More than 25 years after they first appeared, golf's governing bodies have decided that putters anchored to a part of the body other than the hands will be against the rules.
Next on the agenda of the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient will apparently be a look into the advantages of wooden tees and steel shafts.
On Wednesday morning, the two august bodies decided that a player who anchors the putter to his or her body is not making a fair stroke. Because these bodies noted an increase of use and that the long putter was no longer a last resort, they decided now was the time to act. Never mind that these same two issued a statement back in 1989 saying they had no problems with long putters. Now, apparently because more people are using these putters, everything has changed.
Was the timing of this ruling a coincidence? The first PGA Tour win with a long putter was back in 1991, for the belly putter, it was 2000. But this year, players using anchored putters won two majors: Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open and Ernie Els at the British Open. That didn't look right, apparently. The governing bodies were afraid that these non-traditional putters would take over, heaven forbid.
But the number of pros using the long wands is still miniscule, around 12 per cent, depending on the event. And the overall record for wins on the PGA Tour this year is in favour of unanchored putters. As Jason Logan so diligently tracks in his blog each week, there were 39 wins with unanchored putters and six with. Hardly an overwhelming example of how or if the long putters are an advantage.
Throughout the teleconference, the USGA's Mike Davis and Peter Dawson of the R&A emphasized the fact that the ruling was not about performance but about the integrity of the game. (The fact that Dawson, who is overseeing a number of highly controversial alterations to the Old Course was talking about protecting the traditions of golf was somewhat comical.) In fact, they fully admitted there was no data to support the fact that long putters are an advantage. They also said this wasn't an equipment issue, but it's hard to see many golfers using the lengthy clubs if anchoring isn't permitted.
Instead, the two continued to cite numbers of increased usage on professional tours and made numerous references to elite players, both professional and amateur.
It's about the stroke, they said.
It's also about a career. If you're a player like Carl Petterson or Tim Clark who has used a long putter for the vast majority of your time as a player, you have just been kneecapped by the rules makers. If you play on the Champions Tour and have survived with a long wand, what are your options now? You better find one by 2016.
What Davis and Dawson only briefly mentioned were the many who tee it up at their local courses who will pay the price: guys frustrated by the yips with short putters who suddenly found enjoyment again, women with bad backs, who use the long putter because they can't bend over and would otherwise quit the game. Their fun has been severely affected by this ruling. They've already lost square grooves, now this. That's a good way to encourage people to stay with the game.
Once again, the masses pay the price for a ruling essentially based on a small number of skilled players. Talk about out of touch.