Putting it right

Long-handled putters could be on the way out as golf's decision makers look to outlaw practice and preserve skill.
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2012 17:47
The shorter the putter, the sweeter the game - golf's lawmakers want 'to preserve skill and challenge' [AFP]

Golf's rulemakers proposed a ban on players anchoring long putters to their body on Wednesday, saying they wanted to outlaw the practice by 2016 in order to preserve the "skill and challenge" of putting.

Broomhandle or belly putters, pioneered by 2002 European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance among others in the late 1980s, are often tucked under the chin, against the chest or stomach.

They are swung in a pendulum fashion, helping to reduce the effects of a nerves when lining up a putt.

The proposal by the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA), will be discussed by players and the golfing community before being implemented.

Three of the past five major winners have used long putters and, while both organisations stopped short of proposing changes to current rules on equipment, they say putters should swing freely and not be anchored to any part of the body.

Some players, such as 2011 USPGA champion Keegan Bradley, the first player to win a major using the anchoring technique, have already voiced their displeasure.

Announcing the proposal in a telephone conference, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said they had acted because so- called anchoring had become the "preferred option" for many players.

"Our objective is to preserve the skill and challenge which is a key component of the game of golf," Dawson said.

"Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the longstanding character of the sport."

Swing free

Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, said swinging a club freely was the essence of the 600-year-old sport.

"The player's challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge," he said.

"Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club."

Davis said that the percentage of players anchoring putts had risen from two or three to 15 percent and that in some events 25 percent of the players had adopted the technique.

"We have seen an increase in sales of long putters. Trends follow the professional tours," he said.

"People used to anchor strokes as a last resort, maybe because of a nerve problems. What's changed is that we are seeing a growing advocacy by players as a preferred option"

USGA executive director Mike Davis

"People used to anchor strokes as a last resort, maybe because of a nerve problems. What's changed is that we are seeing a growing advocacy by players as a preferred option.

"This is all about defining the stroke. We feel strongly it's in the best interests of the game moving forward."

Bradley became the first player to win a major title using a long putter and has since been followed by compatriot Webb Simpson, at this year's U.S. Open, and South African Ernie Els, at the British Open in July.

However, Dawson said the R&A and USGA had not acted because of improved putting performance.

"This proposed rule change is not performance related," he said.

"It's about defining the stroke.

"Webb Simpson and Keegan both said yesterday they accepted the governing body's authority and (Webb) said he was already practising for the new rule to be implemented.

"We very much hope players take agree with the views of the governing bodies, for the good of the game."

Dawson expected the European Tour to endorse the proposals. 

Current players have expressed sharply contrasting views on the proposal, but nine-times major champion Gary Player said he was delighted by the proposal.

"These long putters eliminate the nerves," the 77-year-old told Sky Sports.

"As a young man I worked for hours and hours on my mind to try and strengthen it so that when I came under pressure I could go about it. Now there is no tremble in your hands, you are anchored to your body and nerves are eliminated."

The proposed new rule would come into force on January 1, 2016.

"This timetable would also provide an extended period in which golfers may, if necessary, adapt their method of stroke to the requirements of the Rule," an R&A statement said.


Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps have been released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.