The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced Tuesday that they have adopted a rule that prohibits the anchoring of the club while making a putting stroke, saying the style goes against the traditional golf swing.
The ruling, covering what is now Rule 14-1b, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016 and is directed at players who use long putters and belly putters where the butt end is stationary or pressed against the upper part of the abdomen.
USGA president Glen Nager said the rule changes "protects one of the important challenges in the game - the free swing of the entire club.
"The traditional stroke involves swinging the club with both the club and gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and control movement of the entire club," Nager said in a statement that he read during a press conference at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.,
"Anchoring is different. Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing."
Nager emphasized that the ruling does not ban long putters or belly putters.
"A player can use the same long putter or belly putter, take the same stance, grip the club in the same way and make the same pendulum-style stroke," Nager said. "He or she need only move the hand of club slightly off the body."
The PGA Tour and the PGA of America had been opposed to any ban on anchored putting. They could elect not to follow the ban when it takes effect, meaning the first break between organizations that conduct golf competitions and the rule-making bodies in the United States and throughout the world.
The two organizations released statements after the USGA news conference.
The PGA Tour said it will discuss the new rule over the next month with its player advisory council and policy board members and "begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation.
"We will announce our position regarding the application of Rule 14-1b to our competitions upon conclusion of our process and we will have no further comment on the matter until that time."
Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, which represents more than 27,000 club professionals throughout the country, said he was "disappointed" in the decision.
"As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game," Bishop said in a statement.
Bishop said the PGA will discuss the matter with its board of directors, PGA sections and its professionals. He said the board will meet in late June and decide how best to proceed.
Supporters of anchored putting have called the rule change unfair, and said the ban would limit the enjoyment of the game for the higher-handicap recreational players.
"We understand that some golfers are expressing concern with this change," Nager said. "But the proper solution is not to allow alternation of the challenges of the game and pull the game apart, but rather to work together to help these golfers overcome their concerns."
Tiger Woods has been an opponent of anchored putting, saying that such a style should not be part of golf.
"It should be mandatory to have to swing all 14 clubs," Woods said Monday at the AT&T National media day in Bethesda, Md. "As far as the PGA Tour, I hope they do it as soon as possible to be honest with you. I've always felt that in golf, you should have to swing the club, control your nerves and swing all 14 clubs, not just 13."