The R&A and the U.S.G.A. to Ban Anchoring the Club

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Anchored Stroke

Will Anchoring the Club be Banned?

In a few short weeks The R&A and the USGA will bring down their decision on the anchoring of a golf club to the body. The exact wording of the proposed rule change is:

14-1b Anchoring the Club

In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point”.

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.

Note 2:  An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

Who Will Make This Decision?

Who are these esteemed groups that can make such a drastic change to the current game of golf? The USGA (the United States Golf Association) is the United States national association of golf courses, clubs, and facilities and the governing body of golf for the U.S. and Mexico. It traces its history back to 1894 when it was formed between two clubs trying to settle a dispute as to who was the national amateur champion. Today the membership exceeds 9,700. Mike Davis is Executive Director.

The R&A as such was just formed in 2004 and is based but now separate from The Royal and Ancient St. Andrews Golf Club. Like the USGA it runs many tournaments, tries to safeguard the financial operations of golf facilities, and helps to grow the game of golf. Chief Executive of The R&A. is Peter Dawson.

Both these organizations are the gatekeepers of the rules of golf. They produce and regularly revise these rules. Since 1952 the rules have been issued jointly. As of January 2012 there are now a common set of the rules of golf worldwide. Over the years there have been a number of controversial decisions made by these two organizations, notably the decision to ban box-grooved wedges.

How Will This Ban Affect Golfers?

This new rule that is meant to clarify what is a swing, is directly aimed at all golfers who use long putters and anchor these putters to either their belly or their chest or their chin. The change appears to be prompted by the use of this type of putter being used to win three of the last five major golf tournaments. Adam Scott, who in February 2011 switched to a long putter that he anchors to his chest, won the World Golf Championship at Firestone. A week later at the PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley (belly) became the first player to win a major using a longer putter. Webb Simpson (belly) won the following week (August 21, 2011) in Greensboro, N.C., and then won again at the TPC Boston. On June 17, 2012 Simpson won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Veteran South African Ernie Els, claimed the British Open last year after switching to the method.


putters involved in this debate are the belly putter and the long putter. Richard T. Parmley patented the belly putter that a player anchors in his belly in 1965. It usually measures about 41 to 44 inches. It came into popular attention after Paul Azinger used it in 2000 to improve his putting stats to fourth on the PGA Tour from a dismal 111th the previous year.

In 1980 Charlie Owens designed the long putter measuring about 50 to 52 inches. Johnny Miller was the first professional to use the long putter and this spurred both governing bodies to declare it legal. Rocco Mediate was the first to win a tournament with the long putter in 1991. Jim Ferree who started using it in 1986 is quote as saying ” it saved my golf life”. Tim Clark feels if this new rule comes into effect his career will be over.

How Does the Golfing Community Feel About This?

Since the announcement that the anchoring of these longer type putters might be banned there has been a torrent of comments for and against this. Some of the saddest comments are that the use of them is cheating. In December players reported fans jeering and accusing those players who were doing this as cheaters. This is ridiculous as up until now this method of putting has been completely legal. Many players and fans feel that the new rule will preserve the tradition of golf. One might think after all these years of golfers anchoring their putters to stabilize the stroke it might be considered a tradition.

Some very powerful organizations have come out against the implementing of rule 14-1b. The PGA Tour and the PGA of American have both publically declared their opposition to it. After a passionate meeting with members of the PGA tour Tim Finchem said that it was “not in the best interests” of golf for the proposed change to be implemented. The National Golf Course Owners Association believes that a ban of anchoring a golf club could have a negative impact on participation in the game of golf now and in the future. All these organizations feel that there is a lack of data to support that there is a competitive advantage in anchoring the putter. In fact in the last 30 years there has been less than ½ of 1 percent of tournaments won by players employing this method. It stands to reason that if there were a significant advantage then everyone would use this method.

One of the missions of both The R&A and the USGA is to grow the game. On The R&A web site they state, “The R&A is working to protect the enjoyment of the game and to safeguard the financial operations of golf facilities, in a manner which preserves natural environments and enhances community engagement.” The USGA promise is “based on a shared love and respect for golf, we preserve its past, foster its future, and champion its best interests for everyone who enjoys the game.” When we talk about everyone, the majority of golfers are the recreational golfer and many of these players will leave the game or will ignore it if rule 14-1b comes to be. This is not in the best interest of either the game or the governing bodies. The questions that must be addressed are:

  • Is this growing the game?
  • Is this engaging the community?
  • Is this in the best interest of everyone?

Let us hope that The R&A and the USGA make a decision that is to the benefit of all golfers.