The Great Belly Putter Debate Continues

By Les Bailey
Keegan Bradley
Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

In a televised press conference on Wednesday, Peter Dawson, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the R&A, and Mike Davis, the Executive Director of the USGA addressed the the proposed rule changes for the Belly Putter. Rule 14-1-B would further define Rule 14-1 that states, Strokes must be made with a “fair” swing of the club at the ball, and not by pushing, scraping, cupping or other means. The rule, if adopted, will not take effect on the professional tours until January of 2016.

Just to get the subject in the proper prospective, golf’s ruling bodies are not banning the long putters. They are simply defining how you can use the club. The point addresses the way you are allowed to hold the club, and not it’s length. The player will not be allowed to steady, or anchor any club to any part of their body, other than their hands. They will not be allowed to hold the club against their chin, chest, belly or any place above the forearms.

The R&A, along with the USGA, will be field comments for all concerned for the next three months prior to invoking this rule. The rule change, if forthcoming, would take effect in four years.

A player can continue to clamp the putter to the forearm as Matt Kucar did for a while, use a cross handed style, or a claw. As long as the swing is free, and performed by freely swinging the arms.

Historical data shows that for a long period of time, no more than 4% of  golfers used an anchoring putter. In 2006, that number went to 6%, and by 2011, the total went to 11%. By 2012, the number has reached almost 20% on the PGA Tours. Currently, the only golfers in the top 30 in putting who use the anchored putters are Carl Pettersson at 21st, and Keegan Bradley at 27th.

Tiger Woods has come out publicly saying ” it takes away from the nerves in the hands in trying to make putts”. Keegan Bradley has threatened legal action if the rule is invoked. He also stated, “I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves,” Woods said Tuesday. “And 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 other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same.

Orville Moody, who always had a case of the yips coming down the stretch, won the 1989 US Senior Open using a long putter that anchored to his chest. Paul Azinger won the 2000 Sony Open using a putter that was pushed into his belly for anchoring.

I’m sure we will be inundated with everyone’s opinion and views on this subject until the ruling is completed.

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