New putter rule may hurt golf

Golf’s rules-making bodies, the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient, made a decision to prohibit golfers from anchoring a putter against their bodies while making a stroke, a rule change the organizations first proposed in November.

The worldwide ban against anchored putting strokes, applicable to professionals and amateurs alike, will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016.

The decision comes after four of the last six men’s major championships were won by players using long or belly putters:

The first long putters were introduced in the 1920s, but they did not gain any kind of widespread use until the 1980s. Lately, in a trend that may have gotten the attention of golf’s ruling bodies more than any other development, the long putter has become more prevalent in the golf bags of American junior golfers.

The P.G.A. of America fears the detrimental effects the rule may have on multiple efforts to attract more recreational golfers at a time when the number of players nationwide is getting lower.

The use of the anchored stroke is popular with a genre of average golfers, traditionally older golfers and those with back problems that make bending over a traditional-length putter more difficult. The P.G.A. of America does not believe it is wise to take away something that recreational players have been using to make the game more fun.

The U.S.G.A. has countered that it is not outlawing the equipment, just the stroke. Golfers would still be within the rules while using a long putter if they propped the top end of it in their hand or used some other method – just so long as the putter swung freely and away from the player’s body.

In the end, although the decision is big news at the highest levels of golf, average golfers are always allowed to play by whatever rules they choose, as they have been doing for hundreds of years.

Mulligan tee shots, do-over shots, moving a ball out of a divot – each is a rules violation and each is routinely accepted among friends in weekend matches at golf courses throughout the country.

The same could apply to anchored putters in 2016. But most public and private clubs would probably insist on abiding by official rules during league play and championships.

  • The next item the U.S.G.A. needs to alter is the golf ball. The game has three problems. It’s too hard for some players, it’s too expensive and it takes too long.

If officials dialed back the golf ball, it would reduce all those costs.

The costs of maintaining a golf course, the cost of land and all those things would be in better control. By altering the ball, some of the older course sin the United States and around the globe would stop adding length and sand traps to increase the difficulty. The cheapest and simplest thing to fix in the game is the golf ball.

Contact Eddie Thomas at