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How it all began: A history of the long putter


INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 30: Kyeong Bae in the 12th hole during round one of Hana Bank Kolon Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club on October 30, 2009 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

While the debate over anchoring putters may appear relatively new, the history of the long putter dates back several decades. Here are some highlights and notable moments in the history of one of golf’s most interesting pieces of equipment.

1924: Leo Diegel develops a putting stance which involves a bent-over, elbows-out position with the butt of the putter at his belly button. Competitors called the move ‘Diegeling.’

1961: The first patent for a belly putter is submitted by Richard Parmley. It was approved in 1965.

1966: Phil Rodgers wins twice on the PGA Tour with a 39.5-inch belly putter, using a technique suggested to him by Paul Runyan. According to the Associated Press, ‘Rodgers shoves the handle of his putter against his stomach and spreads his hands apart before taking his stroke.’

1968: The U.S. Golf Association bans croquet-style putting, utilized notably at the time by Sam Snead. USGA executive Joe Dey told Sports Illustrated, ‘We made the decision with great reluctance ... but we felt it was the only way to eliminate the unconventional styles that have developed in putting. The game of golf was becoming bizarre. It was some other game, part croquet, part shuffleboard.’

1983: Battling the yips and bad knees, Champions Tour player Charlie Owens begins using a 51-inch putter that he anchored to his sternum. He went on to win twice in 1986 using the putter, which he nicknamed ‘Slim Jim.’

1987: Johnny Miller wins the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am using a 46-inch long putter, which he gripped normally but braced against his left arm.

July 1989: Orville Moody wins the U.S. Senior Open using a long putter. Previously one of the worst putters on the Champions Tour, Moody became one of the best almost immediately after switching to the long putter, sparking rumors the club may be banned.

August 1989: After nearly two months of debate, the USGA and R&A announce that long putters will continue to be permitted under the Rules of Golf. At the time, USGA executive director David Fay explained, ‘Putting is a very individualized art form. To inhibit a golfer’s individual style would take some of the fun out of the game.’

1991: Rocco Mediate wins the Doral Open, becoming the first player to win a PGA Tour event using a putter anchored to his sternum.

2000: Paul Azinger earns his first PGA Tour win in over six years, using a belly putter to capture the Sony Open in Hawaii. ‘I was instantly better,’ said Azinger, who used the club to make the next U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.

2003: Eight PGA Tour events are won by players using long putters, including four by Vijay Singh. ‘This is like cheating,’ said Steve Flesch after winning the Zurich Classic with an anchored putter. Later in the year, the USGA and R&A announce a maximum length of 48 inches on all clubs – except the putter.

2004: Vijay Singh wins nine times on the PGA Tour while switching between putters – six times with a standard putter, three times with a belly putter. Inspired by Singh, 24-year-old Trevor Immelman wins on the European Tour with a belly putter, which he had been using for only two weeks.

2007: After putting a belly putter in his bag just one week earlier, Sergio Garcia misses a 6-foot putt on the 72nd hole to win the British Open at Carnoustie. He would lose in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

2009: Angel Cabrera wins The Masters with a 39-inch putter. Although longer than the standard putter, Cabrera uses it conventionally and does not anchor the putter to his body.

April 2011: USGA executive director Mike Davis appears on ‘Morning Drive’ to discuss a possible ban of the anchored putter: ‘We don’t see this as a big trend. It’s not as if all the junior golfers out there are doing this. No one’s even won a major using one of these things anchored to themselves. So we don’t see this as something that is really detrimental to the game.’

August 2011: Keegan Bradley wins the PGA Championship, becoming the first player to win a major while anchoring a putter to his body. Later that month, Davis expands on his earlier comments: ‘To date there’s no evidence they are giving anybody an undue advantage. But could we become concerned some day? The answer is, yes.’

September 2011: Bill Haas uses a belly putter to win the Tour Championship – the fifth win by an anchored putter in seven weeks on the PGA Tour. In total, seven different players win on Tour using an anchored putter in 2011.

February 2012: At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Tiger Woods states that he is against the idea of anchoring a putter to one’s body, adding that he feels the putter should be equal to or shorter than the shortest club in the golf bag.

May 2012: Matt Kuchar wins The Players with a long putter braced against his forearm.

June 2012: Webb Simpson becomes the second player to win a major using a belly putter, capturing the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.

July 2012: Ernie Els wins the British Open using a belly putter, holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Runner-up Adam Scott, using a long putter anchored to his sternum, misses a 6-foot putt to tie Els on the final hole. More than 27% of the field (43 of 156 players) use a long or belly putter.

November 2012: At age 14, Tianlang Guan wins the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship with a belly putter, earning an invitation to the Masters in 2013, when he will become the youngest-ever competitor in the event’s history.

Nov. 28, 2012: The USGA and R&A announce a proposal to ban anchored strokes, beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

Feb. 24, 2013: Commissioner Tim Finchem announces the PGA Tour’s opposition to the proposed anchoring ban, saying that it is ‘not in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.’

April 14, 2013: Using a broom-handle putter, Adam Scott prevailed in a playoff at the Masters to become the fourth player in the last six majors to win while using an anchored stroke.

May 21, 2013: After a 90-day comment period, the governing bodies announce that Rule 14-1b will be enacted on Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.

June 29, 2013: PGA of America, which had staunchly opposed Rule 14-1b, announced that it would follow the PGA Tour’s lead on the anchoring ban.

July 1, 2013: The PGA Tour reverses course and announces that it will adopt Rule 14-1b and ban anchoring at its events, beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.