The Point of Anchoring

Rule 14-1b of the Rules of Golf will prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke, and will take effect on January 1st 2016.

No local rules, or conditions of competition will be permitted nor will a golfer be permitted to submit his/her score for handicapping purposes if they use an anchored stroke.

I ask you to visit the USGA link, so you can better understand what is involved in adopting and playing by this rule:

This link consists of a 38 page, 15,250 word document explaining the new rule and covering why it has been adopted.

There are further documents located at this link covering; the Announcement of the rule; Implementation of the rule; a Guide for Players and Officials, as well as a video and infographics. In total there are about 20,500-words covering anchoring. All of this in an effort to abolish the manner in which long and belly putters are used.

I have written extensively on Frankly, and elsewhere over the last 3 years on this subject and have received numerous, very considered comments, regarding my concern about anchoring. To visit some of my previous articles on this subject, please visit the links at the end of this article.

In summary:

There is no evidence that anchoring has detrimentally affected the game but there existed a confined frenzy that it needed to go. In my opinion the solution has turned out to be worse than the perceived problem.  

The way it has been explained and written introduces ambiguity, confusion, complexity as well as difficulty in monitoring, all of which will inevitably lead to disagreement and confrontation. This is not good for the game.

This will be the first time in about 600 years that the rules have dictated how to hold an implement.  Yes, croquet style putting and shuffle board pushes made getting the ball into the hole easier but this was dealt with by how to address the ball and the definition of a stroke.  These restrictions were neither ambiguous nor confusing.

The general method of dealing with objectionable “non-traditional” intrusions into the game has been to modify the equipment rules to make it awkward to use the implement in a “non-traditional” manner, or to gain some performance advantage. In this regard, modification to equipment rules worked well and they were not ambiguous or confusing.

If we want to get rid of the manner in which the long and belly putter are being used, then take the bull by the horns. Simply modify Appendix II Clubs. c. Length – to include “The length of the putter shall be no longer than the shortest club in the player’s bag.”  This is only 17 words and requires no lengthy explanation. Violation of this rule would be the same as carrying a non-conforming club.

This is not only easy to interpret, monitor and implement but it resolves the “non-traditional” manner in which a club can be used – based on inefficiency in performance through awkwardness in doing so. Yes, it is a quick execution of the long and belly putter rather than the long drawn out death sentence of anchoring, with the same end result.

The only problem with this proposal is that it is an equipment rule change which the governing bodies seem to be reluctant to consider for various reasons, but it is as justifiable as the 20,500-word explanation of anchoring.  In time this may change for the sake of  “….ways to clarify The Rules of Golf.”

I have dedicated a good portion of my life to writing, interpreting and monitoring the equipment rules, as well as researching putting. I sincerely believe in the importance of simplicity and clarity of the rules which promotes observance.

We all need to be reminded that you don’t go to jail for violating the Rules of Golf, BUT if you do, you are not playing golf.     

If you would like to comment, please do so by replying below.



For further reading:

Anchoring Decision

USGA, PGA Tour and Anchoring

More on Anchoring

Anchoring, Belly and Long Putters


23 thoughts on “The Point of Anchoring

  1. Get too many blue coats in a room and they have to do something -they lifted their heads and came up short on this-thanks for all your work over the years. Hope you have played Royal Dornoch-

  2. If statistics show no advantage to anchored putting, I believe there should be no need for a rule change. But I also don’t agree with making the putter the shortest club in the bag, even though it currently is for me. During bouts of the yips I often used a longer putter in a sidesaddle stance or as a non-anchored counter-weighted putter. I assemble my own clubs and if I didn’t have the option to experiment, there’s a very good chance I’d have given up the game years ago.

  3. I have often considered carrying a 8′ long putter in the bag (along with a putter I would actually use). Yep, 96 inches of arrogant stupidity. And then when and if I need to take my two club lengths of relief, I would get a staggering, cheating amount of relief over any other players. The Point: to make it painfully obvious to everyone that the length of the putter (and, perhaps, all clubs) needs to be restricted. Currently, I believe only the driver has a maximum length of 48 inches.

    My second point: Sadly, without the specific rule to eliminate anchoring a club, players would have found another way to cheat, perhaps with a second putter to get around the technical definition of “putter”. Yes, to me, anchoring has always been cheating and needed to be specifically outlawed.

  4. This is just one more instance of the USGA not giving a damn about the majority of us playing golf, all they want is the dues money. I don’t use the anchor style or putting, nor do I plan to. However, just to spite the USGA I might begin to do so.

  5. Frank,
    Many thanks for your observations. I agree with you. I wonder if the anchoring rule will apply to shots from the rough when one has to stand against an object (tree, fence or bush) to make even a partial shot. In that case the body is anchored. There might some other times when one is forced to stand so close to the ball that the club inadvertently anchors in the stomach. Will these rare shots now be violations?

    I don’t believe that golf has done itself any favor with rules changes since 2002 that have attacked club length (mainly a few seniors trying to get back lost yardage), club groves (my beautiful custom made fairway woods are now of questionable legality since it costs several hundred dollars to get a ruling from the USGA on individual clubs), and anchoring or using extra-long putters (which is just another form of custom fitting). Custom fitting is one of the charms of golf. What’s next? Will they ask us to all use the same grip and lie angle?

    • Don,

      You make my point –we may need another 20,000 words to cover the situation you describe.
      Clarity and simplicity in the rules is of utmost importance, and this should be the focus.


  6. Frank,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis, logic, and articulation of a much simpler solution.

    Thanks for all you do.

  7. Hello Frank,

    I am 69 years old, been playing golf since I was 12. I have had the yips since my late 20s. And to address David’s question, yes I do putt better, but more to the point, I can actually putt. Prior to using the long putter, the yips had actually started affecting my chipping also. I was to the point of quitting golf. My guess is that David, and most of the others that are for Rule 14-1b (or even the complete elimination of longer putters) have never had the yips, and for that they should be grateful. It would be nice to hear from others like me, who have a decision to make, which are: 1. ignore the rule, which you cannot do if you play in any organized events, or 2. try putting another way, until the yips come back, and at that time decide whether it’s worth it to continue to play a game that we love. I play in Senior Events in my local PGA Section, and I would guess that 10-15% of the players use long or belly putter. My guess is that number would be the same for other social golfers. For 30 years I was within the Rules of Golf, now I will be labeled a cheater…WOW. I will continue to use the long putter, only holding it away from my body, and there will be idiots who will see me on the putting green, calling me a cheater, without any idea of what the Rule states. Sorry for my rambling.

    I am part owner of a family golf course, and a low handicapper. As such I see the decline of rounds of golf being played, and the lack of interest in younger people. This is surely not a good way to promote golf to the masses.



    • George – I have no disagreement with anything you write. Indeed, I have not yet, in my near 60 years of playing the game, suffered from the yips. (Thank you very much.)

      Annnd, whatever the rules are, I, for one, will never label as a cheater anyone who does not intentionally violate the rules. Your point about being actually able to putt is valid, and I can only hope that the governing body has considered the impact of the ban on folks who might, as a result, be tempted to give up the game.

      All the best to you and to your golf course.

      • Thank you David for your very broad minded response. I would guess that 100% of those who responded, agreeing with the ban, do not have the yips. And if I didn’t have them I would probably do the same. Great golfing to all of you.

    • George,
      Yes, we have bigger fish to fry.

      The game is not in good shape and we need to do something soon if we want to reverse the downward trend. We would like to repeat the 2005 survey on Growing the Game see the report on our site at This will help define the problem, which is essential before we suggest or conduct research to find solutions.

      I really appreciate your input and sharing your very personal experience of this issue, as someone who clearly loves the game.


  8. i believe anchoring the putter has existed at all levels since the 1950-60’s. thus 3 generations of golfers have anchored the putter. why, if it is so intolerable, has the change not taken place long ago. the governing bodies have missed the mark in that they should have been worrying about the change in the golf ball and drivers over the past 10-15 years. the changes in the golf ball have had a monumental affect in the way the game is played. the putter issue affect to the game compared to the ball affect is not even in the same universe.

  9. I have been using a belly putter now for 15 years. Have gone to a counter-balanced putter that is two inches shorter. Now I can’t tell if the club is in fact anchored (it sometimes touches my clothing if I have a sweater on) or not. If butt of club is in contact with clothing is it a legal stroke? Thankfully I’m not competing on TV, or there would probably be a lot of calls…..

    • Scott,
      This rule is complex but I suggest that you plough through the link I gave you. However, I believe you will find that if it accidentally touches your clothing it is not a penalty, but watch out if you ever do get on TV!!!
      Hope this helps,

  10. Good Afternoon Frank!
    I have played game of golf for a long time and certainly agree with
    your message about anchoring. Having the putter no longer than
    the shortest club in the bag makes a great deal of sense.
    Thanks for all you do food the game of golf.

  11. I agree that your suggestion is both simple and a clear statement that would leave no doubt about what is “legal” or not.
    Due to my back issue, I used a long putter for awhile. However, it was very difficult to get accustomed to and I had limited results.
    I am now using a standard length putter (34″) and how worked on improving my set-up and my stroke, causing the least stress on my back as possible.
    I have fairly good results, but can always improve.
    But I still feel that all this controversy over long and belly putters has been over-blown.
    Look at the many winners, including majors, and by far the majority have used standard length putters.
    Therefore I don’t feel there was enough justification to implement this new rule.

    • Mike,
      You are right in that it is overblown especially in the cumbersome way it has been adopted.
      Good for you that you have developed a better procedure using a standard length putter.
      This will raise your potential to improve. If you don’t have The Fundamentals of Putting
      you should consider getting a copy. Thanks for sharing your views and I hope that your back issues get resolved soon.

  12. So, to clarify, the anchoring ban applies only to putting, and not to the use of other clubs in other types of shots, correct?  I ask because I sometimes find it effective to use my 4 hybrid as a chipper with the butt of the grip anchored in my belly button, when my chipping game with my wedges is too lazy to leave the house when I go to the course. I wholeheartedly agree about the putter rule having been better handled if it were stated as you proposed, and since the USGA saw fit to go the route it did, it forfeited my membership money in protest.  (I wish I could protest the government’s actions by withholding tax payments too, but….. 😦    

    • Leon,
      The ban on Anchoring applies to all clubs but it was proposed primarily to control the putting stroke. Anchoring other clubs was not what initiated the frenzy.

  13. Totally agree w you Frank. The USGA is like golf committees in that they are empowered and feel they must do something rather than leave things alone. I wish I had 1% of the money clubs have spent redoing and then redoing and then redoing their golf courses. Records are made to be broken not enshrined for centuries.

  14. Hi, Frank. Greetings from Jackson Hole, and, as always, thank you for your tireless efforts.

    I read with interest your post, “The Point of Anchoring”. Your proposed “solution” to the matter of anchoring – limit the length of the putter to no greater than the other shortest club in the bag – might make great sense. (I wonder how “putter” would be defined, but we could explore that another time, perhaps.)

    Your statement that “[t]here is no evidence that anchoring has detrimentally affected the game” brings to mind the studies that, if I recall correctly, have been conducted at the PGA Tour level showing no statistical difference in putting statistics between those who anchor their putter and those who do not.

    I have held the position that such studies do not address the true issue. I believe the true issue is not whether those who anchor putt better than those who do not anchor but, rather, the true issue is whether those who anchor putt better than they do when they do not anchor. Stated differently, “Does anchoring the putter help some golfers putt better?”

    I would love to know your take on my question and the relevance of the studies to which I refer.

    Thank you very much.


    • Hi David,
      Thank you for your comments and concern about our game.

      Studies do show that golfers using long or belly putters are not better putters than those using traditional length putters based on standings in the PGA tour putting stats.

      A putter is defined in Appendix II Clubs. General “… A putter is a club with a loft not exceeding ten degrees designed primarily for us on a putting green.”

      I truly believe – based on my experiences and having researched putting for about 15 years –that use of a long putter has helped some golfers putt better than before using the long putter. I don’t believe that this is true for the belly putter.
      Hope this helps.

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