A significant change in the way the game of golf is played has been announced with the banning of belly putting. This type of putting is known as “anchoring”, as the putter rests against a player’s stomach to increase stability when making a stroke.
Tiger Woods amongst others has called for a ban on belly putters. The technique will now be a rules infringement if a club is rested against the stomach or another part of the body.
When Ernie Els won the British Open with a belly putter in July, he did so one day before new discussions between golf’s governing bodies on the future of such clubs. The announcement has been made in time for the start of the new season and the players should appreciate a prompt decision.
Els became the third major champion to use a putter that could be described as non-conventional. Indeed, three of the last five major champions putted with an implement that some have suggested is unfair.
The Open was unique in the context of the belly putter debate as the winner and runner-up both used long putters. Adam Scott adopted the style and he has reached the top 10 in the world rankings while using extra length putters.
Keegan Bradley (pictured) used such a putter when he won the US PGA Championship in 2011. He has developed a very successful career without using a putter in the normal style. Webb Simpson was putting with an elongated club when he won the 2012 US Open.
What was once an aid to putting for players who had developed the yips or could not maintain a smooth and effective rhythm has now become a putter of choice for players at the start of their careers.
Bradley and Simpson adopted the style before qualifying for the PGA Tour and continued to use a belly putter when successful at the highest level, either in major championships or at the Ryder Cup.
The R&A and USGA have stated that the use of belly putters by winners of major championships has not had a direct bearing on the outcome of the discussions. The rules bodies had been considering the issue long before Bradley won the PGA Championship. However, the wins of Simpson and Els have brought the subject to the top of their rules agenda.
The announcement by the governing bodies of the sport does not mean long putters can no longer be used. However, a player must now use a natural swing without resting the putter on his body in order to gain more control over the stroke. It will be interesting to see how Bradley, Simpson, Els and others adapt to this new directive.