Based on reports from the USGA annual meeting, it now appears that the rules makers are taking another serious look at the use of chest and belly putters just when it appeared likely they would be around for a long time.
The R&A seems to have taken the lead in this movement because of concerns about the fact golfers can steady themselves with their putters in windy and rainy conditions– things never intended under the rules–and that the methods allow anchoring, whereby the putter is secured against the body in a manner considered to be outside the definition of a natural or traditional stroke. The grip end of the putter is anchored in or around the abdomen in belly putting while it is locked against the chest in long putting.
It appears that the putters themselves would not be ruled nonconforming, but instead the putting methods would become illegal. I recall this is what happened 40+ years ago when croquet or between-the-legs putting was outlawed. The putters continued to be used by some players, including Sam Snead, in a sidesaddle style.
USGA executive director Mike Davis indicated, “We are looking at it from a perspective that … what we should look at for everything: What is good for the game, for all golfers, long term? It is something we have taken a fresh look at. More players are using it, both on the elite level and the recreational level. We want to be sure that we are looking at all the angles and thinking about what is in the best interests both of the traditions of the game, the history of the game, and what we think would be good for the game.”
I’m sure the emergence of players like Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley probably influenced the tougher and more idealistic stance on anchoring. “All of a sudden … this has become a much bigger topic,” Davis admitted after the group’s annual meeting.
Padraig Harrington thinks “it’s inevitable” that something will be done to correct anchoring.
However, drafting the precise language for an anti-anchoring rule would be very difficult and a lot more discussions between the two ruling bodies are going to be necessary before anything is actually done.
So keep using those longer putters until further notice.