Date: August 20, 2012
Author: Robert Grant

Feature: The long putter debate

While the Royal and Ancient and other leading authorities ponder whether to continue to allow the method players have been using with long-handled players, they remain popular, although golf traditionalist Geoff Ogilvy says they will never be "cool."

Queenslander Adam Scott is perhaps the most prominent of the pros using the belly putters – and to good effect – but the R&A is keeping a close eye on how they are used.

The legality of players “anchoring” their putting stroke is under active review by golf’s governing bodies, R&A’s Chief Executive Peter Dawson has confirmed.

The move had been prompted by the recent upsurge in use of anchored putting strokes on Tour – not just among older players – but a final decision is yet to be made.

Any action that is taken would most probably be by amending the Rules on method of stroke rather than limiting putter length, with any change effective from 1 January 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.

Speaking during the recent British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Dawson said: “The use of long and belly putters, and in particular any anchoring of the club against any part of the player’s body, has been under review by The R&A and USGA for some time. The recent upsurge in use of anchored putting strokes on Tour has brought the subject into renewed focus."

Scott says the explosion of their use is "a bit of a revolution."

"No one has won a major championship with one and the guys identified as the best ball strikers in history haven't typically used them. But by doing well I might have opened some people's eyes to it.

"The feedback has certainly been positive. I have made some believers but we'll wait and see if they stick to it.

"It's certainly helped me with putting more consistently so far and it is really complimenting the work I have done on the rest of my game.''

Ogilvy said after a visit to noted putter manufacturer Scotty Cameron's studio: "They said the orders for long putters have gone through the roof so it has had an impact for sure.

"I wouldn't say it's ever going to be cool, but Adam has certainly helped the perception about them.

"It surprised everyone when he came out with it and then when he played well at Augusta it had guys thinking they might be able to do the same.

"It is probably a tip of the hat to Adam to see how many people notice his game and respond.''

Because the handle of the long putter is anchored against the body – either the midriff (belly putter) or under the chin (broomstick) – some players have questioned whether it's a proper golf stroke, even though they're permitted by the governing bodies.

Ironically several years ago Scott and multiple major winner Ernie Els were among those saying they should be banned and while Scott has now adopted one, Els is among those reportedly spotted practising with a long putter.

"The game has evolved a lot and technology has come so far,'' Scott says now. "The long putter is on the long list of things people are trying to change in the game of golf – we are even down to changing grooves on wedges.

"But at the end of the day the USGA and the R & A are the tradition keepers of the game and in their rule book its allowed."

"I am enjoying the change and have embraced it. Everything feels in good shape. I think I feel as complete a player as I ever have.''