THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Brace yourself — just not your putter.
In a proposal that would affect major champions as well as amateurs at their local clubs, the guardians of the 600-year-old sport want to write a new rule that would outlaw a putting stroke they fear is taking too much skill out of the game.
The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club said Wednesday they are not banning the belly putter or the longer “broom-handle" putters — only the way they are used. The proposed rule would prohibit golfers at all levels from anchoring a club against their bodies while making a stroke.
The rule would not take effect until 2016.
“We believe a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “Golf is a game of skill and challenge, and we think that’s an important part of it."
Three of the past five major champions, starting with Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship, used a belly putter.
What concerned the governing bodies, however, was an increasing number of players who were turning to the long putters because they saw it as an advantage, not as a last resort to cure their putting woes.
“Anchored strokes have very rapidly become the preferred option for a growing number of players, and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “Our conclusion is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes, which with all their frailties are integral to the longstanding character of our sport."
Players could still use a broom-handle or belly putter — as long as it not pressed against their body to create the effect of a hinge.
— The Associated Press