By Kevin York
Slant: The U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient Club (R&A) both want to ban the belly putter. The PGA Tour does not.
This is really an interesting predicament. For years, the USGA and R&A have been golf’s governing bodies. Everyone in America followed the rules set by the USGA, and in Europe, everyone followed the R&A’s rules. No questions were asked, the rules were just followed.
Think about that for a minute before I move on. The USGA and R&A hold exactly two professional golf tournaments – The US Open and The British Open. That’s it. Every other tournament in the world is associated with a different governing entity. In America we’re most familiar with the PGA Tour. They run all the other big money professional tournaments. The PGA Tour is like the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. The difference is that all those other leagues set and enforce their own rules. They aren’t listening to someone else’s rules and guidelines. They want something changed, they change it. In my view, it’s a very odd situation for the PGA. They have to follow the USGA’s rules.
The USGA and R&A want to outlaw the belly putter, arguing it gives those using it an unfair advantage because it gives them an anchor and takes some skill out of the game. For the record, I agree with them. Use a real putter! The PGA, on the other hand, doesn’t think there’s any evidence to support that the belly putter provides an advantage to those using it. Interestingly enough, as this article mentions, three of the past five major winners have used a belly putter.
Instead of just taking the USGA and R&A rulings laying down, the PGA is being vocal about their opposition to this rule change. The question now is, how much influence does the PGA have over rule changes? Neither the USGA nor R&A has officially passed the belly putter rule change through – yet. Will the PGA and commissioner Tim Finchem’s public comments in opposition to it change things?
I’m typically all about preserving history, but on this topic, even though I hate belly putters, I side with the PGA. A professional league should be able to set its own rules, the same way the NFL or NBA can.