According to multiple reports, the United States Golf Association and the R&A (golf’s governing body) have agreed to ban the practice of anchoring a club while making a stroke, beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
The prepared statement from Glen Nager, USGA president, reads as follows:
“Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game — the free swing of the entire club. The traditional stroke involves swinging the club with both the club and gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and control the movement of the entire club.
“Anchoring is different: Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing.”
Three of the four major winners in 2012 – Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els – as well as 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott use the so-called “belly putters” in competition, helping fuel the debate as to whether or not anchoring a club against the golfer’s body should be legal.
Scott, Els, Simpson and Bradley may feel singled out and slighted by the rule, given the fact that one of the facets of their games that has made each of them successful recently has been putting. Each of the golfers invariably struggled at some point with a traditional putting method, and having to revert back to free-swinging method could have a drastic impact on their scores. The good news for them is that they have a few years to adjust.
If the USGA and R&A are going to make a ruling, it should be across the board. From the bottom on up, anchoring a club should be illegal, if that is the path that the governing bodies want to take.
Should anchoring the putter against the body be illegal though? I say no.
The USGA Rules of the Game go on for thousands and thousands of words about all of the technicalities of what is and isn’t legal within the game of golf. There are five separate rules about the size and dimensions of what is legal for the club head.
The club face comes in contact with the ball on any given shot for a fraction of a second. As long as players aren’t going all Happy Gilmore on their putter and staying within the regulations that way, I think it’s an even playing field whether or not you anchor the end against your stomach or swing using the traditional method. There are still many other factors, such as putting speed and reading breaks, that are as impactful as the length of the club.
My opinion differs from that of one Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, who has stood firm in his opinion that “all 14 clubs should be swung.” Tiger is not the voice of the entire PGA, but his opinion certainly carries a little more weight. He’s also played a whole heck of a lot more golf than I have.
If the “belly putter” method gives players more of an advantage, how come more players don’t use it? The number has been slowly climbing over the past few years, but if it was so advantageous wouldn’t it be more pervasive than it currently is.
There’s no denying the importance of putting in the game of golf, but does everyone need to do it the exact same way? If one method helps more players shoot lower scores, doesn’t that inherently make the game more competitive?