The USGA and R&A Announce Proposed Rule Change 14-1b

Fred AltvaterContributor IINovember 28, 2012

Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship using a Belly Putter
Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship using a Belly PutterGregory Shamus/Getty Images

To belly or not to belly has been a concern of the golfing world.

Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA and Peter Dawson, chief executive of the P&A, held a joint teleconference this morning to announce the proposed rule change 14-1b.

To read as follows:


14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” 

Note 1:  The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

Note 2:  An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.


Why now?

The use of long putters and belly putters was a not a big deal up until August 2011. Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major championship using a belly putter when he won the PGA Championship. Webb Simpson further complicated the anchored putter issue with his win at Olympic Club in the 2012 U.S. Open using a belly putter.

The R&A and USGA officials only meet once every four years to discuss the rules of golf. If they delay any longer it will be another four years before the rule can be addressed.

Long putters have been in use for over 30 years. In the last 18-24 months, golf’s ruling bodies have seen a significant increase in the use of anchored strokes. 

Golf instructors have even begun to advise their students to use anchored strokes. They have also seen an increased number of players using anchored strokes in their tournaments. Fifteen-to-20 percent of the field in a USGA or R&A tournament is now using an anchored stroke.

It is also a fact that retail putter sales of long or belly putters are reaching 15 percent.  A large percentage of the golfing public is switching to the anchored stroke.

It is also a concern that younger and more athletic golfers, not just physically challenged players, are using the anchored stroke, and that is against the spirit of the game.

The USGA and R&A will take suggestions from players and golfers for the next three months. The formal decision will be made next spring with the formal rule to take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

Davis and Dawson made it very clear that in this ruling no equipment is being outlawed. The USGA and the R&A obviously do not want to upset golf club manufacturers and get into a nasty legal fight like they initiated when they banned the Ping square groove irons back in the 1980s.

After serious discussion, the keepers of the game, The USGA and the R&A, have decided that an anchored stroke is not in the “best interest of the game.”

Prohibition did not work out so well back in the “Roaring 20s.”  Will the governing bodies of golf have a better result?

It should be fun to watch over the next few months and years.