The end of the belly putter is nigh. Golf’s regulatory bodies on both sides of the Atlantic, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the United States Golf Association, have moved in unison to ban from 2016 the anchoring of a putting device to the body.
Three of the past five major winners, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els all used a long putter anchored at the navel. The proposed rule change does not forbid the use of long handled clubs only the anchoring principle.
The move will be welcomed by the majority, including the twin beacons at the top of the game, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, both keen advocates of the ban. Woods said: “I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves.
“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 13 other clubs. I think the putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag.”
Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, said: “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.
“Anchored strokes have become the preferred option for a growing number of players and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game. Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the long-standing character of the sport.”
Dawson’s diplomacy conceals an iron will. Though there is notional period in which advocates for big sticks are encouraged to put their case, there is more chance of St Andrew’s converting to crazy golf than the method surviving. The rule change is expected to be ratified in the spring of next year with comments advised before February 28.
Through a joint statement golf’s custodians added: “In proposing the new rule, the R&A and the USGA concluded that the long-term interests of the game would be served by confirming a stroke as the swinging of the entire club at the ball. This proposal reflects the R&A’s and USGA’s responsibility to define how the game is to be played.”