Anchored putter ban the right decision?


The USGA and R&A announced Wednesday a proposed anchored putting ban that, if approved, would take effect January 1, 2016. writers debate whether or not golf's governing bodies made the correct decision in issuing the ban.



The decision to ban anchoring is the right one, albeit a few decades late and with far too much of a pause between enactment and enforcement.

Of course the act of anchoring makes putting easier, just ask any of the PGA Tour types who use them. It is not, as U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis pointed out on Wednesday when the news was announced, a true swing if the business end of the implement is burrowed deep into one’s belly.

Officials also had a litany of statistics to prove the point, but that was all window dressing to the larger reality. Just ask Ernie Els, “As long as it’s still legal I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them,” he once said.

Of course, it should be pointed out the Big Easy won this year’s British Open “cheating” . . . eh, anchoring his putter.

The USGA and R&A acted correctly just not quickly enough. If approved next spring, the ban on anchoring would begin in 2016, which means we will play three seasons and 12 major championships under the cloud of an impending ban.

Every time a player wins a PGA Tour event or major anchoring a long putter the conversation will be dominated by minutia and asterisks. Do the right thing and do it now, nobody likes to watch lame duck golf.



I’ve spent the past few years attempting to form an opinion on the anchored putter debate. I have spoken with major champions who were for the proposed ban and major champions who were against it. I’ve heard arguments from professionals as to why they’d never touch a belly putter and arguments from those who never want to give it up.

Call me anchored to the fence, but I couldn’t make up my mind. I could see everyone’s point; nobody didn’t make sense. I was my own personal hung jury.

And then I changed my strategy. Instead of speaking about it with golfers, I spoke with those who don’t play it at all.

In a series of conversations with friends who understand the game but don’t play, I often had the following exchange:

“They’re probably going to ban anchoring the putter soon.”


“Well, it’s against the traditional stroke that’s been used for hundreds of years.”

“So what? It’s called progress. Evolution. Times change. We should change, too”

Sometimes it takes someone completely removed from an issue to lend a voice of common sense. I wouldn’t suggest that people outside of the game should be making the rules for those involved, but they can provide a stance that we may only view too narrowly.

Maybe I’m radically progressive, but I don’t think change is such a bad thing. Everything else in the game – from courses to equipment – has evolved over time. Anchoring the putter has been a natural evolution and provided diversity amongst the golfing masses. The game’s governing bodies shouldn’t be dissuading either of those ideals.



The game was at a crossroads and a decision needed to be rendered. Thankfully, the correct, and only ruling, was made.

It was time to ban the anchored stroke, it had gotten out of hand. Kids everywhere are growing up thinking that anchored putting is the preferred way to putt. Many teachers are telling students to make the switch. A 14-year-old just won the Asian Pacific Amateur with a belly putter that he's wielded for only six months. Good putters are turning to anchored putters because they think it helps make them better.

The governing bodies say they made this proposal to more clearly identify a fundamental golf stroke, saying this decision was not made for performance reasons. Not sure if I completely buy that spiel but I do know that putting is a test of nerve and skill. An anchored position takes more nerves out of the stroke. Sure, you can still be nervous with an anchored putter in your hands, but it eliminates the odds of producing an extremely yippy stroke.

Besides, if the new proposal doesn't ruffle Jack Nicklaus' feathers, it doesn't ruffle mine.

'They'll get use to it,' Nicklaus said Wednesday. 'They'll get over it.'



I don’t have a syrupy swing like Rory. I don’t flush every iron shot like Tiger. I don’t drain every putt like Brandt Snedeker.

So remind me: Why am I playing by the same set of rules as them?

I understand that the governing bodies’ proposed rule to ban the anchored stroke is intended to give structure to the game. But this ruling hurts those at the recreational level. My level. Your level.

Most of us don’t play so that we can someday compete in the U.S. Amateur. We play because of the camaraderie, and the thrill of a crisp shot, and the possibility that, just maybe, today we will break 100, or 90, or 80.

There are roughly 50 million golfers worldwide. Many have found that anchoring a putter makes the game more enjoyable. People who enjoy the game will play more rounds. That grows the game.

Alas, the governing bodies – in their brazen attempt to determine, once and for all, what is a true stroke and “what is the right thing for the game” – seem to have forgotten that. 



The USGA and R&A got this right, but the rule change is so long overdue that there's going to be collateral damage in the transition to the new rule. Golf's governing bodies got this right in proposing to take anchored putting out of the game, but in doing so they expose their failed watch in allowing anchored putting to become so vital to so many players for so long. That's going to cause pain and make this feel unjust to the players who have built their games around anchored putters.

They got it right because the game is as much about a test of nerve as it is a test of skill. The hands are the great transmitters of nerves, and the anchored putter allows a player to diminish the importance of the hands in the putting stroke. That makes for an uneven playing field with prized trophies on the line. That, I acknowledge, is an opinion, and a rule change based on an opinion seems arbitrary, but sport is filled with arbitrary decisons. Why are the bases 90 feet from each other in baseball? Why is the rim 10 feet off the ground in basketball. Why is a football field 100 yards long?

Explaining why anchored putting is wrong stumbles into the same trouble the Supreme Court encountered in defining pornography. Like Justice Potter Stewart said in 1964, we purists may not be able to articulate exactly why we think a stroke is improper, but 'we know it when we see it.” That makes accepting the rule change hard to accept for folks who use anchored putters. It's even harder given they were allowed to build their games around anchoring.



While I can understand the issue from both sides, at the end of the day – and forever into the future – this was the right move.

The question everyone should be asking themselves is how anchoring the putter to the body was ever allowed in the first place.

Ask any golfer – professional or amateur – what the key to playing good golf is. What's that saying? 'Drive for show, putt for dough.' Yes, that's it.

It's the touch, the finesse, the mental ability to control your nerves over a 3-footer that makes golf the game that it is. It's what one does with the flat stick that separates an individual from the pack. So why would we anchor the putter to the chest and help control the very thing that makes golf so maddeningly beautiful?