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USGA’s anchoring ban saves the game from becoming too easy

November 29th, 2012 · No Comments

Hooray for the USGA (and the R&A) and their proposed new rule, 14-1b, which bans using an anchored stroke.

This is the big first step in ridding golf of its most tradition wrecking technique. Now, hopefully, the proposed change will survive the 90 waiting period until it becomes official. Then the game must wait another three years until the ban goes into effect on Januar1, 2016. In the meantime, we will have to sweat it out while hoping that no additional majors are won by lame duck belly putting players such as Keegan Bradley.

The ruling has won the overwhelming support of great players – and fans, as indicated by a poll at geoffshackleford.com which shows that 69% of those who had an opinion (5% didn’t) supported the ban. Ah, a democracy at its finest!

Still, there are some who are far from pleased from the ruling, including senior player Tom Lehman, who called the USGA “unethical.” Another big opponent of the rule is Ted Bishop, PGA of America President:

“As our mission is to grow the game, on behalf of our 27,000 men and women PGA Professionals, we are asking them to seriously consider the impact this proposed ban may have on people’s enjoyment of the game and the overall growth of the game.”

Mike Davis of the USGA gave an excellent response to Bishop when he said today on Morning Drive that, “Skill and challenge are an important aspect of the game. We asked golfers why they play the game. Seventy percent of committed golfers said that the reason that they like the game is the challenge.”

While it is possible that anchoring might make putting easier on short putts for some players, the practice is not likely going to save an amateur more than a stroke or two a round, on average. Besides, a belly putter might cost some amateur on longer putts according to many experts, who maintain that the longer putter makes it more difficult to get the ball close. In sum, what an amateur gains on short putts they might lose on three putts from longer range.

Over the last several years, golf has lost a few million players even during a time when longer putters (and anchoring) were available to all. Perhaps one reason why the game HAS lost players is because its appeal declined for more traditional players who enjoyed the challenge of the game the way it was – and not the tricked up version that it’s become. Consider the following:

  • The ball goes forever now
  • The ball doesn’t curve nearly as much as it did pre 2000
  • Huge club heads have made tee shots off the heel and toe – and skies and tops –  all but obsolete
  • We are now implored to Tee it Forward
  • Courses are set up with amateur friendly pin positions
  • Uniformly cut fairways and rough
  • Perfect greens require a tap, not a stroke, on shorter putts
  • Carts that conserve energy
  • Sky caddies and the like improve club selection
  • Club fitting gives everyone the perfect set
  • More types of player friendly clubs
  • The best instruction yet – books, videos, equip, and those 27,000 instructors
  • More drills and game improvement devices
  • The birth of gurus and their training
  • Better and more comfortable shoes
  • And several more ….

So, does the game really need anchored putting on this already too long list of game improving items? At some point the game ceases to become golf – so the line has to be drawn somewhere.

As Davis said, “Cost and time are really the two big barriers to the game,” not, evidently, any loss in ability to make as many three and four foot putts.

Tags: The Game

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