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Rule change to ban long putters announced

ESPN staff
November 28, 2012
US Open champion Webb Simpson will have to revert to a short putter © PA Photos

Golf's two leading governing bodies, the Royal & Ancient Club and the United States Golf Association, have announced a proposed rule change that will effectively ban the use of long putters.

The new rule, which will come into effect on January 1, 2016, will mean players are no longer allowed to anchor the club to their body to stabilise the putting stroke.

"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.

"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."

The news, while expected, will be of disappointment to the likes of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els - who won three of golf's last five majors using a long putter.

The R&A and USGA revealed that the increased usage of long putters in the professional game had alarmed them, but that they had felt compelled to act after seeing the number of youngsters being told to opt for the long putter over 'conventional' methods.

"Although anchoring the club is not new, until recently it was uncommon and typically seen as a method of last resort by a small number of players," a joint statement read.

The proposed new rule

  • 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.

"In the last two years, however, more and more players have adopted the anchored stroke. Golf's governing bodies have observed this upsurge at all levels of the game and noted that more coaches and players are advocating this method.

"The decision to act now is based on a strong desire to reverse this trend and to preserve the traditional golf stroke."

A final decision on the rule is expected in the spring of 2013, with both bodies inviting arguments and suggestions from golfers in the interim. Bradley had previously suggested he would launch legal action to prevent any rules change, but experts do not believe the 2011 US PGA champion could succeed in that bid.

"We believe we have considered this issue from every angle," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said, "but given the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration."

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