To: The USGA and The Royal & Ancient
RE: Possible exclusion of long and belly putters
I feel compelled to address the possible rule change to the great game of golf that would prohibit the anchoring of belly and long putters to the body.
Some say these putters violate "the spirit of the game," and that just makes my blood boil. Are you kidding?
The ball is so hot -- and the equipment so good -- that many courses are now obsolete for better players, especially PGA Tour pros. That's why we're seeing courses at 7,600 and 8,000 yards; more bunkers; greens with multiple sections; and other adjustments that strengthen the "challenge."
It's no wonder amateur handicaps have changed little in decades. It's the course designers who have lost sight of the spirit of the game.
(RELATED PHOTOS: Belly putters for 2012)
Let's look at what's happened to our game. As our courses have gotten longer and green contouring has become silly, our golfers have gotten older. Still, the game's governing bodies seem to think the game has gotten too easy. They've already eliminated square grooves, a rule change that meant an added expense for golfers who choose to play tournaments but hasn't changed the level of scoring on Tour.
Now comes the supposed advantage, which has not been proven by any stretch of the imagination, of belly putters and long putters. Of course, these putters are not new, and some players using them have been quoted as saying they "will cheat as long as they are allowed to." But once again, there has been no proof that these putters provide an advantage. Every player can opt to use one, but many players who have tried them have said that they didn't think they helped.
But even if belly and long putters truly make it easier for some players, is that really violating the spirit of the game with everything else that has occurred over the last several decades? I want to know the reasoning for outlawing something that helps people enjoy the game more and might cut a stroke off of their game. In the long run, isn't it better to keep that player on the course?
Any rule changes made should address how to make the game more enjoyable for the masses instead of trying to make golf harder for the group that really fuels the game's growth. The real focus needs to be on the millions of real life avid golfers out there. Who cares if Keegan, Ernie or Bernhard found an advantage to score better for themselves?
I want my students to enjoy the game and play better. For some of them, a belly putter or a long putter might help. If that helps someone remove the yips from the equation, for example, so be it!
I'm sorry, but I don't get where this game has gone and may go. There have been way too many contradictions to think that the spirit of the game has been in mind when the game's governing bodies have made their decisions.
Dr. Craig Farnsworth
Dr. Craig Farnsworth is owner of See & Score Golf Schools and has worked with Nick Faldo, Tom Kite and Y.E. Yang, among others.