Is the use of belly putters unethical?
Watching Johnson Wagner's PGA Tour victory in Hawaii served another reminder that putters will continue to be one of the biggest talking points in golf.
Although Wagner wielded a conventional short stick to stab home his winning two footer (he nearly missed) the leaderboard was peppered with players using all manner of implements to negotiate the greens.
Most striking was Matt Every's BlackHawk putter with its oversized head that resembled the top of a shoe box attached to a conventional length shaft. It proved highly effective for three rounds and downright ugly on all four days.
"It gets my hands in the same spot every time," said Every, who entered the final round tied for the lead. "I just feel a lot more square over the putt. It's the first tournament. If I start playing well with it, maybe it will catch on."
If it does become popular with the pro's it may improve putting stats but will do nothing for the aesthetics of the game and much the same could be said of the plethora of belly putters and broomhandles that seem to be growing ever more popular.
Keegan Bradley, who finished tied thirteenth in Hawaii, made the breakthrough by becoming the first to win a major using a belly putter. His PGA triumph last August was seen as the breaking of a hoodoo.
Until that point it was felt the golfing gods would allow the odd Tour success (especially if you are a senior) but the use of an anchor point to strike a putt would never be worthy of winning one of the big four championships.
Golfers have been using extended putters for decades now and here is a less romantic and probably more realistic assessment of why it has taken so long for one of these implements to win a major.
Australian Adam Scott has seen his form improve since opting to use a long-handled putter. Photo: Getty
In the past they have been wielded by players keen to try something new after losing their touch or nerve on the greens.
The yippers have sought to use them as a crutch and take advantage of the consistency that can be gained from having a set anchor point either in the belly, chest or chin.
"The belly and the broomstick are definitely superior methods," says Jonny Miller, who experimented with a 45 inch putter more than thirty years ago.
"When the axis doesn't move, the shaft angle at impact is always exactly where you started it at address - which is a huge thing in putting," he says in Golf World magazine.
Miller contends that these clubs add to a player's longevity. Certainly someone like Adam Scott has benefitted after his career appeared in free-fall until he started sweeping them in with his broomhandle.
Scott is a convert but now there is a generation of players led by Bradley and Webb Simpson who have grown up with these extended clubs. They use them because they suit their games and happen to be very good on the greens as well.
So they are not putting them in their bags because they have become poor putters. By definition they are more likely to be able to withstand the pressures of trying to land a big title.
But should these clubs be an option for either the failing putter or the new young gun who has known no different?
Should you be able to use an anchor point? Isn't it contrary to the spirit and nature of the game? If you've lost your putting touch why should you be allowed a crutch? And if you are a good putter, why should you be allowed to make the task even easier?
These are questions that should have been dealt with properly thirty years ago yet the R and A's Chief Executive Peter Dawson says: "We're not getting in a lather about it at this point."
Dawson's counterpart at the USGA, Mike Davis, is on record as saying he "can't stand the look" of the long putter but insists: "There's no evidence it is a game changer."
Putting stats still show the conventional putter to be more effective and Luke Donald, the finest putter in the world at the moment, is testament to that with his text book style (all be it with a putter head that looks like it could pick up an analogue TV signal).
But there can be no denying that the percentage of players using longer putters is rising all the time. Will that eventually change the game and put the R and A and USGA into a collective lather?
Or has the horse bolted anyway?
Legislating against long putters and anchor points is fraught with difficulty particularly when it is carried out retrospectively.
A standard putter can be a long one to a smaller person and anchoring the club may be the only option if you are, say, trying to hit from under a bush. Such nuances would have to be catered for if they are to be outlawed.
One answer might be to limit the length and number of grips on a putter. The broom handle generally has two separate pieces of rubber and belly putters extend their grips sometimes more than halfway down the shaft.
This element sets these clubs apart from any other implement in the bag and there appears room for movement for the rules makers as well.
Rule 14-3 states: "The R & A reserves the right at any time to change the rules on artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations in relation to these rules."
It could be argued that a grip that is longer than that which appears on every other club is "unusual" and so perhaps there is already scope to act.
Having said that, with every week that passes these putters become ever more prevalent and therefore less unusual. Like them or loathe them they seem destined to be with us for a very long time.