Golf’s governing bodies on Wednesday proposed a ban on players anchoring long putters to any part of their body, in an effort to rid the game of the practice entirely by 2016.
Three of the past five major golf champions have used long-handled putters, but the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA) have deemed the ban necessary to preserve the “skill and challenge” of putting.
“Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the longstanding character of the sport,” said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
Broom-handle or belly putters are tucked under the chin, against the belly or chest and swung in a pendulum fashion.
While the first belly putter was patented in 1965 and tour players have used broom-handle putters since the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2011 that a player won a major tournament using the method.
An estimated 11 percent of golfers used the long-handled putters in 2011, with some PGA events seeing as many as 20 percent of competitors opting for the clubs.
“For 570 years, people figured out how to play without anchoring. Now they can’t do without it?,” USGA executive USGA executive director Mike Davis. “‘It’s not, `How can we make it harder?’ or `How can we make it easier?’ By doing this, we feel this clarifies the game. This is about the future of the game.”
The R&A and USGA will accept feedback on the proposal for three months before approving, though many players have already weighed in.
Rory Mcilroy, currently the number one golfer in the world, supports the ban, tweeting: “Fully agree with the anchoring ban. Better image for the game of golf, skill and nerves are all part of the game. Level playing field in ’16.”
But Keegan Bradley, who became the first player to win a major using the putter in 2011, mocked the ruling bodies, saying, “The usga is gonna ban SHORT putters!!??? Wow didn’t see that coming.”
Bradley also questioned the decision at Sherwood County Club on Tuesday: ““Players are very passionate about this decision. You’ve got some guys who have been using this style of putter for almost 20 years so it’s a little bit of a scary position that they’re in.”
Golfing legend Jack Nickalus disagreed.
“They’ll all learn to adjust,” Nicklaus told Golf Channel. “Like anything else, they’ll get used to it and get over it. We’ve had changes with balls, wood heads, grooves, all kinds of changes. Players have adjusted to those and they’ll adjust to this.”
The ban would not take effect until January 1, 2016. Golf’s rules are updated every four years.