In the history of the equipment side of the game of golf, there have been some watershed moments. More recently, this includes the first metal-headed driver, the first titanium driver (Great Big Bertha) and the ProV1 (practically the distance of a Pinnacle that has amazing feel and spin). Today, we have another watershed moment in the game of golf, although on this side, we’re not talking about an invention. We’re talking about a ban.
The USGA + R&A have spoken, and are proposing a ban on “anchoring” effective January 1st, 2016 for all levels of golf, not just the professional Tours (Rules changes come in quadrennial cycle (last in ’12) & allows adjustment time for those with anchored stroke). First, it’s important to understand the governing body’s definition of anchoring- “Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.” So, basically a player cannot anchor the club into his or her midsection, belly, chin or other body part. Another key word in that note is the word “intentional.” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis was firm in saying that it has to be intentional, so if it accidentally brushes a potential an anchoring point of the body during the stroke, that it would NOT warrant a penalty.
Claw grips, mid length putters, cross handed, elbows in, long putters with the gripping hand and forearm away from the body, as well as the putter leaning against the forearm (a la Matt Kuchar or how Bernhard Langer used to putt) are all still legal. As long as the club’s movement is not restricted by being anchored into the body (the butt of the club being free), it is still permissible. The goal of all of this, according to the USGA + R&A, is so that they believe that the player “Should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely.”
The reason behind all of this was spoken as the following from R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson, as he said, “Anchored strokes have very rapidly become the preferred option for a growing number of players….our conclusion is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes, which…are integral to the longstanding character of the sport. Our objective is to preserve the skill and challenge which is such a key element to the game of golf.” Dawson went on to say that the reason for this rule change is “not performance related, but what defines a stroke in the game.” The governing bodies will use the next 3 months to listen to feedback from the golf community, as they would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to further lay out their opinions.
In the last 18-24 months, the USGA + R&A have noted seen significant increases of usage of anchored strokes on all levels of the game- 6% on the PGA Tour in ’06, 11% in ’11 and 15% in ’12. They’ve also seen this same ripple effect in elite amateur events, junior players and every day players. They truly believe that it helps alleviate the challenge and the true spirit of the game. Hard to argue with that.
As for player reaction on the ban? It’s been heavily mixed, to say the least. Belly putter user Ernie Els recently said, “I believe they [the R&A and USGA] are going to have a couple of legal issues coming their way,” ’11 British Open Champion, Ernie Els said. “We are talking about people’s livelihoods.” Other fellow belly putter user Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Champion, has been possibly the firmest candidate in his stance, saying “To say they will ban this after we’ve won majors is unbelievable,” Bradley said. “It’s the way we’ve practiced and made our living. Some players have put in 15 to 20 years of practice and all of a sudden they’re going to make up a rule. That’s harsh.”
Other players such as Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and others have been steadfast in their belief that anchoring is “against the true spirit of the game,” and that they were all for a ban. If anything, it sure if nice to actually get Tiger and others to share some honest opinions about something for a change.
Certainly more to come on this hot button topic. For now, it’s straight up adios to anchoring.