June 17, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; General view of USGA flags during the final round of the 112th U.S. Open golf tournament at The Olympic Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golf: Belly Putter Debate Heating Up

With a ruling from The USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club expected after The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships this week on the use of the “Belly Putter” the debate is getting interesting. Many of the top golfers who initially came out in support of the ban after the November 28th announcement, have softened on the subject, including Tiger Woods. If the rule is adopted, it would go into effect in 2016.

The debate doesn’t really address the putter itself, only the stroke. The rule would dictate that players may not anchor the club to their bodies at any point other than their hands or arm. Basically the movable part of the stroke. Keegan Bradley, and Webb Simpson could use their current putters, they just couldn’t anchor them to their chest or belly.

The PGA is drafting a response to the USGA/R&A proposed rule change, and that can only mean one thing. The PGA is not totally behind the ban. They “want further clarification“. They contacted some of the tour players via a phone call at Dove Mountain on Monday, to pick some of the brains on the tour. People like Joe Ogilvy, and Jim Furyk who are on the Player Advisory Council were contacted.

If the PGA were not to also adopt the ban, it could open up a whole can of worms that nobody wants to deal with. There has been an effort over the past ten years to consolidate the game of golf, and Professional Golf on a World Wide basis. In other words, move to a World Tour where everyone would play under the same rules. A defection by the PGA at this point would put a real damper on their effort. We could find ourselves in a position where, for instance, The US and British Opens would not allow an anchored stroke, The PGA Championship, and Masters would allow. That’s not the companionship anyone in golf wants.

Golf got itself in this mess 40 years ago when they turned a blind eye to players starting to use the long putters. When I was a youngster, it was totally prohibited to use a this method, but Professional Golf let it go, and now it has festered into a problem no one wants.

Amateur and weekend golfers always try to conform to whatever is allowed in professional golf. When I play in a Scramble, or benefit tournament, I always count my clubs, and pare my selection to the legal 14 club limit. When Square Grooves were outlawed, I got rid of my illegal wedges. So this ban would affect more than just what we see on TV, but our games as well.

I can only hope they come to an agreement that satisfies everyone concerned. The last thing golf needs is a setback now that interest is coming back from the Tiger slump.

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Tags: Golf Jim Furyk Keegan Bradley Tiger Woods Webb Simpson

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