The belly putter and broomstick putters will live, just not the way we currently see them used.
In a move that has created numerous opinions and divides, the USGA and R&A attempted to rectify a thought that have had some players screaming for well over a decade. It’s not the use of the aforementioned putters, but how they are used as in anchoring the club. With three of the last five major winners using one or the other, those screams had become almost too loud to ignore.
Here’s the change that will go into effect beginning in 2016 (via USGA.com).
Proposed Changes to Rule 14-1
The proposed change would relabel current Rule 14-1 as Rule 14-1a, and establish Rule 14-1b as described below:
14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”
Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.
To see how this rule will affect the use of the belly and long putters, check out this video from Golf Channel. ‘Golf Fix’ host Michael Breed and USGA senior director Thomas Pagel do an excellent job of explaining the proposed changes.
As expected, there were cheers and jeers for the proposed rule changes.
Those for the change include OWGR #1 Rory McIlroy.
Rors was pushed more by a Twitter “fan” as to if the stroke has created such an advantage, why hadn’t he made the move. His response was simple: he doesn’t need to.
And of course Tiger Woods was asked. In preparing for the start of today’s World Challenge, Woods put his two cents in the bucket..
“I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves,” Woods said Tuesday. “And having it as a fixed point, as I was saying all year, is something that’s not in the traditions of the game. We swing all other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same.”
The counterpoint, as one would suspect, came from Tom Lehman, one of the more outspoken players. His response was as sharp as I have read or heard.
“It is blatantly unfair to have let it go on this long and now decades later make this proposed ruling,” said one-time major champion Tom Lehman to the Golf Channel. “There are many young players who have grown up with the belly putter, never even using traditional methods. To tell them it is illegal or against the spirit of the game is way late, very unfair and in my opinion unethical. If I were Webb Simpson or Keegan Bradley or Bernhard Langer or anyone else who has poured their hearts and soul into putting this way, I would be furious. The reality is that successful golf is achieved by what happens between the ears. I am disappointed with this ruling.”
Doesn’t end there either. According to AP’s Doug Ferguson (via PGA.com), a pair of players have contemplated legal matters. Carl Pettersen and Tim Clark have use the broomstick putter their entire careers. You could look at it this way if you’re their shoes. If this proposed rule change goes into effect, their work will those particular putters will be largely undone. This kind of goes in line with what Lehman stated.
Clark and Pettersen did not respond to Ferguson’s request for comment.
Again, the putters themselves would not be banned, but the stroke we commonly see is using these putters will. One player that has modified this is Matt Kuchar.
Kuchar uses a putter that is extremely similar to a belly putter, but he rests the grip of the club to his forearm. This proposed rule change will not affect this style of putting. The “claw” and “cross-handed” styles would still be permissible under this ruling as well.
No question some players will revert back to the short putter. Some may adapt Kuchar’s method.
You cannot have a discussion about this without looking at a couple of past major winners.
The big duo that was asked was, obviously, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley. Simpson says he’s been working with a short putter for a while. Bradley, once quoted as saying he, like Pettersen and Clark could potentially seek legal remedy, backed from that stance (as you will soon see), used the short putter until he got to college.
(You can see Simpson’s and Bradley’s reax here. The Lehman quote is also read by Gary Williams if you watch the whole 8+ minute vid. I highly suggest watching all of it.)
Now, those that this ruling is under serious consideration, I wonder how long it will be before the issues concerning equipment and the ball are addressed. You just know with this ruling finally out in the open that adressing those are around the corner.