R&A chief Peter Dawson says discussions “ongoing” for long putters

Opening up more than ever before about belly putters and long putters, Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Chief Executive Peter Dawson said his association, which governs the Rules of Golf along with the U.S. Golf Association, is “concerned” about the longer sticks.

“It’s very much back on the radar because of this move (in the popularity of belly putters and long putters) in the last 12 months, and I don’t think that’s a secret,” Dawson said this week.

Peter Dawson

No secret, perhaps, but it’s the hardest evidence yet that the R&A and USGA appear to be on the same page in regards to some possible regulation of belly putters and long putters.

“The subject is being looked at more from a ‘rules of golf’ and method of stroke angle than it is from a length of club angle,” Dawson said. “The reason for that is that if you thought you were going to do something about long putters by saying the putter may be no more than 40 inches long, that would still allow short people perhaps to belly putt but not tall people.  So limiting the length of club, if you’re going to do something about this, is not a very sensible way to go.”

Instead, Dawson said, there have been suggestions that simply make the putter the shortest club in the bag.

“That doesn’t do a lot of help for the poor tall chap who’s got a bad back and can’t bend down very easily.  It also doesn’t prevent the advent‑ and we’ve seen some of this ‑ of belly chipping, or indeed belly putting with say, the 1‑iron,” Dawson said. “So it is being looked at on a method of stroke basis.  There’s a rule of golf that says you can’t push, scrape or spoon as a method of stroke, so this is being looked at on a method of stroke basis.

“Now, I rush to say that no decision has been made about this, and I don’t know if one will be.  If it’s being looked at as a matter of stroke in the rules of golf, that means that there would be no action prior to Jan. 1, 2016, when the next quadrennial revision of the rules of golf is due, because it’s being looked at as a method of stroke.”

The real question, Dawson said, is how golf’s ruling bodies see the future of golf in regards to belly putters and long putters.

“On the one hand there’s the argument you’ve let it go so long you can’t do anything, the other argument is it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Dawson said. “There are discussions ongoing at quite an intense pace, but I don’t know sitting here as a matter of the rules of golf committee of the R&A and the USGA, I don’t know what the outcome will be, and I stress no decision has been made yet.”


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