We all know by now that last week the USGA + R&A “proposed” a ban on anchored putters, which has sent shockwaves through the golfing world. I put “proposed” in quotes, as the ban has yet to officially be “accepted” by the powers that be in the golfing world, but the writing is on the wall- the game’s governing bodies are saying adios to anchoring, and once the PGA, European and other professional Tours accept the ban (which they inevitably will), it’ll officially be official (redundancy there for emphasis).
It’s no surprise that there has been both strong opposition to the ban, as well as a roaring choir of support. Players (and let it be noted- anchored putter users) like Keegan Bradley, Paul Azinger, Webb Simpson and others have been vocal in their defense that the banishment is unfair, with Keegan going as far to say that there will be legal action against the governing bodies for the move. Other players including all-time greats Tom Watson, Gary Player, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods are all highly in favor of the ban, saying that putting with an anchored putter is “not a stroke” and believe that it should’ve been outlawed years ago. There are very few players who have fallen in the middle of the argument, as it’s kind of like the New York Yankees- you either love em, or you hate em.
We’ve made it no secret here at USGolfTV that we’re all in favor of the anchoring ban, as we agree that anchoring is not a true stroke in golf and that it’s against the spirit of the game. Now, were both the USGA + R&A late to the party to announce the ban? Likely yes, as it’s quite obvious that long and belly putters have been around for decades, so why announce the ban now? It certainly seems coincidental that the ban is being announced now after a sudden barrage of majors are being won with a belly putter, (recall that 0 majors had been won with a belly putter up until August of 2011, then suddenly Keegan won the PGA, then the following year Webb won the U.S. Open and Ernie won the British Open and it was poof, 3 out of 4 majors won with a belly putter) but at the same time, the USGA + R&A have been extremely firm in saying that the ban isn’t related to performance. In fact, they say that they have no performance data to back up the ban. Wait, so why make such a bold decision now? Easy- it’s righting a wrong that should’ve been righted years ago. A movement with a putter anchored into your sternum, chin or belly is not a golf stroke. Plain and simple.
What really irks me is the “Why waste time banning anchored putters when there are so many other problems in the game?” approach that Jack Nicklaus, as well as many other golf writers such as Shane Bacon and some of the Golf Channel cronies have taken. Their argument is that the golf ball should be rolled back (basically not allowing it to go as far- essentially the Titleist ProV1 is a Pinnacle distance-wise that just happens to spin like balata used to), or the headsize of clubs further limited, or basically any other equipment restriction should be made before any sort of anchoring ban. Let’s stop and ask ourselves this question- Knowing that the 3 reasons that people quit our beloved game are because it takes too long to play, it’s too expensive and it’s too difficult- would rolling back the golf ball really help solve any of those 3 problems?
Let’s say that we do decide to roll back the golf ball- will that make it easier to play the game? Is it easier for the average Joe to have to hit a 7-iron from 150 yards when now he can hit a 9-iron from that same distance? Is it more fun for that same Joe 6-pack to crush his day’s-best drive 260 yards instead of bombing one 300 yards? Let’s say that we limit the driver head size further down from the current 460cc restriction, or let’s say that we reduce the trampoline effect off the face of drivers from .830 COR down a couple notches. Does that make the game more fun to play? Does that make it less difficult? I think all of us on both sides of the fence can safely say a resounding NO to those questions. I can definitely tell you that I wouldn’t enjoy pulling a 5-iron from the bag when I can currently pull a 7-iron, and I sure as heck wouldn’t enjoy laying up on that par 5 that I can currently reach in two now either.
Now, does it seem more than a little over the edge when Tour pros are gang-balling wedges 160 yards and hitting 6-irons routinely from 220? Sure, it’s ludicrously amusing. But, would that Joe 6-pack have been as glued to the tube watching Bubba come down the stretch last year if he hadn’t been bashing 360 yard drives and hitting smother-nuked, juice-hooked, rolled-over gap wedges from 154 yards? Definitely think there’s a strong chance that the water cooler discussion that next day at the office would’ve been, um, cooled quite a bit without that sheer #BubbaGolf insanity on Sunday.
Seems to me that those saying that the golf ball should be rolled back first more than anything else are a more than a wee bit hypocritical, as rolling back the golf ball would make the game more challenging and would be less enjoyable for everyone from Joe 6-pack all the way up to the professional Tours. The anchored putter ban only affects roughly 15% of players in the game (and also the anchoring ban doesn’t necessarily make the game more difficult for those players as rolling back the golf ball or other equipment would). Yes, in time everyone would adjust to a roll back of the golf ball or any other piece of equipment, but wouldn’t rolling back the ball or some other radical change be to protect the “spirit of the game” anyway? Oh wait a tic, that’s exactly what the USGA + R&A are doing here in banning anchoring. It’s all for the good of the game.