As expected, the rulers of the game, The Royal and Ancient and the United States Golf Association, have come up with a new rule that will basically eliminate long and belly putters from the game.
While the putters themselves will not be ruled illegal, in order for them to work best, a part of the putter or a hand holding the putter, must be anchored against a part of the body. This is where "proposed" new Rule 14-1b will come into effect.
The new rule, which the USGA and R&A say they will listen to comments, suggestions and questions on, will officially go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The rule will make it illegal to make a stroke or swing with any club where the stroke involves anchoring a part of the club or either hand against a body part other than the hands or forearms.
Golfers will still be able to use long and belly putters, but most will have to alter their stroke to abide by the new rule.
Bernard Langer and Matt Kuchar are two players whose strokes the USGA has said will be fine under the new rule. Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and too many others have been told they will need to change their strokes before the rule goes into effect.
Few people realize that long putters, and the anchored stroke they require for use, have been around longer than metal woods and hybrids. Only because of their recent popularity on the professional tours have the rules-makers of our game bothered to take notice.
In April 2011, Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, in an interview with Golf Channel, seemed uninterested in the use of long putters and anchored strokes. At the time, he saw no advantage in the stroke and simply dismissed the question.
Just a few months later Keegan Bradley became the first played in history to win a major using a long putter. Suddenly everyone's ears perked up.
Then in June of this year, Webb Simpson won the USGA's ultimate championship, the U.S. Open. A month later, Ernie Els, took home the Claret Jug winning the R&A's Open Championship and the phones at golf's two governing bodies started ringing off the hook.
Part of the reason for the recent success of the long putter comes from their being in so many of the bags of professionals these days.
A few years ago, while covering the Honda Classic, I would see a handful of these putters. This year, I'd have to say that about one out of every three putters players were testing and trying out was a long or belly putter and the anchored stroke they were using is the very same one that will be banned.
In a press release, Davis, along with R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, were adamant that anchoring a stroke is contrary to the history and spirit of the game of golf. They went on to say banning the anchored stroke is no different than what the rules makers did in disallowing other strokes over the years, such as the croquet, billiard, pushing and more.
Additionally, Dawson stated it wasn't the recent success in majors that caught their attention, but instead, the huge surge in the use of the stroke and the putters. They also made the point this is not an equipment ban, but a stroke ban. You'll still be able to use the putters, just adjust your stroke as needed to comply.
My feelings on this rule are mixed. I can see the need to protect the spirit of the game. Yet, I also see the desperate need to grow our game. Golf is very difficult and very expensive. If a recreational golfer wants to putt with an anchored stroke and it helps him or her enjoy the game and play more, than so be it. There are no hard facts or statistical evidence that an anchored stroke makes it easier to putt. None!
I have tried it myself. I've tried several long putters and many strokes. For me, none work as well as my standard stroke with my 32-inch putter.
The traditionalists and "rules police" will scream about not playing by the rules. I would guess that 90 percent of us don't play by the letter of the rules. Most of us play for fun, relaxation and the fresh air. Do we honestly care if a stroke helps the guy two holes ahead of us make a putt and go home a happy man?
Life's too short for those of us playing the game for recreation and when the rule goes into effect, those of you who will still imply the anchored stroke, fear not, you'll still be welcome in my group.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.