Category Archives: anchored putting

The PGA Tour on Anchored Putting

Yesterday, PGA Tour director Tim Finchem said that the Tour is not in favor of the anchored putting ban. While not going so far as to say that the Tour would not adopt the ban, a reasonable stance since the rule is still a proposal, Finchem did reassert the Tour’s right to establish its own playing conditions.

He said the best way to avoid conflict over the matter would be for the USGA to rescind the proposal.

Finchem noted that there is no evidence that players who use the anchored stroke have an advantage on the greens, as not one of them is in the top quartile in putting statistics. (While it might help individuals putt better, anchored putters are not a high-performing group.)

He also noted that since this technique has been part of golf since 1975, the USGA has given it tacit approval for almost forty years. A ban would have been more acceptable if it had been put in place much earlier than now.

Finally, the only reason the USGA seems to have is that anchoring is not a traditional stroke–it looks odd. That’s no reason to prevent players, professional and amateur, who have built their golfing success on anchoring, from putting that way.

The USGA’s comment period ends this Thursday, February 28th. Its final ruling will be made this spring.

So far, the USGA has handled this issue like it did the greens at Shinnecock Hills in the 2004 U.S. Open. We can only hope the directors see that this is not the issue on which they want to stake their authority.

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My Comment to the USGA on Anchored Putting

The USGA is inviting comments on its proposed Rule 14-1b, which would ban the anchored putting stroke. The comment period ends on February 28th. My comment, which I sent off yesterday, is printed below.

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February 12, 2013

United States Golf Association
PO Box 708, 77 Liberty Corner Rd.
Far Hills, NJ 07931-0708

This note is my comment on proposed rule 14-1b which bans the anchored putting stroke. I am opposed to the ban.

Golf is a game played primarily by millions of recreational players worldwide. They come in all ages, and all physical capabilities and conditions. The combination of the long putter and the anchored putting stroke has enabled many people to play the game enjoyably who would otherwise play in discomfort or not at all. This combination has also made a difficult game a bit easier to play; not a cakewalk, by any means, but a more approachable game in which beginners can achieve a satisfying level of success in a relatively short time.

It is recreational golfers that the rules of golf must accommodate. They are the game, not the handful of gifted players who compete at the highest levels. For those millions, the anchored stroke is not a corruption of the game’s principles or its intent. It is a way for them to have as much fun as they can.

We’re not asking for a different set of rules, but the preservation of the current ones. There is no point in changing the rules to make the game harder. Whether anchored putting contributes to golf’s growth is debatable, that banning the anchored stroke might well diminish it is not. I can easily foresee golfers with a marginal commitment to the game or physical handicaps quitting over this.

It seems the main argument brought up by the R&A and the USGA that the anchored stroke is a violation of the traditions of the game, that “a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely.” (Golfweek, December 7-14, 2012). That’s a tradition of the game because it’s a law of physics. If you want to hit a ball sitting on the ground a long way, you have to rear back and whack it. I suppose if someone wanted to have a belly driver with a 60” shaft (yes, I know the rule on shaft lengths) and swing it with an anchored stroke, they might be able to hit the ball 100 yards. We swing freely because that’s the only way to hit the ball and get anything resembling distance.

Putting, however, is not a distance stroke. It’s a finesse stroke. There is no need for it to be a free-swinging stroke. The anchored stroke is not part of golf’s tradition only because no one thought of it until recent times. But then, metal and graphite shafts aren’t traditional, either, as are not metal-headed drivers and moderns golf balls. The sand wedge and the Schenectady putter were nontraditional when they were introduced, but golf survived quite well following their acceptance. Anyone been stymied lately? It appears that golf’s rule-makers are being selective today as to which traditions they feel are necessary so the game can “sustain itself” and which are not.

There is an “unfair advantage” argument that you hear. If you think anchoring gives other golfers have an advantage, than you can start anchoring, too. PGA members who anchor have not taken over the top rankings in putting statistics, nor are they even close. No advantage that I can see there. If one of my playing pals switches to an anchored stroke and lowers his handicap by four strokes, I’ll be nothing but happy for him, because he’s having . . . more fun.

There is also the “nerves” argument, that the anchored stroke takes the nerves out of the game. Well, it doesn’t, and even if it settles them down a bit, recreational golfers don’t play golf to test our nerves. We’re not in competition. We’re out there to have fun.

So. To summarize. Golf belongs to the millions of recreational players, not the handful of professionals. We play golf to have fun. Anchored putting lets many of us not only have fun, but play the game, period. Let us keep this part of golf that does no harm to anyone or to the sport, but does many of us a world of good. Anchored putting so far hasn’t been the killing blow to recreational golf and it won’t be if it is allowed to continue. Rule 14-1b is a solution to an imaginary problem. Let’s keep the rules just like they are now.

Thank you for your attention.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

USGA Proposes Banning the Anchored Putting Stroke

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.

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USGA LIkely to Ban the Anchored Putting Stroke

Earlier this year I mentioned that the USGA and the R&A would be ruling in December on anchored putting. Rumor has the decision now being announced in March, and the ruling could already be in the bag pending its announcement.

Even though anchored putting has been around for decades, the controversy did not arise until last year when Keegan Bradley won the PGA, and again this year when Webb Simpson and Ernie Els both won a major championship, all three using an anchored putting stroke.

Golf’s two governing bodies make the rules for tens of millions of golfers all over the world. But, because of the success of three (count’em, three) of those golfers, the rules for everyone could be changed.

Let us remind ourselves that golf belongs to the millions who play it for recreation. That several thousand play golf professionally does not give them ownership of the sport, and should not even be the driving factor in rules changes. Grooves notwithstanding.

Because three golfers had success at the right time with an anchored putting stroke, there is a very real chance that stroke will be taken away from many thousands of recreational players who need it to continue playing the game they love.

I’m talking about golfers who have the yips. Senior golfers who can’t bend over for the time it takes to hit a putt. Golfers of any age with back conditions which give them the same problem. The long putter with an anchored stroke lets them keep playing and keep having fun.

I’m a purist. I think you should dress well when you go out and play. You should follow all the rules even if it’s a recreational round. I believe in sinking every putt. I replace my divots and fix ball marks on greens. And so forth.

But you can be a purist to a fault. Saying that this is a “nontraditional” stroke might be true, but so what? It helps people keep playing their game. It helps keep them getting outdoors in beautiful surroundings, having fun with friends, doing something athletic, getting exercise.

I doubt that an organizing committee sat down in 1840-something and said that golf is intended to be played by swinging a club that is not anchored to your body. No. That’s just how it worked out.

The tradition of golf is that it is a sport which can be played as long as you can stay upright, which might be well into your 90s. Long after you had to give up tackle football, full court basketball, and so forth, you can play golf. Or if you were never good enough to play those sports or because of gender bias you were never able to, you can still play golf.

That is a tradition we want to foster and maintain, and if it takes anchoring your putter to make golf playable and fun (that is, not taking three strokes to the green followed by four putts, or after the first few holes putting makes your back hurt), then go ahead and anchor. I want you to play golf with me.

This week’s Golfweek magazine suggests that the professional tours might not go along with the ban if one is imposed. Wouldn’t that be something? The consequence would be that golfers the rule was intended to affect would be untouched, and golfers who really need an anchored stroke to keep playing would be out in the cold.

There are a lot of arguments for and against anchoring that I don’t have the space to go into. All I’m saying here, is that the hoo-hah seems be over the affect of anchored putting on professional competition. If that’s so, the professional tours can address it on their own. There is no need for me and my millions of peers to be affected as well.

Quite frankly, if you want to anchor and want to keep anchoring even after a ban goes into effect (the earliest would be the year 2016), go ahead. You wouldn’t get a handicap, and couldn’t play in tournaments, but if you don’t do that anyway, you won’t be losing a thing. The USGA advises us through the rules on how to play golf, but it does not command us.

Just in: GolfWorld magazine reports that Keegan Bradley will fight a ban in court and Tim Clark is making noise about the same thing. Should be interesting.

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Tiger Woods Weighs In On Anchored Putting

We’ve all been waiting for the shoe to drop in this issue, and yesterday, it did. Tiger Woods stated that the belly putter does not square with what he feels to be “implicit in the art of putting,” which is a “controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion.” Fair enough. That’s a pretty good description of all the elements you need to hit a ball, lying on the ground, with a club, and have a reasonable idea of where the ball is going to go.

What that has to do with belly putters, though, is beyond me. The motion Woods describes is an exact description of both the way Woods putts and the way Webb Simpson putts. If you wanted to distinguish between the two styles, that description doesn’t make the distinction. I willing to let that go as him saying what he thinks, and he can certainly put in his two cents just like the next fellow.

Woods, however, does not want to solve the problem by outlawing anchoring a putter against a player’s body. He wants to eliminate belly putting by regulating the length of the club, and that is an entirely different matter.

“My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag,” Woods said. “And I think with that we’d be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring.”

Yes, we would, but that would at the same time take the game away from thousands of golfers who have a difficult time with short clubs. I take this personally, because one of those golfers could be me.

[Note: The Rules of Golf say: “The overall length of the club must be at least 18 inches (0.457 m) and, except for putters, must not exceed 48 inches (1.219 m).” Why woods, hybrid irons, irons, and wedges may continue to be constrained by the 48-inch limit, but a putter could not, can be discussed, but separately.]

Last week I had surgery on my spine to correct an urgent condition. In three months I am going to have another spine operation to correct something else. I have known for years that all this would would have to happen sometime, and now is the time. What I am concerned about is the future.

I am hoping to be back out on the course in July, at least chipping and putting. I would like to putt with my 48″ split-grip putter that for most golfers would be a belly putter, but since I’m 6’6″ tall, is merely a different putter. It does let me stand up straight when I putt, though, and that is a big help to me over using a putter that was built for someone a foot shorter than I am. Essentially, it lets me putt like everyone else does. This putter lets me play.

My personal concern is over where my back will take me in the coming decades. If Woods’s plan gets adopted, will I have to give up golf if the time comes that I can’t bend over enough to putt with a putter that is required to be shorter than I can manage without discomfort? Could the rules of golf be changed such that a large class of golfers might be shut out of the game?

In all the discussion of belly putters, you keep hearing, “They’re not fair.” Well, Woods’s plan is not fair. This not just his game. It’s my game too, and shutting me out, and others like me, in this way is not fair.

I have written about belly putters in previous posts, and likely will write more about them this year when two more major tournaments are won by players using them. But this plan, this one needs to be deep-sixed. If the belly putter is harmful to golf, then Woods’s club-length plan could be fatal to many of us.