The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Assn. approved a rule Tuesday that outlaws the "anchor putting stroke" that was used by four of the last six major champions. The new rule goes into effect in 2016.
''We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game,'' USGA President Glen Nager said. ''Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game - the free swing of the entire club.''
Golfers will still be able to use long putters, they just won't be able to anchor the club against their body, creating a hinge effect.
''We recognize this has been a divisive issue, but after thorough consideration, we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf,'' R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.
Masters champion Adam Scott used a long putter he pressed against his chest. British Open champion Ernie Els and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson used a belly putter, as did Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship.
''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 said. ''Anchoring creates potential advantages, such as making the stroke simpler and more repeatable, restricting the movement and rotation of the hands, arms and club face, creating a fixed pivot point, and creating extra support and stability that may diminish the effects of nerves and pressure.''
The next step is for the PGA Tour to follow along with the new rule or decide to establish its own condition of competition that would allow players to anchor the long putters. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in February that the USGA and R&A ''would be making a mistake'' to adopt the rule, though he also has stressed the importance of golf playing under one set of rules.