new rule
does not ban the long putters, only the way they commonly are used.
Golfers no longer will be able to anchor the club against their bodies
to create the effect of a hinge. Masters champion Adam Scott used a long
putter he pressed against his chest. British Open champion Ernie Els
and US Open champion Webb Simpson used a belly putter, as did Keegan
Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship.
"We strongly believe that
this rule is for the betterment of the game," USGA president Glen Nager
said. "Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game -
the free swing of the entire club."
The announcement followed six months of contentious debate, and it might not be over.
next step is for the PGA Tour to follow along with the new rule or
decide to establish its own condition of competition that would allow
players to anchor the long putters. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
said in February that the USGA and R&A "would be making a mistake"
to adopt the rule, though he also has stressed the importance of golf
playing under one set of rules.
Some forms of anchoring have been
around at least 40 years, and old photographs suggest it has been used
even longer. It wasn't until after Bradley became the first major
champion to use a belly putter than the USGA and R&A said it would
take a new look at the putting style.
"It can never be too late to do the right thing," Nager said.
in favor of anchored putting argued that none of the top 20 players in
the PGA Tour's most reliable putting statistic used a long putter, and
if it was such an advantage, why wasn't everyone using it?
securing one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of
physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial
departure from that traditional free swing," Nager said. "Anchoring
creates potential advantages, such as making the stroke simpler and more
repeatable, restricting the movement and rotation of the hands, arms
and clubface, creating a fixed pivot point, and creating extra support
and stability that may diminish the effects of nerves and pressure."
governing bodies announced the proposed new rule on November 28, even
though they had no statistical data to show an advantage.
them more was a spike in usage on the PGA Tour, more junior golfers
using the long putters and comments from instructors that it was a
better way to putt. There was concern that the conventional putter would
become obsolete over time.
The purpose of the new rule was simply to define what a putting stroke should be.
playing rules are not based on statistical studies," Nager said. "They
are based on judgments that define the game and its intended challenge.
One of those challenges is to control the entire club, and anchoring
alters that challenge."
The topic was so sensitive that the USGA
and R&A allowed for a 90-day comment period, an unprecedented move
for the groups that set the rules of golf. The sharpest comments came
from Ted Bishop, serving a two-year term as president of the PGA of
America, saying his group found "no logical reason" for the ban.
Among those who spoke in favour of the ban were Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker.
always felt that in golf you should have to swing the club, control
your nerves and swing all 14 clubs, not just 13," Woods said on Monday.
Clark and Carl Pettersson have used the long putter as long as they
have been on the PGA Tour. Scott only switched to the broom-handle
putter in 2011, and he began contending in majors for the first time -
tied for third in 2011 Masters, runner-up at the 2012 British Open, his
first major victory in the Masters last month.
"It was inevitable
that big tournaments would be won with this equipment because these are
the best players in the world, and they practice thousands of hours,"
Scott said after winning the Masters. "They are going to get good with
whatever they are using."
It was Clark's dignified speech to a
players-only meeting - with USGA executive director Mike Davis in the
room - that helped sway the tour's opinion to oppose the ban.
and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said their research indicated
the opposition to the new rule was mainly in America. The European Tour
and other tours around the world all spoke in favour of the ban.
Players can still use the putter, but it would have to be held away from the body to allow for a free swing.
understandable objections of these relative few cannot prevent adoption
of a rule that will serve the best interests of the entire game going
forward," Nager said. "Indeed rather than being too late, now is
actually a necessary time to act, before even larger numbers begin to
anchor and before anchoring takes firm root globally."