PGA Tour: Belly Putters Will Be Old News by 2018

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2012

SHENZHEN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 01:  Keegan Bradley of the USA with his long putter during the first round of the WGC HSBC Champions at the Mission Hills Resort on November 1, 2012 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Golf’s governing bodies have yet to even make an official announcement about the future of belly putters in the game and the golf world is already ablaze with resistance to any potential change to the rules.

This should come as no surprise to anyone, because, well, people are always opposed to change.

Whether we are talking about politics, technology, moving homes or even changes to the sports we love, change inevitably creates at least some form of stress for those involved. Historically, we have also been even more resistant to change here in America than in many other locations throughout the world.

"I'm going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on tour,” Keegan Bradley (who was the first player to win a major using a long putter) told GolfWeek Magazine. “I look at it as a whole, as us all together. I don't look at it as much about myself, I think that for them to ban this after we've done what we've done is unbelievable."

“They’re going to have a couple of legal matters coming their way,” Ernie Els (who won the 2012 Open Championship using a belly putter) told GolfWeek, indicating the USGA and R&A. “It's going to be a bit of an issue now. I’ve been against it, but since I’ve been using it, it still takes a lot of practice, and you have to perfect your own way of putting with this belly.”

Resistance to change in golf is nothing new.

There was a similar uproar back in 2010 when the USGA and R&A banned square grooves from irons in an attempt to limit the amount of spin players would receive coming out of the rough.

Players moaned and groaned, threatened legal action and even managed to get their hands on some old Ping Eye2 irons with square grooves made between 1985 and 1989 which were still allowed in competition due to a previous legal victory for Ping. Scott McCarron even called Phil Mickelson a cheater at one point (essentially the worst word in the golfing dictionary that one player can refer to another as) for using a Ping Eye2 wedge in competition.

Fast forward two years and does anyone even remember the grooves controversy of 2010? Has the game changed significantly because the USGA and R&A outlawed square grooves from the game?

When metal woods first began appearing in professional golf, some of the old guard despised these new spaceship-looking contraptions. They thought metal woods were bad for the game and would destroy golf as we knew it.

Within three years virtually all professional golfers were using metal woods and today the older wood or persimmon clubs can be seen only in museums.

Golf carts would ruin the game, the proverbial “they” said. Now, a very large portion of amateur golfers use carts which speeds up play and allows recreational golfers to continue playing to a much older age than they otherwise would have.

Heck, Old Tom Morris was actually fired from his initial job making feathery golf balls by Allen Robertson because Morris was seen playing a new and improved gutta-percha ball during a challenge match at St. Andrews. The vastly superior gutta ball quickly replaced featheries and the golf ball has been improving ever since.

Golf is a game that has continuously evolved through the years and like any form of evolution or change there is inevitably going to be resistance. That is just human nature.

But, like all change, it will quickly be forgotten in a matter of years.

The USGA and R&A will likely announce in December that they are banning any form of anchoring a golf club during the course of play. This ban will likely come into effect in 2016 when the next round of rules changes are released.

There will be some initial hoopla and resistance, possibly even the threat of legal action by players…and then all will be forgotten, just like every other significant change in the history of golf.

Life will move on, as will the game of golf and in the year 2018, belly putters and the anchoring clubs against one’s body will be old news, just like square grooves, wooden drivers and feathery golf balls.

For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.