Governing bodies expected to outline the time frame for the banning of long putters
Tick tock, the time is nigh for advocates of the long putter.
The death knell may still be a couple of years away, with a stay of execution on its implementation, but the RA and the USGA – the two governing bodies of golf – are today set to outline the timeframe for a phased-in banning of the one club in the bag that has created division, with traditionalists declaring it a form of “cheating” and proponents claiming it to be available to all.
Although the long putter – be it a broomhandle or a belly – has been around for the best part of 25 years, the clamour for its banishment only gathered steam in recent years when players used it to win Major championships.
Keegan Bradley set the ball rolling expertly when he won the 2011 USPGA, then Webb Simpson claimed this year’s US Open and, a month later, Ernie Els won the Claret Jug using the belly putter.
When Els won the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, almost a quarter of the field used either a broomhandle or a belly putter.
What’s more, those governing the game were increasingly alarmed by the number of younger players opting to use the long putters: when Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese player, won the recent Asia-Pacific amateur championship, he did so – like Els – with a belly putter.
The clock has been ticking on the long putter for some time, with Peter Dawson – the chief executive of the RA – warning in July, the day after Els’ Major win, that such putters were effectively on a limited life span.
That time span – likely to be implemented from January 2016, when the next review of rules is due – is expected to be clarified today: the RA and the USGA are scheduled to hold a joint press conference which is expected to announce the phasing out of the long putters they claim go against the spirit of the game because they are anchored to the body. It is the anchoring, rather than the club itself, which is deemed to be the problem.
However, a number of players – among them Bradley and Els – are considering launching a legal battle against any such implementation of a ban on the use of the long putters.
Last year, in an interview, Els admitted: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating.”
Recently, though, Bradley – aware that the RA and the USGA were closing in on the matter – indicated he would consider legal action to keep on using the club. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect myself and the guys on tour, whatever that is. I think we all would be together on this. We’re all in the same boat. A lot of use feel strongly about the hours of practice we’ve put in that they’re saying is basically for nothing now.”
Graeme McDowell, a proponent of the traditional short putter, put his finger on the issue recently when speaking about the matter when playing in the Australian Masters. “It’s probably something they’re disappointed in themselves that it’s got to this point. They probably should have nipped it in the bud many, many years ago,” said McDowell of the procrastination of the governing bodies’ on the matter.
The RA and the USGA will probably adopt the approach that facing up to the issue is a case of better late than never. And the sports’ governors are at least giving proponents of the long putters a realistic time frame to get back to basics.
Why Broomhandle and Belly Putters are being banned . . . . .
The traditional, conventional putter measures from 32 to 26 inches and remains the club of choice for the majority of players, professional and amateurs alike. However, there is an accepted consensus that players using the conventional putter are at a disadvantage over short putts – inside 10 feet – because such putters require a minimum of wrist action and mental fortitude.
In contrast, the Belly Putter – which generally measures from 41 to 44 inches – provides stability in that it allows a third point of contact (the abdomen) along with each hand. This anchoring provides stability and balance to the stroke and means the wrist action is easier to control. Against that, distance control is more difficult because of the longer shaft and also because these clubs generally have thicker grips.
The Broomhandle Putter – measuring from 48 to 52 inches in length – is longer than the Belly Putter and has the advantage of taking wrist action on the stroke out of play.