Golf is proposing to ban the putting stroke used by three of the last five major champions.
The sport's ruling bodies announced a new rule Wednesday that would make it illegal to anchor the club in making a stroke. The proposed rule is aimed at belly putters and long putters that are pressed against the body. Keegan Bradley was the first player to win a major with the belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship. Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used belly putters to win majors this year.
Officials say the golf stroke should be a free swing, and anchoring a club eliminates part of the skill.
"This is all about the stroke," said Mike Davis, head of the USGA said on a teleconference Wednesday morning in explaining the reasons for the rule change. "This is just going to focus on anchored strokes. We had intent to allow many different types of strokes... This is not an equipment change."
"There will not be a breach of this rule unless there is intent to anchor it. If it is accidental, there is no breach."
Dean Ryan, the Rules of Golf Committee Chair for Golf Canada, said they would amend the Rules of Golf to fall in line with the USGA and R&A proposal.
"As the National Sport Organization and governing body of golf in Canada, Golf Canada, in conjunction with the R&A and the United States Golf Association, will be amending the Rules of Golf to introduce Rule 14-1b as it relates to the prohibition on anchoring of the golf club," Ryan said in a statement.
"One of the key fundamentals of the game of golf is to have the entire club swing freely from the body during a stroke. The recent trend in stabilizing the club by anchoring it to the body goes against the principles and traditions inherent with the sport.
"As a member of the Joint Rules Committee, Golf Canada has worked closely with the R&A and USGA in drafting the new Rule and over the next three years will communicate this revision to the Rules of Golf to all Canadian golfers in order to effectively implement this change when the next Rules of Golf code comes into effect on January 1, 2016."
Keegan Bradley was the first player to win a major with the belly putter at the 2011 U.S. PGA Championship. Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used belly putters to win majors this year.
Davis and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said the catalyst for the new rule was not who was winning tournaments, but the number of players switching to long putters.
Their research showed no more than 4 percent of golfers used the clubs for several years. It went to 6 percent in 2006, and then to 11 percent in 2011, with some PGA Tour events having as much as 20 percent of the players using the long clubs. There was no empirical data to suggest a long putter made golf easier. Carl Pettersson (No. 21) and Bradley (No. 27) were the only players among the top 30 in putting this year on the PGA Tour who used long putters.
"We don't think putting in an anchored way is easy. You have to learn how to do it," Dawson said. "But it takes one of the potential frailties out of the stroke ... We have to retain the skill and challenge inherent in golf."
The rule would apply to golfers at every level, professionals and amateurs alike.
The R&A and USGA is expected to take a final decision on the proposed Rule change in the spring 2013. Anyone wishing to provide written comments to the appropriate governing body is encouraged to do so by February 28, 2013 at the following addresses: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Canadians can submit their recommendations on the proposed ban to the Joint Rules Committee by emailing email@example.com
(Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report)
HAVE YOUR SAY
Let us know what you think of the proposed rule change banning the anchored stroke. Click here to send along your comments.
"I am 66 years old & I don't use a long putter & have no intention of using one unless for health reasons I am forced to – such as a bad back. I do have back pain sometimes when I practice putt so I might be forced to go that route. While I favour universal rulings in golf, I think on this rule it should only apply to those under 50 years of age. Otherwise you are going to, in effect, take those out of the game who can't for health reasons use the long putter." -- Lynne
"I'm a traditionalist and love the game and it's history. The only contact with the golf club during the stroke should be the hands. This is inherent in the game and should stay that way." -- MCale
"I am over 65 years old and I started using a long putter earlier this year. I have never had a problem with the yips and use the long putter for heath reason only. I have a very bad back and have had surgery twice. I found practicing putting on the putting green for more than a few minutes very painful thus didn't practice much but do play 4 times a week. I tried the long putter and found that I could practice for an hour without pain. I putted with a conventional putter for 50 years and can return to it but don't want to. Also given my age who knows I may not be playing by Jan 2016.My putting did improve however I would suggest it was in a large part due to the increased practice time putting not the putter. I do intend to continue to use my long putter and will practice using it without anchoring. I know I will take a bit of a razing (I do now but will expect more) and some will be watching to ensure I don't anchor. A true measurement of the effect of the putter might be the average handicap of the average golfer and it my case it continues to fluctuate between 14 and 16 nothing gained score wise with the LP." -- Brian Reynolds
"It is a shame that more effort is not put into amending or eliminating the silly rules which create slow play instead of worry about putters which do not seem to impact the overall competitiveness of the sport. I wish the R&A and the USGA would work on common sense things like playing from a 2-inch divot left in the center of the fairway, fixing spike marks on the green etc. which are the real culprits creating slow play. In a time when we are seeing a decline in the number of golfers do we really need to create more reasons for the amateur golfer to be peed off about equipment and now watching to see if the putter was anchored intentionally or was it accidental. Is this another Sunday afternoon armchair phone in rule violation waiting to happen or what! Let's just get back to changing what most golfers agree are the real culprits of slow play. Does the governing bodies want suggestions? I am sure that there are thousands of golfers who would jump at the chance to send in suggestions. And who knows maybe they would make more sense than worrying about how unskillful we are with our putters of choice." -- Warren
"'Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball,' USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said. '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.' That would be 600 years minus the number of years that anchoring has been permitted, sanctioned and lauded (ie - how good they putted while winning Majors). Whether I agree or not is irrelevant at this point, as I will simply continue to abide the rules of golf. I do want to go on record as supporting and echoing the comments by Warren about slow play. Well said and hopefully the RCGA will do something about this ASAP. " -- Gilbert