THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Golf's governing bodies, worried that players will turn to long putters as an advantage instead of a last resort, proposed a new rule Wednesday that would ban the putting stroke used by three of the last five major champions.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association said the rule would not outlaw belly or broom-handle putters, only the way they are currently used. The proposed rule would make it illegal for golfers to anchor the club while making a stroke. It would not take effect until 2016.
"More players are using it, and instructors are saying this is a more efficient way to putt because you don't have to control the whole stroke," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "The game has been around for 600 years. Fundamentally, we don't think this is the right way to go."
Long putters began getting serious attention last year when Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a belly putter at the PGA Championship. This year, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and Ernie Els won the British using belly putters. Carl Pettersson (No. 21) and Bradley (No. 27) were the only players among the top 30 in putting this year on the PGA Tour who used long putters.
Long putters are not being banned. The rule relates to the stroke, not the equipment. Players can use a long putter as long as it is not anchored to the chest.
The R&A and USGA will take comments for three months on the proposed rule before it is approved. The PGA Tour, European Tour and LPGA Tour said it would evaluate the proposed rule with its players. The PGA of America, meanwhile, said it was concerned that such a ban would drive people from the game.
Tim Clark of South Africa and Pettersson have used broom putters their entire careers, and they have suggested a new rule would affect their livelihoods. Els once mocked Vijay Singh for using a long putter, but then Els switched to a belly putter last year when his putting suffered. "As long as it's legal, I'll cheat like the rest of them," he said.
Tiger Woods is among those who have been outspoken about anchored putters, saying it takes away from the nerves in the hands in trying to make putts.
"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 … 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.
"They'll all learn to adjust," Jack Nicklaus told the Golf Channel. "Like anything else, they'll get used to it and get over it."