Anchored putter ban the right decision?

By Jason SobelNovember 28, 2012, 5:20 pm

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?

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Tiger's driver now a great asset to his game

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 20, 2018, 9:57 pm

ATLANTA – Tommy Fleetwood hit a handful of tee shots past Tiger Woods on Thursday at the Tour Championship. But Woods found more fairways [10 to eight] and shot four strokes lower [65 to 69].

Ever since making adjustments to his driver – which included adding loft and changing his shaft – at The Northern Trust, Woods’ long game has become one of his greatest assets.

Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways in the first round at East Lake Golf Club, which led to hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation. Twenty-eight putts equaled a 5-under round and a share of the lead.

It’s not as though Woods has completely traded distance for accuracy. He hit his drive on the par-5 18th 320 yards and that helped produce an eagle.

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It’s more like he now has the ability to control his driver. Those wayward tee shots we had become accustomed to seeing aren’t so offline. That means sometimes he’ll send one 296 yards – like he did on the first hole – and sometimes he’ll gear up and knock one 328 yards – like he did at the fifth.

“[I]f I hit it normal, I hit it just as far. And so that's to me like 300 yards in the air,” he said. “But … the neat thing about this one is that if I miss it and spin it a little bit, those spinners stay in play instead of chasing off on me, and I can turn this ball.

“Like the tee shot I hit down 18, I didn't have that shot earlier with – not enough loft. … [M]y spin rate would be so low that it wouldn't stay in the air.”

“And so, yeah, if I hit controlled shots, they're in play and they're shorter. But if I go ahead and step up and launch one, I'm just as far. The neat thing is I don't have to swing it as hard to hit the ball as far. And so it puts a little less toll on my body. I don't have to have my speed up there at 120, 121, 122 miles an hour to carry it 305, 310 like I did before.”

Often times you hear players talk about aspects of their game and it sounds like they are trying to convince themselves that things are OK. Tiger's actions are backing up his words.

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TT postscript: This 65 better than Aronimink 62

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 9:21 pm

ATLANTA – The start wasn’t much to look at, but that finish was something else. Tiger Woods eagled the final hole on Thursday and shares the 18-hole lead at the Tour Championship. Here are the things you know you want to know:

• First of all, let’s give a pat on the back to the man who most deserves it today: Me. Early this morning, I sent this tweet:

Never doubt my good feelings. Ben Crenshaw doesn’t have my good feelings. We may have 54 holes to play, but I gotta good feeling we’re going to be changing that Tiger Tracker avatar Sunday night.

• Now onto Tiger. After all, he did hit 10 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation and took 28 putts. It wasn’t looking good early when he had nine putts through four holes and was 1 over par. But he birdied Nos. 5 and 6, turned in 1 under, and really turned it on down the stretch with two birdies and an eagle over his final seven holes. And if you take a good look at the scorecard below you’ll notice he didn’t make a bogey after the first hole.

• How good is a 65 at East Lake? Better than his opening 62 at Aronimink, according to Woods: “This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink. Conditions were soft there. This is – it's hard to get the ball closer. There's so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close.”

Woods added that you had to play “conservatively” and be patient – take what the course allowed. Tiger missed five putts – four of them for birdie – inside 15 feet. But in the 93-degree heat, he kept his composure and made putts of 26 and 28 feet for birdie, and 28 feet for eagle.

• This week feels different. It feels like Tiger is really ready to win again. He seems very serious, very focused. He talked about “getting the W” on Wednesday and said on Thursday, “[T]he objective is to always win.”

After shooting 65, Woods signed a few autographs and eventually made his way to the putting green. If he gets those 15-footer to fall, we’re going to be two wins away from tying Sammy.

• So, what about that eagle on 18, you ask? Tiger said he “hammered” a driver – which was listed at 320 yards – and then hit a 5-wood from 256 yards to 28 feet. As for the putt: “It took forever for that putt to start breaking, grain coming down off the left. But once it snagged it, it was going straight right.”

Right into the cup. Right into the lead. Our man is making history this week.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.