More on Anchoring…

Thanks to all our Frankly Friends who shared their views on last week’s Q&A on anchoring.

First, I don’t believe that there is a problem with anchoring a club while making a stroke. In one form or another, some of the greatest golfers have used anchoring for many years.

The statistics used to determine the best putters do not indicate that there is any advantage gained when using a belly or long putter. The best putters use conventional short putters.

The USGA and R&A have stated in proposing the change to rule 14-1 that this is not a performance related issue but rather to reclaim what is considered a traditional swing or stroke.

I personally believe that it is a performance issue based on the vague references to the effect that anchoring has on the challenge the game presents, and that anchoring putters is growing in popularity among elite the golfers and instructors are promoting it.

There is also a concerted effort to emphasize that this proposal is not an equipment rules change — which avoids other complications such as producing evidence that there is a problem, as well as potential litigation when dealing with a tangible product. Changing a playing rule does not require quantifiable evidence that there is a problem but in some cases neither does a change to the equipment rules.

The concern I have about this obvious tap-dance is that it appears to be designed to squeeze the long and belly putter to death slowly by making their use so awkward and ineffectual that they will eventually fade away. Unfortunately the proposal has some inherent problems which add to the predicament rather than resolving it.

An equipment rules change may draw the wrath of some golfers and manufacturers but history shows that this does not last for long and that golfers and manufacturers settle down soon after the initial outburst.

However, a vague and ambiguous rule specifying how to hold and use a club, will linger for many years, challenged and argued daily by all and sundry; “Are you or are you not anchoring your putter?” “Is your fore-arm touching your belly or your thigh?” “Your clothing is so loose that we are unable to see if you are anchoring your putter.”

These challenges will persist until the rule is clear and unambiguous, which is almost impossible for two reasons, first because the differences between “what is” and “what is not” anchoring are extremely small and vague and second because the methods one can use to hold and use a putter, are infinite.

For these reasons, I suggest that even if the problem is defined in subjective terms such as “a non-traditional method of use”, and accepted by all that this is the problem, then address it head on and make a rule that the putter should be the shortest club in the bag.

This would be simple to explain easy to monitor and something that the golfer – who calls himself on infractions – can do without doubt and immediately make the objectionable method so awkward that it will die a quick and natural death. A vague and cumbersome rule on usage, the interpretation of which will be argued day and night will linger forever.

The justification for this change to the equipment rule to solve a problem – if it is a problem – is that a long implement for putting is not considered an implement which is ‘traditional and customary in form and make’ as per rule Appendix II 1-a. This justification is in essence no different than the justification for prohibiting anchoring but if adopted will not linger as anchoring will.

To sum up:
• Define the problem even if it is subjective
• Look for a solution which is no worse that the problem, and
• Have the fortitude to stand by the decision

The game needs strong governing bodies, which promulgate the rules, which in turn lend order to the game.

However, these rules must be easy to apply, easy to interpret, make intuitive sense and be in the best interest of the game, if golfers are to abide by them voluntarily.

It is through the consent of these golfers that the governing bodies get their authority to govern the game.

Frank Thomas

21 thoughts on “More on Anchoring…

  1. I understand the “concern” over the non-traditional look of long putters, but the worst offender is the chest anchored putter in my view. It does look ungainly, but if that is the issue, then many of the non-traditional swings should not have been allowed either. Tell that to Hubie Green or even Arnold Palmer for that matter. The simple fact is, that currently no one is banned from using this less traditional 30 something year old method if they feel it helps them to play better golf. Now the governing bodies are telling people like Fred Couples, “Tough news about your back ole’ buddy”. For the life of me I can’t putt with a long putter. More power to those that can make it work! The statistics don’t lie.

  2. You refer to “some of the greatest golfers have used anchoring for many years” – can you hive a few examples of this please.

    • Hi Stuart,
      Some of the golfers who have used “anchored” strokes include Gene Sarazen, Bobby Locke, Billy Casper and Walter Hagen. In many cases they anchored their forearm to their hip or thigh and used a very wristy style which was popular in that era. Hope this helps.
      Frank

  3. Frank, you have made some very valid points, but with all respect I think there should be either one of two alternatives; Either seperate rules for the profesinal tours or the putter should be no longer than the shortest club in the bag. That is if there really is a problem in the first place.

    • Hey Bob and guys: I also question the fact whether “there is a problem with this situation”. Stats do not show that anchoring a long or belly putter is making a difference. So what if a long putter helps someone putt more “confortably”, or avoid back pain. Some of us have proven neurological problems that cause us to tremble. I, for one, have problems some days just trying to drink my soup with a tablespoon. Putting both hands together on a short putter seems to exsacerbate this condition. I have had scans done and fortunately it is not Parkinson´s disease. My neurologist says there are families that have this as a hereditary trait. AND, I am sure this condition is more common than most people think. My trembling, when using a short putter, has nothing to do with not being able to “overcome nervousness”, as Gary Player has said outright. Not everyone is the same. And those of us affected in this manner should be allowed to play and enjoy this great game, which we cannot if we are FORCED to use a short putter.
      In summary, I DONT THINK THERE IS A REAL PROBLEM WITH ANCHORING OR NOT…….IT SHOULD BE LEFT TO PERSONAL CHOICE.
      I saw Billy Casper and Arnold play in the late 50’s in the Westchester, N.Y. area ( Winged Foot and Wykygyl C.C. ). They both anchored their putter to their thigh and left side of the abdomen and used a very wristy putting style. I also used the same style when I played high school and college golf ( played in the NCAA Finals in 1962 for Washington & Jefferson College, Wash., PA ). Nobody cared what putting style one used. The proof of the pudding was in “making a stroke with intent”……PERIOD.
      SORRY FOR MASKING SUCH A LONG COMMENT GUYS.

      • See? This is EXACTLY why we need rules for us and rules for the pros. Why should someone like Jose (or someone in a similar case) have to choose between enjoying the game, having to obey some moronic “rule” that shouldn’t apply to the non-pros (maybe even the pros), or give the game up altogether out of frustration? Forget (or another choice 4-letter word that starts with “F”) that.

        Why is the USGA choosing NOW to get tough? They cowered like whimpering dogs back in the late ’90’s over the COR rule. The pro influence demanded courses grow past 7000 yards- which raises costs for the superintendents, which gets passed onto us. But now they want to strut over grooves and a putting style? Where are their priorities? They are no more a guardian of the game than a golf magazine constantly adhering to their advertisers (the big-name OEMs) whims… They may fancy themselves the be-all-end-all of golf, but they are certainly not. Maybe it’s time the amateurs take the game back, tell the USGA to stuff themselves and just enjoy golf however they d@mn well please.

        Why doesn’t the PGA just make their own rules, anyway?

        PS: sorry for the rant, but thanks for letting me get it off my chest.

  4. Making it the shortest club in the bag seems to make sense if that is the real problem. I don’t think the length of a putter makes any diffeence in what some of the players now use. Don’t make a problem where it does not exist.

  5. The USGA has made some arbitrary decisions in the last several decades that have led to litigation and angered what is ostensibly their constituency. It is time for the USGA to step back and reconsider what their role in golf is. I hope they don’t consider a return to featheries or gutta percha balls but you have to wonder why they are so adamant about technological and perfomance advances. You would think that mission one would be to grow the game rather than prevent records from being broken.

  6. Its also possible to anchor your left wrist against your belly and make the stroke with your right wrist while using a short putter. From what I’ve read, that too would be prohibited.
    Mike

  7. Frank… I don’t understand why you bring up the statistics in determing the best putter in the world. You have stated on your own website that long putter is a much more efficient implement and that it takes away some of the errors associated with the convetional putter. Feel is also a NEED in putting which you state, but you say that it’s difficult to develope with that long putter.

    I would say that these players have overcome that difficulty.

    I don’t think the rule is that vague, and there won’t be much trouble in policing it. We call penalties on ourselves, and the question is simple: Did I INTENTIONALLY anchor the club? If I don’t intentialnally do it, there isn’t an infraction.

    • You’re also talking about pro’s that could do the same with a brick tied to the end of a string, or a shovel. They have PLENTY of time to practice with whatever implement they choose, any style of stroke/swing they choose. Go to a local muni and see how much of an impact anchoring a putter has on a person’s game. Just like every other “advancement” in golf, it’s up to the individual to make it work. In my opinion, that’s where the rule gets it wrong: why should we, the 99% who aren’t making a paycheck playing golf, have to follow rules the USGA want to set for Tour pros? Why aren’t they looking out for us?

  8. I think we are making a mountain out of a mole hill. From what I understand anchoring the club is defined by anchoring to ones body other than the hands such as done in a traditional swing. Frank you highlight some of the greatest golfers and none have anchored the club outside that of a traditional grip (meaning freely in the hands). They may have anchored their arms but the club was held freely the hands, unanchored. Also the comments on being able to identify if a player is in violation because of “loose fitting shirt” etc, well I hope the can tell if the club has become “anchored” as it or his hand would have to be set against his body and should call a penalty on himself. If we are reduced to having to police the players then this game is in trouble.
    While I love to watch the likes of Fred (I don’t think his only limitation is his back while putting, it ruins his full swing as well) and other great ball strikers if they can’t compete then so be it. Frank as you have said before, anyone can learn to putt in a conventional manner, maybe it will be a boon for your business. It’s just a rule not a wholesale change to the game so let’s get over it and move on.

    • Talk to the people that this rule really effects, like Jose (above). Why should HE have to suffer? One way or the other: anchor his putter and have people snicker/bltch about it, go conventional and ruin his ability to have fun, or give up the game altogther?

  9. I think the whole thing is much ado over nothing. Yes, more elite players are using the equipment and methods, but none of them are the best putters. I don’t use one and probably won’t ever use one, but it doesn’t bother me that others do. I agree in principle with Frank that making the putter the shortest club would work, but I don’t really see the problem in the first place.
    I don’t expect the USGA to back track though, regardless of how ridculous it seems to the rest of us.

  10. i would think the main objection to the longer putter would be the advantage gained in using that club in determining “a club length” since that club appears to be longer than the driver in many cases. This gives a measurable advantage to the player using the longer equipment. This is addressed by Frank’s suggestion that the putter be the shortest club in the bag.

  11. The people proposing the putter ‘be the shortest club in the bag” have never had a back problem and tried to practice with a short putter. Additionally, there is no rule in golf that says one club must be shorter than another. If you want you can have a nine iron with a shaft longer than your driver. All the USGA and R&A have done is drprive themselves of my dues which I have paid for over 25 years. If someone I play with wants to anchor a putter or any other club, they will get no greif from me.

  12. I am 80 years old and have bad back problems,the broomstick putter has allowed me to enjoy my golf again.Without it I would have to give up my club competitions and membership at a time when golf club membership is declining in Australia.
    What with the madness of long difficult courses with too many bunkers,Wedge grooves being changed,restricting long putters,Governing bodies of golf along with club committees are chasing members away from the game.

  13. Frank – I will be voting on the “anchoring” issue with my pocket book. Having been a dues paying member of the USGA for over 25 years, I will be saving those dues in the future. I am currently not using an anchored putter, but I have and some of my friends still do. Perhaps is is time for another governing body to come into being, one which could right some silly wrongs in the current rules, ie: “Out of bounds 10 feet off the fairway – stroke and distance, In a lateral hazard 40 yards off the fairway – stroke only”. I would nominate you Frank to head the new rules authority and back you with my dues and support.

  14. By far the best reason for not messing with the rule … it will be confusing and I can only imagine the contention on the course when people are betting. Great points Frank

  15. Frank – Logically, the long putter is the best way to putt as you are only swinging one arm, however, in practice it is not that simple. Also, the best way to use the long putter is to putt sidesaddle, again, not so simple. In putting side saddle with the long putter it is simple to do it by anchoring the putter to your upper arm, which as I read it will not be against the rules.
    Making the putter the shortest club in the bag will also penalise players who use a 36″ or 37″ putter using them in the “normal” putting manner.
    I am against this proposed change because it will make the job of the Rules Officials ( I am one in NZ) so much more difficult and there will be so much argument about is it or isn’t it being anchored.
    I have yet to see, read about or hear of a player who became a great putter by changing to a long or belly putter. In fact, what these putters are doing is allowing players to only remain competetive in the game.
    I believe that the USGA & R & A have been listening to the “usual suspects” amongst the Tour Players and not at the potential problems (and there will be many) that the rules change will bring about.
    It seems similar to the Rules Change in 2004 on the Definition of a Lost Ball. R & A Officials were warned of the potential problems on a visit to our Country and it was interesting to see that the Definition was changed back in a Decision that came in the 2006 revue.

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