Ambiguous Anchoring Rule

Dear Frankly Friends,

I was very disappointed to witness the chatter surrounding Bernhard Langer’s victory this weekend with some implying that he may be violating the anchoring rule.

Bernhard is one of the most honest and sincere individuals that I have met on Tour. He clearly understands the rule and would not violate it. In the interests of full disclosure, he has sought my research advice in the past regarding his putting in general.

I have copied below an October 2015 article I wrote which addresses the adoption and implementation of the anchoring rule.

Two points I have made in the article that I would like to re-emphasize:

  1. “There was no evidence that anchoring had a detrimental effect on the game.”
  2. “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.”

Unfortunately, the ambiguity of the rule has resulted in the inevitable controversy, as I predicted would be the case many months ago.

If you have any comments, please share them below.



The Point of Anchoring

(from October 2015)

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

15 thoughts on “Ambiguous Anchoring Rule

  1. My only gripe with the long putter is the extra distance it gives away from-unfairly compared to guys with short putters and a normal length driver-a free 1 clublength drop or even worse a 2 clublength penalty drop compared to the rest of the field

  2. It’s funny how much discusion this rule change has caused. It was wrong (in my opinion) from the start. A simple ‘the putter must be the shortest club in the bag’ would have sufficed.
    With regard to Bernhard, I watched him and must say although I do not doubt his integrity and sportsmanship the club did look on occasion to be no different from last year! Only Bernard will know. I did think that the other players who were using the long putter, Ernie, Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman but to make a few took the meaning of the rule change seriously in that it wasn’t so much the meaning of do not fix the putter as more we don’t agree with the style of putting to heart and went back to the shorter putter.
    If Bernhard wants to continue to use the long putter then I would suggest that he do so where it can be seen from the TV critics and observers that there is definitely and unequivocally no doubt he has no contact with his body.
    Do the right thing is good but also be seen to be doing the right thing is better.
    It’s a shame because anyone who knows Bernhard would know he’s playing by the rules, however to the masses that watch the game worldwide on TV it looks like he is flaunting the rule.
    This situation has come about by a very bad decision by the R&A and USGA when as Frank pointed out they need only have used 17 words.
    Maybe the powers that be and decide upon the fate of this wonderful game will admit to having made a mistake and clarify, simply it for once and all.

    We here in Europe now have a much bigger problem than the debate of the long putter. – The powers that be, have now decided to change the ruling to allow the maximum handicap to go up to 54! In an age where people are leaving the game because of the main reason being it takes too long to play, we now raise the entrance level even higher!
    Dear me, – how nice it was to play as a boy, when 24 was the maximum handicap allowed and a game of golf could comfortably be played in 3.25 hours! Now I have to make sure I take a packed lunch and a torch in my bag before going to play! – I wonder what comes next?

  3. Simply requiring the putter to be the shortest club in the bag was the way to go, as was leaving the groove specs alone. USGA still sends me wonderful notepads every year for free – they waste their time, ink and postage trying to get me to renew. What else do they have up their sleeves? A stroke penalty per practice swing beyond a specified number per shot or per hole? A time limit on reading putts?

  4. Frank- I feel your frustration but strongly disagree that “putter length” is the answer to anchoring problem, in that it would would affect the perfectly legal “Face-On Putting” technique which over time likely will become the new “traditional” method. -Tommy

    • Tommy, thank you for sharing your thoughts. My first concern with this rule is that there is no evidence that anchoring had a detrimental effect on the game. However, if it was inevitable that something needed to be done to get rid of the “non traditional” stroke it would be less confusing and less cumbersome and easier to enforce by limiting the length of the putter as I prescribed. In my opinion, there was no justification for adopting the anchoring rule, which would not have any effect on face-on (side-saddle) putting. Frank

  5. After being a member of the USGA since the inception of the “Associates” program in the 80s I refused to renew this year. The “Anchored Club” rule was not in any way designed to “help grow the game”, one of the USGA’s goals. I personally don’t “anchor” or use a “belly putter”, but if it added to my enjoyment of the game I would do it. But my observation is that players who “anchor” gain no advantage over anyone else in the field. And if aging players play on anchoring or younger players are attracted to the game due to anchoring GOOD. So I’ve said goodbye to the USGA (and the R&A is co-conspirator).

  6. Where is Spiro Agnew when we need him? The USGA is “an elite corps of effete snobs” who make decisions effecting all of us regardless of necessity or agreement. I include not only the recent long putter rule but also the groove ban back in 2009. Neither action will benefit (and may detriment) the 99.9% (or whatever) who do not play in USGA events.

    In law there is a rule known as ” Doctrine of Laches”. In laymen’s terms, it means that if you do a thing long enough without objection, the thing cannot be taken away. The anchored stroke has been around for over 50 years! Unfortunately, the USGA (and R&A) are above this law. Mr. Cherry referred to this concept of “precedence” in his post above.

    In these times when actual participation in golf is dropping, it would seem to me illogical to enact any rule that would potentially diminish the pleasure of simply playing the game.

    I guess the bottom line for me is that bifurcation is the solution to the problem. Let us “regular people” play to one standard and the pros to another. It happens in virtually every other sport and its time for golf to follow suit.

    By the way: although I have used a belly putter occasionally, but for over 3 years have used a traditional length putter with no intent to go back to the long one.

    • Dale, Thank you for your comment. I believe I understand where you are coming from however I do feel an obligation to reiterate my position on this subject especially when the integrity of a person such as Bernhard Langer is called into question, which could have been avoided with a little more forethought before adopting the rule. Frank

  7. Frank, Late last year we had two officials from the R & A visit us in Middle Earth (New Zealand) to explain changes in the 2016 Rules of Golf.
    I have a long putter and I used to anchor it on my chest but I can now putt just as well by holding it just off my chest by a fraction of an inch so I no longer am anchoring but it could look as if I was still anchoring.
    I raised this point with the R & A people and they said that they would accept my word that I wasn’t anchoring and would allow me to putt that way.
    I believe that this makes a mockery of the rule and I have always agreed with your comments about this rule. It is like the “grooves” rule, totally unnecessary.
    My understanding of the history of the long putter is that after they “first” appeared in the late 1980’s (Orville Moody was the man) a move was made to ban them as they weren’t “traditional” until after investigating things further it was shown that they had been used at various times in the past and I heard the even Paul Runyan was supposed to have used one in the 30’s.

  8. Frank, I’ve read your books & weekly posts and have enjoyed them tremendously. Maybe one day I can attend your putting school and buy a Frog! I watched the telecast this weekend and am glad you published your opinion about a highly regarded professional.

  9. Here’s a good one for you. I have used a long putter for 25 years, obviously anchoring. With the new rule I tried traditional putters plus medium length putters using various grips. I went back to the long putter, moving it about 4-5 inches from my chest (unlike Langer, who looks almost identical to how he putted last year). I have found that I am putting better than ever. Anchoring seemed to get me to take the club too far inside on the takeaway, and I pushed a lot of putts. I take the club back more on line now. I’ve had the yips for 30 years. Changing the rule to the putter being the shortest club in the bag would drive me, and most likely thousands of others from the game we love so much. I guarantee you that the people opposed to the long putter are yipless. Good luck to them. Their time may come.

  10. Personally, I don’t like the long putter because of the initial concepts of the game. However, because the anchoring and use of the long putter was allowed for so long it, in my opinion, has set a precedence and was wrong to change it. I watched Langer intently when he putted and he anchored only during a practice swing (which is allowed) and just before he actually made the finial swing he moved it off his chest about an inch as it was clearly shown from several angles. It was a great and honest win for a fine man and great representative of his profession.

  11. Frank, I agree, totally, with your position. Just want to add that Billy Casper actually used the word “anchored” to refer to the position of his left wrist on his left thigh. Also, George Low wrote that he ‘stuck’ his elbows to the sides of his gut (seems like anchoring to me).

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