ART OF PUTTING: Tiger Woods has long been opposed to the anchoring of long putters. Picture: REUTERS
ART OF PUTTING: Tiger Woods has long been opposed to the anchoring of long putters. Picture: REUTERS

A BAN on players anchoring long putters, to come into force from January 2016, has been proposed by the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and the US Golf Association (USGA).

The R&A and USGA said they would consider comments from the golfing community before making a final decision on the proposed change.

"The proposed rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by the R&A and the USGA, would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player’s body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club," the two bodies said on Wednesday.

"The proposed new rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke."

Three of the past five Major champions have used belly putters: Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els. Bradley had suggested fighting a potential ban but he and Simpson now say they would go along with it.

"I’m obviously not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA, and especially Mike Davis," Bradley said. "They make the rules, and I’ll adjust appropriately. But I’m going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it."

The long putters have been in vogue for the better part of 25 years, though there has been a recent surge in use. Bradley became the first Major champion with a belly putter when he won the PGA Championship last year. Simpson won the US Open using a belly putter, and Ernie Els won the British Open with a belly putter, rallying to beat Adam Scott, who uses a long putter he anchors to the top of his chest.

Guan Tianlang from China used a belly putter to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur this month to earn a spot in the Masters.

While a change would affect players such as the recent Major champions, Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark, several others are opposed to putters stuck into the body. They argue it takes away nervous hands and allows for a smoother stroke.

Tiger Woods is opposed to long putters, and he stated his argument clearly on Tuesday.

"I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves, 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. The putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag."

Woods said his biggest concern was not so much the Major champions, but junior players.

"There have been some guys who had had success out there, and everyone always copies what we have out here, and that’s something that, for the greater good of the game, needs to be adjusted," he said.

Simpson first switched to a belly putter in 2004 to help with consistency. He found one in a pro shop, gave it a try and noticed immediate improvement.

But for all the attention on belly putters, Simpson said it was the accuracy with his driver that helped him win the US Open at Olympic Club this year.

Reuters, Sapa-AP