Normally I don’t post twice in one day, but this is not normal. Today’s post is a call to action.
Yesterday, the USGA proposed, as expected, a rule change banning the anchored putting stroke, effective in 2016. It also opened a 90-day comment period during which it will receive and consider commentary from anyone who care to opine. Please opine (below).
Regular readers of this space know that I am totally opposed to such a rule change. If you wish to be refreshed, the “belly putter” link under the Labels heading on the right will guide you to my earlier thoughts on the subject.
There is an argument that the anchored stroke gives some players an advantage. This does not hold up to any statistical evidence thus far presented.
So far, the USGA has released no statistical study showing the professionals who anchor putters are better putters as a group the the rest of their comrades. Nor is there any evidence relevant to amateur golfers.
I have heard that among the top 25 putters in the PGA statistics for 2012, there is not one player who anchors. Since I don’t know who anchors and who doesn’t, I’ll have to take that claim on face value, but I don’t think it’s wrong.
In your neck of the woods, if you think other golfers are beating you because of anchored putting, then you can try it, too. After all, are you the only one left playing with a wooden-headed driver? Of course not. You saw the advantage and switched. So did the pros.
The other argument that I have heard in support of the ban is that this not a traditional stroke.
It comes down to the sentiment that this is not the way golf has always been played and if we want it to stay golf, we can’t allow this stroke to remain legal. This is the way we’ve always done it. What does your boss say when he asks you why you’re doing something in a particular way and you give him that answer? You learn pretty fast that’s the wrong answer. It is here, too.
Lots of things about today’s golf aren’t traditional. Hybrid irons aren’t traditional. 460cc driver heads aren’t traditional. Two-piece golf balls aren’t traditional. Graphite shafts aren’t traditional. Steel shafts aren’t either, but it’s 80 years too late to get started on that one.
Let’s not forget that golf is a game that People Play. People=the masses. Play=enjoy. We don’t need golf to exist as perfection on paper. It is for the people who play the game that the rules should be created, the millions of recreational golfers for whom golf is their hobby, their happiness. The rules should reflect who they are.
Nor does golf exist solely for the elite players and the rest of us follow along thankful for the favor. Only for a vanishingly small percentage of players is it a career. They need rules, too, but there is no ultimate reason why the rules for each set of golfers needs to be the same. It certainly isn’t in other sports.
What is the Summer Game that everyone in America plays? It isn’t baseball, it’s softball. Baseball (or, hardball), is for young, strong men. For the rest of us, baseball has been modified so we can play it. The general rules of each game are the same, but softball is a game within reach of anyone who can swing a bat, throw, and run.
One game allows everyone to enjoy the outlines of a game they would otherwise lack the physical ability to play. This is where the anchored stroke comes in and this is where golf’s ruling bodies need to make an accommodation.
There are thousands of golfers who would just not be able to putt if not for being able to anchor a long putter of some kind. These are people who are too inflexible to bend over and putt. People who have physical infirmities or handicaps.
Why make golf difficult and painful for people who are out there getting exercise and enjoyment?
And, yes, some people have the yips.
One official reason supporting the ban is that putting should be a test of nerves and the anchored stroke takes that away. That’s fine if you’re a competitive golfer. But if you’re just out there to hit the ball around the course and have fun with friends, you’re not out there to be “tested.” Why make golf harder people than it needs to be if all they want to do is get in the out of doors and have enjoy yourself?
What is comes down to is this: anchored putting is an issue in professional golf. The governing bodies of each professional tour are allowed to make their own rules. They follow the USGA and R&A rule book, but they can make any exception they want to. If they feel that the anchored stroke is disrupting competition on their tour, they can institute a ban on their own, or ignore the new rule if they choose to.
But that is not a practical solution here. Tours will not thumb their nose at the official rules. That’s why there has to be two sets of rules, one for professional competition and one for amateur competition.
Professional baseball did this. Amateur baseball players, even college players, and softball players, use metal bats. Professional baseball players, though, have to use wooden bats. There’s a good reason. Put metal bats in the hands of major league hitters and you could have more home runs in a game than foul balls, not to mention the safety issue. Some pitcher would likely get killed by a hard shot through the box.
I know the USGA hates the word bifurcation, but it’s necessary because, as Bobby Jones said, “There are two distinct kinds of golf — just plain golf and tournament golf.”
It is time to fully admit that two different games are being played, and it is the game of the millions to which the rules in general should speak, and there are thousands of us who need the anchored putting stroke to be able to play and enjoy our playing.
An exception for professional golf can be inserted, but for the rest of us, things are just fine like they are.
If you wish to submit a comment to the USGA, you send a surface post or e-mail. Find out how to do either at http://USGA.org/Anchoring.