Long putter rule change proposed
Three of golf's last five major champions will not be able to continue putting as they do from 2016 under a proposed rule change announced.
What would be one of the biggest alterations in decades to the way golf is played was finally revealed by the ruling Royal and Ancient Club and United States Golf Association after months of deliberations.
But with a number of leading players having complained, the final decision has still to be taken and both the R&A and the USGA "will consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community". Under the proposal, long putters like those used by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els could still be put in the bag in four years' time, but could not be anchored to the body.
The ruling bodies said in a statement: "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 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. The proposed rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer's ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style."
Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, said: "We believe we have considered this issue from every angle, 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.
"Anchored strokes have become the preferred option for a growing number of players and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game. Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the long-standing character of the sport."
The proposed rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf. The statement adds: "This timetable would also provide an extended period in which golfers may, if necessary, adapt their method of stroke to the requirements of the rule.
"In proposing the new rule, the R&A and the USGA concluded that the long-term interests of the game would be served by confirming a stroke as the swinging of the entire club at the ball. This proposal reflects the R&A's and USGA's responsibility to define how the game is to be played.
"Aspects of how a player must make a stroke have been addressed in past rules changes, such as the century-old rule codifying that the ball must be fairly struck and not be pushed, scraped or spooned and the 1968 prohibition on the 'croquet' style of putting."