FOLLOWING the announcement from the Royal and Ancient Club, along with the United States Golf Association, that belly putters are likely to be outlawed from 2016, it is arguable what effect – if any – it is likely to have on local golfers and professionals.
Former PGA captain and Bradley Park professional Parnell Reilly agreed with the decision to outlaw the putter, but said the impact would be minor.
“It is only over the last couple of years that they have taken off on the Professional Tour, coming to light through the victories of Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson. Prior to that there was only really Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer who tended to use them,” said Reilly.
“Personally, I think it’s the right decision.
“It’s only similar to the decision to ban the mallet putter which Billy Casper successfully used croquet-style a number of years ago.
“A couple of guys in the pro game might want to continue, but I don’t believe it will have any impact on the amateur game. I can’t say I’ve sold any for a while.
“I can’t see anybody stopping people using them in friendly matches. There will almost certainly still be a lot of illegal drivers in people’s golf bags, which nobody comments on.”
One man who probably sees more top-line amateur golf than anyone in the area is Halifax, Huddersfield Union vice-president and team manager Chris Mear, who is a member at Meltham.
“They are not rife in the amateur game and I don’t think the proposed ruling will have any effect at amateur level,” admitted Mear who during any year comes into contact with all the best amateur golfers in Yorkshire.
“Certainly none of our men use them at either senior or junior level, and I can’t say I’ve come across any of our opponents who use them either.
“I agree that people shouldn’t be allowed to use them, but I don’t see it being a problem for us.”
Mear’s club professional Simon Race, who is widely regarded as a top putting coach, added: “I’m not surprised at the ruling, which has been on the cards for a while. It was always going to come to a head after the recent success of Els, Simpson and Bradley, but it won’t have a major effect, and if they wish, they can carry on using them until 2016.
“Of course, the proposal is not to ban the belly putter completely, but just the way it is used.
“It is still useful as a training aid, which helps you to feel what the shoulders should be doing, while one or two people use them to protect their back.
“Most professionals have only the odd one in the shop, and it certainly won’t impact on sales.”
Huddersfield professional and former European Tour player Alex Keighley admitted the move was unlikely to have any effect.
“New technology is already under way which will replace the belly putter, and the proposal certainly won’t impact on me as a retailer,” confessed Keighley.
“There will be nothing to stop golfers having a belly putter in their bag, or indeed using it, just as long as it’s not anchored to the body.”
One man who is a little more guarded on the use of belly putters for amateurs is top teaching professional John Eyre from Woodsome Hall, who actually has a custom-fit system for anyone wanting to switch from the standard short putter.
“I totally agree that for professional, a belly putter gives them an advantage because it is attached to them,” he said.
“Interestingly, Keegan Bradley has admitted that he’s never used a short putter in his life, while Adam Scott was philosophical, saying that if the ruling comes in, then he would have to re-adapt and go back to using a short putter.
“But I’m not too sure from the amateur point of view.
“We have a number of golfers who have suffered from the ‘yips’ (a movement disorder, known in the medical profession as focal dystonia), and being introduced to a belly putter has helped them overcome that and allowed them to continue to enjoy the sport.
“It would seem a bit harsh if that was taken away from them.
“But I would be surprised if the ruling affected amateur golfers who are just playing social golf.”