The Ban Stands- USGA + R&A Announce Anchored Putter Ban Effective In 2016, My Bullet-Pointed Opinionated Analysis

Today, the USGA + R&A both stated their plans to implement Rule 14-1b, which prohibits anchoring of the club during any swing or stroke.  This of course, will make the usage of a belly or long putter that is anchored at any point to a golfer’s body illegal effective January 1st, 2016. 

Rather than drawing out a black and white explanation or story of the rule, I figured I’d go the bullet-pointed opinionated route as hey, BOLD style is how I roll.

–        First and foremost, I agree with the ruling.  Golf clubs are meant to be swung freely and anchoring is simply not a stroke.

–        That all being said, the ruling comes decades too late.  Rather than ignoring it because players weren’t yet winning majors with anchored sticks, this should’ve been addressed and ruled upon back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s.  Charlie Owens won on the Senior Tour in 1986 (pre Champions Tour naming days, sorry Finchem) with a long anchored putter, Orville Moody did the same in winning the 1989 U.S. Senior Open and Rocco Mediate also anchored in winning the 1991 Doral-Ryder Open.  These weren’t the Coors Light Open on the Gateway Tour (no offense Gateway grinders), but it was golf on the highest scale.  Why was this ignored for so long?

–        The USGA admitted that they have no statistical evidence to back up this banishment, in that it is a “judgment of what’s fair and not fair” to the game of golf, rather than a surefire statistical enhancement.  Seems odd since they cited specific data for their wedge groove ban from just a few years prior, but according to Mike Davis and team these are different categories of bans…whatever the hell that means.

–        I’m a scratch player myself and have fooled around with both long and belly putters on the putting green.  While I practically took divots with those monstrosities and would never personally put one into use in competition, wedging something directly into my naval or into my sternum just felt wrong and non-golf-like.

–        The coincidental timing of this banishment cannot be denied, as four of the past six major champions on the PGA Tour have used an anchored putter.  Say just one of the six would’ve anchored?  Or say four out of six anchored back in the early 2000’s, would anchoring have been banned back then?  It’s hard to argue otherwise, the timing is just plain curious.

–        The PGA Tour, which until now, has abided by both USGA and R&A rules, released a statement today, among other things saying, “We will now begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation.”  The keyword in that sentence? “Now.”  They will “now” begin their process to see if the rule will be implemented?  The rule was proposed back in November and was just confirmed today.  Wouldn’t it seem logical that the PGA Tour would’ve had a plethora of time to conduct this review in the interim?  More on this next.

–        The LPGA Tour released a statement immediately saying that they are accepting the rule and will abide by it beginning in 2016 like the rest of the golfing world.  End of story.

–        Several players over the past few months, including both Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele, have been openly promising that the PGA Tour will face lawsuits if they do ban anchoring.

–        So, what to make of the PGA Tour’s non-immediate acceptance of the rule?  Well, commissioner Finchem has made it clear that he wants the Tour to abide by just one set of rules, but that he opposes the ruling.  Frankly, I think Tim is scared sh*tless of legal action being taken against the Tour and is going to drag this thing out until he can find a way to cover both himself and the Tour.

–        Tim Clark claims that he needs to use an anchored putter for medical reasons, as because of a birth deformity, he’s unable to bend his arms beyond a certain point.  How will the Tour respond to that?  That’s got Casey Martin part deux written all over it, except that Tim actually has the game to win PGA Tour tournaments (sorry Casey).

–        If the PGA Tour does indeed adopt the ban, which they almost certainly will have to, it’ll be interesting to see how many players switch the Matt Kuchar shaft lean on the arm type method.

–        The biggest issue to me with anchoring is the number of young players who are being taught to anchor directly from the cradle (see Guan Tianlang).  It’s one thing if you’re Tom Lehman and you can’t make a 5-footer in your 50’s without the broomstick, but it’s a whole other story if golf instructors are actually teaching their players to start their competitive lives by anchoring.  That’s a fundamental issue that I’m glad will be washed away by this ban.

–        As for manufacturers being in an uproar over this mess?  Anchored putters account for a miniscule percentage of total putter sales anyway.  The guy who uses an anchored putter is not the guy who has 16 different putters in his garage.  It’s the 65 year old guy who bought an anchored putter 11 years ago and will never switch.  This is not a big sales hit for these companies, no matter what they say.

–        I also find it funny how many people think that this is a ban on belly or long putters.  Not true.  Now, it may not be ideal to hold a broomstick putter 2 inches away from your test, but regardless if it’s long, if it’s not anchored, it’s not going to be against the rules.  There will definitely be some who try this away-from-the-chest approach, particularly from the older generation.

–        Is anyone seriously going to quit golf all together because of this ban?  C’mon, puhleez.  If you’re 65 years old, have played golf all your life and you can’t bend over far enough to putt with a short stick, you probably don’t care enough to abide by the new rule and will keep playing with the anchored stick anyway.  Anyone else that tells you that they’re hanging up their sticks for good is just flat out huffing, puffing and bluffing.

–        As for golf being in the news for all the wrong reasons following this ban?  Well, it certainly isn’t ideal of course.  But, just like with any ugly story (ie the Vijay drug fiasco), once a big on-course story happens (ie Tiger winning the PLAYERS), the dark clouds get washed away.  Once we get to past next week’s Memorial and into U.S. Open week, this anchoring talk will be mostly history.

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

Comments

  1. The PGA tour indeed had a plethora of time to address this issue earlier. And what is it with tour players suing? Unbelievable egos.

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