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November 29, 2012

USGA rule change would effect area golfers

DUNCAN — Tall putters and belly putters have gone from rarities to commonplace on golf courses across the country in recent years, and Stephens County has certainly not been immune to that trend.

Soon, though, they will likely fade back into obscurity and then simply into history books as the USGA and the Royal & Ancient (Europe’s governing body for golf) proposed a rule change Wednesday that would ban the use of “anchored putting,” forcing area golfers to go back to their old clubs.

“We’ve got quite a few that use that anchored putters,” said Territory Golf & Country Club professional Brady Fennel. “A few of the older guys especially have gone to them.”

The longer putters and the anchored swing can make the putting stroke easier for some. They allow players to stand taller when putting and give their swing a more natural pendulum motion.

“I wouldn’t say we have a lot that use it, but there are a few that have really enjoyed the game more since they went to (anchored putters),” Duncan Golf & Tennis Club professional Mike Hansen said. “They help for players that have started to lose their touch and feel. They are beneficial to a lot of players, not just in Duncan, but all over the country.”

In recent years, though, there has been a trend of young players donning the long putters.

PGA Tour professionals Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have won three of the last five majors using anchored putters. That statistic, many believe, led to the USGA moving to ban the clubs.

Any rule change (or changing the definition of words like swing and stroke, as is the case here) by the USGA effects golf from top to bottom, since most courses, including the Territory and the Golf & Tennis Club, adhere to USGA rules in their tournaments.

“The rule (change) is so geared toward the Tour level,” Hansen said. “As a PGA professional, we are supposed to grow the game, and if that makes people enjoy the game more, now I have to take it out of their hands and I just don’t understand that.”

The change to Rule 14 1-b doesn’t technically ban the clubs, but rather the stroke. It would outlaw the practice of anchoring one end of the club to your body.

At this point, it is just a proposed rule and it wouldn’t be adopted for another three months, allowing time for conversation and debate on the subject. The three month period, though, has typically been a formality and most expect the rule change to be adopted. The new rule would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

“It’s definitely been a big topic of conversation out here, especially since they came out an announced the change,” Fennel said. “A lot of guys have been talking about it and joking with the guys that use them.”

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