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Golf Australia Express : December 2012
TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN? It was the question on many golfers’ lips when it came to the ‘belly’ or ‘broomstick’ putter for the better part of the past 12 to 18 months. Well, now we know the fate of the long flatstick after golf’s governing bodies—the R&A and USGA—announced in a joint statement proposed changes to the way putters can be used from January 2016. In a word, the bellies and broomsticks are ‘gone’. And many players have been left navel gazing about the controversial decision. The proposed changes would “prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke” and “would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke”. Basically, the long putter is not banned per se but anchoring it during a stroke will be. “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,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. So while the proposed changes to Rule 14-1b do not technically ‘ban’ the long putter, applying the ‘no anchoring’ rule effectively kills it off. Seriously, who can control a belly or broomstick held out in front of their body? Reckon the lads at the R&A had a few giggles putting that line together. The irony in this debate is that for years many commentators, teachers and golf-lovers alike scoffed at players who used broomstick putters. They called them golfers “past their prime”, citing a lack of wins—let alone majors—as proof these ‘cheat sticks’ didn’t improve your game. They were for ‘the washed-up golfer’ as a last resort to cure the yips, they argued. That started three decades ago. Vocal opponents of broomsticks then are using recent major wins with belly putters as proof they give an unfair advantage now. (Some, it seems, are very hard to please.) Statistics gathered by the R&A and USGA hardly support the argument either—in fact the top 20 putters on the PGA Tour this season all use conventional strokes. And it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say long putters are taking over the game, with the USGA’s own figures stating an average of just 15 per cent of players were using an anchored stroke on the PGA Tour. In a word, the bellies and broomsticks are ‘gone’. And many players have been left navel gazing about the controversial decision. See what the proposed rule change to anchoring means in this R&A produced yawn-fest video above. COVER the COVER the Words by Damian Shutie