The ruling bodies of golf are debating changing the rules concerning the long and belly putters.
The debate about long and belly putters has been a hot topic among all golfers and it seems that golf’s ruling bodies, the R&A and the USGA have also been debating the legitimacy of the clubs.
In the week leading up to the Open Championship, rumours began swirling that there was to be an official announcement regarding their use. Yesterday, R&A Chief executive Peter Dawson confirmed the reports at his post-Open press conference and hinted that changes may come sooner rather than later.
“The situation is that the R&A and the USGA [United States Golf Association] do have this subject firmly back on the radar,” Dawson said. “We appreciate that there is much speculation about this and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible. And I think you’re going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years.”
Dawson stressed no decision has been finalised, but he gave the impression that any changes to the Rules of Golf will be made with regard to the anchoring of the golf club rather than forcing the putter to be the shortest club in the bag like many have suggested.
“Well, the initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method of stroke standpoint rather than length of putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the rules of golf, rather than the rules of equipment. And therefore it’s the rules of golf committees of the R&A and the USGA who are looking at this in detail, and then they have to make their recommendations to the boards of each organisation.”
Dawson added that there was some criticism from other professional golfers.
“The objections I find from those at professional level are all about ‘If people have become failed putters in the conventional way, why should they have a crutch to come back and compete against me when I haven’t failed in the conventional way?’
“That’s the general argument one hears. But we’re also seeing now people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage.”
The timing is interesting given that three out of the last four major winners have claimed victory using a belly putter, while one simply used a bubba putter. Ernie Els has always been a vocal critic of the belly putters claiming it’s a form of cheating and he will use one until they ban it.
There will also be questions over how the changes are brought in. Will they be enforced on only the professionals? Will the new rules be phased in over a period of time? Will the previous major champions who won using a belly putter ultimately have an asterisk next to their name?
We will know more in the coming months, but it may be wise for Peter Senior to win a tournament on the Champions Tour as quickly as possible.