'Anchored' putting set for 2016 ban

"Anchored" putting, whereby the club is pivoted by a player's belly or chest, is set to be outlawed by 2016, world golf's two law-making bodies announced Wednesday.

In a joint statement, the Royal & Ancient (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) unveiled proposed changes to the sport's rules that would prevent players 'anchoring' the club in making a putting stroke.

The proposed rule would prohibit strokes made in such a way but would not alter existing equipment regulations which allow for the use of so-called 'belly' or 'long-handled' putters.

However, the R&A and the USGA said that prior to taking a final decision they would "consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community".

Last year Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a putter anchored on his midriff at the PGA Championship. He was swiftly followed by Webb Simpson at this year's US Open, and Ernie Els at the British Open.

But golf traditionalists have long argued that 'belly-putters', which do not allow a free swing, go against the fundamentals of the sport.

"Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball," said USGA executive director Mike Davis in a joint statement issued with the R&A.

"Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club."

It is a view supported by golf great Tiger Woods, who said this week: "I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves.

"Having it as a fixed point, as I was saying all year, is something that's not in the traditions of the game."

Nevertheless, with so many leading players now using belly or long-handled putters, perfectly legal equipment under the rules as they stand, golf officials are holding off from confirming a rule change they would like to take effect from January 1, 2016.

"We believe we have considered this issue from every angle but given the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration," said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

Meanwhile major winners Padraig Harrington and Gary Player both welcomed the proposed ban.

"If belly putters were invented today, they'd definitely be banned, I think everyone agrees on that, Harrington, who won the British Open in 2007 and 2008 as well as the 2008 US PGA Championship, told Sky Sports News.

"The question is should they be banned now after 15, 20 years of people using them?," the Irishman added.

"But the rules of golf have always been that you can't anchor a club to your body, and clearly this is anchoring."

South Africa hero Player, one of just five golfers to have won all four majors -- The Masters, US Open, British Open and USPGA -- said: "I think the USGA and R&A have been brilliant and I congratulate them.

"I don't think they should be getting any feedback from the players. They are the ruling bodies and they should be able to make the rules as they see fit."

However, concerns have been raised that leading players and club manufacturers could take legal action against golf chiefs were "anchored" putting to be be outlawed, given it has been allowed for more than 20 years.

Even though officials were careful to say they did not intend to ban belly or long-handled putters, it is hard to see how a market for these clubs would still exist if the anchored-style of putting on which their use depends was banned.

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