Technical Tips

March 2013

Anchor Putting Ban: A Solution in Search of a Problem

By Scott McCormick, GolfNow

The USGA’s announcement in late 2012 that they would be rolling out a ban on anchored putters was met with mixed reaction.  Some applauded the move, noting that the so-called “belly putting” style runs contrary to the traditional nature of the game.
Others booed and hissed at the proclamation, wondering why golf’s overlords waited until the anchored putter became entrenched in the professional game before yanking the cloth from underneath the table settings.

Count me firmly in the latter group.

I think the anchored putting ban is the perfect example of a solution in search of a problem.

The reason that the golf establishment felt that now was the time to implement a ban on belly putters is clear; though the anchored putting style has been utilized by a small subset of PGA tour participants for decades, only in recent years has the style exploded in popularity.  And it’s easy to see why: three of the past five major winners have hoisted their trophies after sinking high-pressure putts with the shaft anchored to their belly.

What Really Changed? – (Then, 1995 vs. Now 2013)

And while it is an entirely different argument as to whether the anchored putting stance is actually a benefit to one’s short game or a long-term detriment, there is no disputing the recent success of anchored putting practitioners in the last two years.

Clearly this success and the corresponding increase in anchored putter usage (as many as one in seven tour professionals were using them by 2012) sent the stodgy golf traditionalists into a frenzy.

“It’s unnatural,” they cry.  “It goes against the spirit of the game.”

These shrieks ring hollow to my ears.

If the anchored putter wasn’t the antithesis of pure golf in 1995, and it wasn’t contrary to the nature of the game in 2005, then what has made it so by 2012?  All of a sudden a young upstart like Keegan Bradley comes in and wins a big tournament and the old-fashioned golf purists go bananas?

Where are these same “spirit of the game” guardians when it comes to policing the rapid rise in golf technology? New clubs and balls that have burst onto the scene enabling even your average tour player to be able to hit 350 yard bombs with impunity, rendering most once-difficult par 5s as easy birdie-4s.

Improvements in golf ball technology keep occurring unchecked, with nary a peep from the so-called champions of the “pure game”.  No less a golf statesman as Jack Nicklaus has repeatedly lamented that golf courses are going to have to be rebuilt entirely in order to challenge golfers accustomed to the new advancements in clubs and ball technology.

The Elephant In The Room

Yet with this elephant sitting squarely in the center of the room, the golf establishment chooses to focus their ire on those that pin the head of their golf club into their belly button when shooting a ten-footer, ignoring the legions that use NASA-inspired innovations to bomb the ball 1000 feet.

Tell me how that makes any sense.

The battle over anchored putts may not yet be over, despite the USGA’s announcement that the ban will take effect on January 1, 2016.  Between now and then the debate will continue to rage and there has also been talk of impending litigation that will settle the matter, along with some speculation that the PGA could split from the USGA on this particular rule.  And like other golf rules that have been implemented in the past, there are likely to be loopholes enabling cagey players a way to skirt this ill-conceived ban.

In my opinion the golfing establishment has much more pressing matters to attend to than the belly putter, and it annoys me that this ongoing battle will only deflect attention from those matters more essential to the game’s future.

Sadly, I wonder if that wasn’t the whole point.

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