It’s bye-bye belly starting January 1, 2016.
The age-old argument of whether it is fair to anchor the putter to take out the nerves of the putting stroke will never be answered.
A few years ago, the USGA decided to end the argument by placing a ban on this putting style starting in 2016 with a change to rule 14-labeled 1b. It is not a ban on the clubs themselves but rather on anchored putting: "strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player's body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club."
The USGA was nice enough to give players the past three years to find their stroke with the conventional non-anchored putter as the rule does not take effect until January 1st 2016.
So what does all this mean in terms of improving our putting?
Even though the anchored putter will be banned next month, many players could greatly benefit from practicing with an anchored putter to help them improve their conventional stroke.
2. If you tend to suffer with nerves or over active wrists, an anchored pendulum is a better option than swinging away with the arms and hands.
To correct these two issues focus on these areas:
The putting stroke is a small motion that needs to be repeatable. Solid fundamentals and a sound setup at address with the putter will help you not only have a stroke that is a repeatable motion, but will also help you make a stroke on the proper path. All this being said if we are properly fit for a belly putter, and we anchor that putter in the same position every time we setup, this will ensure that we are in a proper setup. We no longer have to worry about if we have the correct hip hinge, or if forearms match, or if our eye line is right, because we are now anchoring a club we were fit for in the same position every time, giving us instant feedback without needing a mirror, video or even an instructor present.
So lets take a page out of Da Vinci’s book and use a science or system while we practice our putting, unless you are fortunate enough to have a set of eyes on you every time you step on the putting green to practice putting, I believe a properly fit belly putter is one the easiest ways to train your body in what a good putting setup should feel like.
One of the reasons anchored putting styles became so popular on tour is because when you are trying to make a three-footer for the win, or a three footer for thousands of dollars, nerves tend to kick in and our smaller muscles in our hands and wrists to take over, causing a pull or push due to putter face manipulation. The anchored putter takes our wrists and hands out of the equation, forcing us to use our shoulders to rock the putter face on the correct path back and forth.
The belly putter is a great to show students how to properly use their shoulders in their putting stroke. There are systems out there like SAMs putt lab, which measures the path of the stroke along with the rotation of the face and centeredness of the strike (basically the consistency of your stroke). What I have seen when testing on these systems, if the student practices with a properly fit belly putter first, then goes back to their conventional putter, that is when the student tests out with the best numbers and most consistency.
The USGA and R&A have made up their mind by essentially banning the anchored putter, however, these putters still have a place in the game as training aids to help us with our setup and making a consistent stroke properly using our shoulders.
The big question I have is, “why bother with this now?”
In my opinion, the USGA and R&A waited far too long to make a decision on this putting style, and it is unfair to players that, not only are currently using this style to making a living on the PGA Tour, but have won on this tour, and won majors on this tour.
So now is Keegan Bradley’s PGA championship less of a major victory than someone using a conventional putter? What about Webb Simpson? Adam Scotts Masters win? It’s hard to think these wins won’t seem “tarnished” due to this late rule change.
As of 2012 (the year prior to the anchor ban), almost 40 percent of players on the European Tour used belly putters, and the number on the PGA Tour was almost 30 percent. The number of players in the general golf population using bellies three years ago was estimated at 8 percent.
It means that the number of belly putters was growing on a weekly basis on both major tours. It means that the governing bodies that manage the rules of golf believed that this putting style is such an advantage that they felt the need to finally ban a style that has been around since its first patent in 1965.
So all this means is if you are currently struggling with your putting, try going out and getting fit for a belly and once January 1 hits, instead of putting it in your garage sale or taking it to your local golf store to trade in for a new driver, try using it as a training aid and you should see improvements in your putting.