Anchoring Decision

Frank, you have been very vocal about the proposed anchoring rule and now that the USGA has adopted the rule, banning anchoring what do you think will happen if the PGA Tour don’t want to adopt it? Is this going to lead to two sets of rules and will it hurt the game? Thanks for your weekly and honest opinions.

David, NC


Thank you for your question and I am pleased you are enjoying the weekly communications with our Frankly Friends and other visitors to the site.

My major concern about anchoring is that the rule is difficult to interpret and monitor and will rely on the integrity and intentions of the golfer, not what the referee sees and interprets to be the case.

 I do applaud the USGA and R&A for emphasizing the reliance on the integrity of the golfer to self-enforce this rule. Calling ourselves on rules infractions is the foundation and very essence of our game and it is only this that will make the rule truly enforceable.   

I only wish we would apply the same thinking to performance enhancing substances –i.e. adopt a rule which states that, “Performance enhancing substances are not permitted” — and then rely on the golfer to enforce it as he does with other rules infractions. We seemingly distrust golfers and take the personal responsibility and obligation away from him, handing this over to a testing agent who has no idea of the golfer’s intentions. As long as he passes the test – which may not catch everything – then the golfer is good to go, irrespective of what his intentions are regarding abiding by the rule. In so doing we have irrevocably fractured the foundation of our game.

 With regard to the PGA Tour they have made a statement which states in part;

“We will now begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation,” the PGA TOUR said in a statement. “In this regard, over the next month we will engage in discussions with our Player Advisory Council and Policy Board members. We will announce our position regarding the application of Rule 14-1b to our competitions upon conclusion of our process and we will have no further comment on the matter until that time. “

David, I think and hope, that the PGA Tour will do what is in the best interests of the game which is not to bifurcate the rules.

Anchoring is not really a performance issue – the statistics show this to be the case – but trying to dictate how to hold a putter or any club is cumbersome and fraught with enforcement, monitoring and implementation, problems.

We can putt better without anchoring as has been demonstrated by the best putters on tour and reinforced by our research on how to teach putting (see “The Fundamentals of Putting” and/or visit our Putting Academy (PAD) at Reunion Resort in Orlando).  It does however require a little work but it is well worth it.

For most of us we look for an easy solution to our problems and seek out a crutch to patch the problem rather find and correct the root cause and cure it.

 Hope this helps. Tell us what you think by sharing your views on this decision below.


24 thoughts on “Anchoring Decision

  1. I applaud your comment about “emphasizing the reliance on the integrity of the golfer to self-enforce this rule”. This is the essence of the game and what separates golf from many other games.

  2. I am in total agreement with the rule change but it should be come effective with the start of the 2014 season. The hacker can adapt in that time and the big boys definitely can. What we need now is to pull back the distance of the golf ball as Jack has been saying for a long time now. At the same time the P.G.A. needs to start setting examples of speeding up play by giving their members 2 stroke penalties for taking way to long to pull a club and then hitting it. The pace of play issue is a way passed being a joke and needs to be dealt with.

  3. Amen to several of the commenters ala Justin! The USGA is just prolonging the inevitable, sooner or later there will be 2 sets of rules. In some places there already are 2 sets of rules. Here at our courses we have an east, west,north course 9holes each,on the north out of bounds is played like a lateral water hazard. Soon most courses will have their own set of rules to speed up play. Frank would appreciate your feedback.

  4. I hate the ban on anchoring. I have owned a belly putter for two years and find it very comfortable to use. I will however abide by the rules starting next week (if I can find my old bulsleye) Why wait for two years to implement this rule. Just do it! I hope the PGA and Touring Pros adopt the rule. Don’t split the golf world.

  5. What a joke of a rule. The USGA buckled under pressure regarding the driver, even though it could be concluded that an easier to hit driver makes the game more enjoyable. How is anchoring a putter any different? Answer: it isn’t. Just as every new driver isn’t magically entering everyone into the 300 Yard Club, an anchored putter isn’t making us one-putt everything we see. All because the USGA has a hard-on for hurting the professionals at our expense.

    • At who’s expense ? We need to do like I did, everyone fed up with the USGA’s mucking aboot wit da roolz wen dare’s no kneed should stop renewing their memberslips. Then what fun it’ll be seeing them desperately spend their dwindling funds advertising to try to get us back into their mailing list for hats and rule books ! They’ll implode !

      • I quit several years ago for the simple reason they do not represent me or otehrs like me. I can’t figure out who them represent, it is ceertainly not the average recreational golfer..

  6. should have addressed this years ago, 70’s-80’s; what’s next, after 20 years will they decide to ban large-headed drivers; next, will be the ball, 99% of people need all the distance they can get, yet, Mr. Nicklaus and others , push for ball restrictions, yet, they build courses longer and longer, maybe, if they roll back the ball, they should roll back the fees these designers collect, bottom line, most people could care less, how many people play a complete round of golf without some violation, less rules, more common sense…make decisions that are good the average players, and not, just for the elite players…

  7. The anti-anchoring rule is a wonderful example of legislating style over substance. The ruling bodies, USGA and R&A just don’t like the way it looks. If there was one method that works better than all the rest, that would be used by all. But there isn’t.
    Ultimately, we’re talking about getting a dimpled ball to roll over an uneven surface and reach the hole at the proper speed. The more ground to be covered, the more random variation WILL occur. Not might, WILL OCCUR INEXORABLY. Some of us accept that fact and don’t get upset at a missed putt of any distance, don’t look for a solution in methodology or equipment, and some don’t. The great putters of the past – Locke, Casper, Crenshaw – generally stuck with one putter throughout most or all of their careers. Nicklaus won 16 of his 18 professional majors with a $6 George Low Wizard.
    And if Fred Couples could have learned that the hole never comes to the ball, he would have 20 majors!
    It is the player’s confidence in his own ability that makes all the difference.

  8. (from an email I sent yesterday 5/21/2013)

    MY TAKE: The interaction of the USGA/R&A and THE GOLF INDUSTRY is BOGUS. The rules bodies are NOT able to limit manufacturers product development MATERIALLY. Technically, they SHOULD, but the manufacturers can give the USGA an “envelope”, or however it works, and that’s that.

    And what’s with the 40 year LAG on this ruling, as Langer observes???!

    Tomorrow I’m picking up yet ANOTHER putter for my “COLLECTION” from Frank Thomas, a nice guy and the ONLY guy I know who’s been sued for $300 million (while USGA equipment director, by Ping over square grooves in the 1980’s). He’s already on record, I believe, as saying Tiger should have WD’d from the Masters…and we’ll see what he says about this…[yes, we did see!]

    As for me, BADLY AS I’VE BEEN PUTTING THIS YEAR (May 1 – June 15 and Dec. 1 – Jan 15 are often 12 BAD weeks for greens in Central Florida, btw, and I did at least have 27 putts in a round at Reunion 2 weeks ago on the Nicklaus course), I STILL putt at least 1.5 to 2 strokes per round BETTER statistically w/ conventional putting style than any of the long putters I own. Belly I’ve never really tried, to be fair, but it feels crappy to me when I grab one of the rack. And I agree with Tom Watson and the USGA that it’s not a “golf stroke”. The long putter I DID use for 3 years+ when I had back trouble. So, ban on long putter is defacto a non-issue for me at this time, but it might not be if I had more back trouble.

    On equipment regulation in general I’ll say this:

    1. If you don’t regulate distance of ball flight and club hit causation…ALL golf courses become “obsolete” at some point, and/or turn into “executive length” scoring affairs. Nicklaus has said this for 30 years+ and he’s OBVIOUSLY been right the whole time.

    2. On the flip side of that, were it not for the FREE distance I get with today’s golf ball and driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, and hybrids…..I WOULD NOT BE PLAYING GOLF TODAY. That free distance puts me places on the golf course today that I can still play from IF I had a more accurately repeatable golf swing and short game, and which I could NOT reach w/ Persimmon clubs and 1-irons anymore at age 50+. So, no technology….NO golf for me, right or wrong on the rules, re the PGA of America and “growing the game”.

    Gregg Rainone
    Champions Gate, FL

    -4.6 USGA hdcp. idx.
    [remember, Sam Snead said: “a 5 handicaper is ALOT closer to a 15 handicap player than he THINKS he is to a scratch player.”!]

    • Whatever Snead said, whether you have a -4.6 USGA hdcp. idx., or an 8, 17, or 22, or even a +6, you’re a golfer if you play golf by the rules.
      FWIW, my scores with modern equipment and ancient (persimmon 1 & 3 woods, blade irons #1-9, PW, SW) average out about the same, but my best and worst scores are with the old stuff. In my 20s, 50 years ago, I was a short hitter who could chip and putt and got down to a 2 hcp. playing Bethpage Black. Now, I’m still a short hitter who can chip and putt, and my current index is 17.1. The game is the same, the hole is still 4.25″ in diameter, a yard is 36″, and OB is still stroke and distance. However, the first edition of the Rules of Golf I saw back in the day stipulated that they considered that a par golfer would drive the ball 250 and be capable of 220 off the fairway, so that 250 was the upper limit on par-3 holes and 470 on par-4 holes. In other words, par – and course rating, and slope, and even hole-by-hole handicaps – are OPINIONS, nothing more.
      Anchored putting is a style. Why not outlaw left-hand low and saw grips? Or split-handed putting?

  9. The implementation of the rule on anchoring is going to result in a vast increase in ridiculous practice of assessing penalties on the basis of call-ins by TV viewers.

  10. Bifurcation… It seems to me the Rules of Golf cover three essential elements: etiquette, rules of play, and equipment. I agree that etiquette and rules of play should not be bifurcated. However — if the USGA decides to restrict ball carry or club design because of concern for how far professionals can hit the ball, they will only drive more of the public away from the game. I have no problem with bifurcation as it relates to equipment. It might help keep the public interested in playing.

  11. Unfortunately bifurcating , or even trifurcating ,the rules is the only thing that makes sense. The USGA doesn;t give a damn for the recreational golfer, except to gladly accept their membership fees. As we get older, and more mature, our physical abilities wane rapidly. If touring pros need to “anchor” why is it unreasonable to think that a 40, 50, 60 or 70 year old man or woman has the same problem and wants a solution. The solution is not more lessons learning another stroke that has been dewsigned with a 20 year old in mind. I disagree with you strongly on this issue. By the way I do not anchor, and I am 77.

    The USGA exists solely to take the fun out of the game. They should work for the IRS.

  12. I agree with Tom regarding Sir Winston … quite a quotable figure he was ! As for my opinion on this anchoring mess, back when the USGA mucked aboot wit da gruve rools, dey lost me confidence. I quit wearing their hats fer a while. Now that they have repeated themselves in showing they don’t bother with statistics to find a firm basis for an unnecessary rule change, they’ve lost my membership renewal for good. So simple to just say it like Tiger did, “the putter is the shortest club in your bag”, to which I would add “the grip of any club may not touch the player anywhere that a standard-sized, USGA / R&A approved golf glove would not cover, regardless of if the player choses to wear a glove(s) or not”. Too bleepin’ simple for their lawyers, who get paid by the word, not the idea.

  13. Hi Frank,
    Winston Churchill put it best: “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” Too bad Sir Winston did not have the pleasure of interacting with the USGA…the quote might be even more entertaining!

    • I hope the PGA tells the USGA to stick it. No one minds playing two-hand touch football, or HORSE, or any other murky version of another sport. Why do people feel golf should be different… because it’s golf? What makes it so special?

      To me, I’d love to see the USGA try to clean the egg off its face when the rule they implemented only for professionals doesn’t get adopted by the professionals.

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