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. 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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