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Amateur options in face of anchor ban

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As most expected, golf’s major governing bodies announced Wednesday a proposed ban on anchored putting that will affect play at all levels and go into effect in January 2016.

While the U.S. Golf Association and R&A will continue to review the decision and entertain feedback for a 90-day period, it would appear that a form of putting that has become increasingly popular in recent years among both touring professionals and recreational players is on the way out.

The proposed rule change states that a player cannot anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point” during a stroke, and among what will be prohibited are a belly putter anchored against the stomach and a long putter anchored to the sternum.

The debate about anchoring has been on the rise since Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major championship with a long putter when he was victorious at the 2011 PGA Championship using a belly putter.

And the controversy only grew this season as Webb Simpson and Ernie Els won the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively, using belly putters. Additionally, many new players began experimenting with long and belly putters, and opponents of their use, including Tiger Woods, became more vocal in their dissent.

While the issue remains at least somewhat open for the time being and the possibility exists that legal action could be pursued by some players, the concern for golfers who have used an anchored-putting approach will be what to do now on the course in anticipation of this rule change.

And according to SwingFix and Golf Magazine top 100 instructor Mike Davis, the answer is pretty simple.

“While there will be a three-month period for feedback and comments, it appears that the USGA and the R&A are pretty set in their decision,” said Davis, who’s rated by Golf Digest as the second-best teaching professional in Nevada, behind only Butch Harmon. “If you want to compete in tournaments, you need to find another method.”

And in Davis’ opinion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I have never started any young golfer with belly or long putters,” he added. “I feel that their control of distance is better with traditional methods and the belly and long putters are a last resort. My experience is that (belly and long putters) made a bad putter a little better.”

Of course, the transition for players who have been anchoring won’t be easy - making changes never is.

But Davis, who has coached more than 90 players who went on to play college golf and who also coached seven-time PGA Tour winner Peter Jacobsen, said that while anchoring has helped some players with their stroke, that putting at a high level encompasses so much more.

“The art of putting is much more than the stroke,” Davis said. “Reading greens, controlling distance, controlling your emotions, proper practice and being confident are at least as important as the stroke.”

Davis also offered up some technical advice for those who might be facing a putter change this offseason.

“The advantage of a long putter is that it becomes a simple pendulum,” he said. “I have always taught a simple pendulum where your forearms are in line with the shaft and your shoulders rotate perpendicular to your neck, which keeps your head very still. The arms and hands should be very relaxed and swung by the shoulder rotation, but it is difficult for some golfers to accomplish because their arms and hands want to help or guide the club.

“Many golfers in the past have gone to cross-handed putting to solve this issue, and recently, many have tried anchored strokes. Some might like Matt Kuchar's stroke to keep their hands quiet. Matt's stroke, where he anchors the shaft against his left forearm, was deemed to be legal.”

Lost somewhat in the discussion is the fact that long and belly putters will not be illegal under the proposed rule change. They can still be utilized as long as their use is compliant with the new rules.

But will we continue to see belly and long putters in many golf bags, especially at the professional level?

Davis believes the answer is yes, but only in cases where players have experienced major putting problems or health issues that a long putter can help alleviate.

“Until recently, the only players using anchored putters were those who had tried traditional putting methods and had serious issues - yips, flinching or breakdown with their wrists,” Davis said. “They found more success with an anchored putting technique.

“Quite a few golfers with bad backs also found that they were able to play with less pain with long putters. Many of these golfers will still use long putters for the same reason, it solves or lessens a problem they have and makes the game more enjoyable for them.”

For more Golf Channel coverage of the proposed ban on anchored putting, click here.