By Greg Wyatt
There has been a lot of buzz and talk over the last year or so as to whether golf's ruling bodies, the USGA and R&A, would make a move to ban the "belly" and "long" putters. There are a lot of opinions about whether they should be legal, and the governing bodies have spoken recently.
I want to clear up something about the ruling, because there is a lot of confusion regarding it.
Belly or long putters are not banned. Many are under the impression they can no longer use a belly or long putter.That is not the case, nor will it be. The ruling is as follows:
"Rule 14-1b prohibits 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 rule prohibits "anchoring" the club to the body during a stroke. It says nothing of prohibiting the putters themselves; and this rule change will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2016.
So anyone who uses a long putter will simply have to modify their grip or how they hold the putter if they currently anchor it to their body.The USGA has a short video on what will be legal and illegal grips as of 2016 on their website.
Is this good for the game? Depends on who you ask. I personally think it is the correct ruling. I do hate it for the average player who has found that the anchoring of the putter has greatly improved his putting, thereby adding to his enjoyment of the game and increasing his participation in it. But adjustments can be made, and the benefit of the increased weight and length of the longer putters can still be utilized. There have been a couple changes the USGA has made recently which I think were frankly a waste of time and money.
The USGA has obtained a reputation recently as making the game harder for the average player and making the game less accessible, which benefits no one. Some will say the same about this ruling. However, both ends of the club are supposed to move to make a "swing" in golf, and I agree that it shouldn't be anchored.
Some believe that there should be different rules for amateurs and professionals like other sports. College baseball uses aluminum bats and MLB professionals use wood only. College football only requires one foot in bounds for a completed pass while the NFL requires two.
These are good points, but I disagree for seperate rules in golf. I love this game because someone can grow up playing the game, get great at it, and play professionally. Or an amateur can qualify for his national championship and compete against the best pros in the world for one week. Neither one has do something totally different once there. Nothing about the equipment or the rules governing play are different at that highest level. It allows for great stories and dreams, and I think that is really cool.
So don't sell or decide not buy your favorite belly/long putter just yet. I am already experimenting with different grips with a couple students that use the longer putters. There will be innovative new ideas and methods that will prove effective and be legal at the same time.
As always, play your best.