To belly or not to belly has been a concern for the golfing world.
Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association (USGA), and Peter Dawson, chief executive of golf governing body The R&A, held a joint teleconference Nov. 28 to announce the proposed rule change 14-1b.
The proposed change would read as follows:
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.
The use of long putters and belly putters was a not a big deal until August 2011 when Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship, becoming the first player to win a major championship using a belly putter. Webb Simpson and Ernie Els further complicated the anchored putter issue with wins in the 2012 U.S. Open and the 2012 Open Championship using belly putters.
USGA and R&A officials meet only once every four years to discuss the rules of golf. If they delay any longer it will be another four years before the rule can be changed.
Long putters have been in use for more than 30 years. In the last 18 to 24 months, golf’s ruling bodies have seen a significant increase in the use of anchored strokes.
Golf instructors have even begun to advise their students to use anchored strokes. They have also seen an increased number of players using anchored strokes in tournaments. Fifteen to 20 percent of the field in a USGA or R&A tournament is now using an anchored stroke.
It is also a fact that retail putter sales are reaching 15 percent of long or belly putters. A large percentage of the golfing public is switching to the anchored stroke.
It is also a concern that younger and more athletic, not just physically challenged players, are using the anchored stroke and that is against the spirit of the game.
The USGA and R&A will take suggestions from players and golfers for the next three months. The final decision will be made next spring with the formal rule to take effect Jan. 1, 2016.
Davis and Dawson made it very clear that in this ruling no equipment is being outlawed. The USGA and R&A obviously do not want to upset golf club manufacturers and get into a nasty legal fight like they initiated when they banned the Ping square groove irons back in the 1980s.
After serious discussion, the keepers of the game have decided that an anchored stroke is not in the “best interest of the game.”
Prohibition didn’t work out so well back in the “Roaring ’20s.” Will the governing bodies of golf have a better result?