Coming to Grips With Anchoring
Continued (page 2 of 3)
Although the LPGA and European tours appeared to be on board, the PGA Tour was somewhat vague, stating, "While the USGA and the R&A have kept us updated on this proposed rule change, we only recently have been able to review the final language and have not until now had the opportunity to share it with our Policy Board and membership." The tour said the matter would be discussed at its next player meeting in San Diego in January. Among the possible items for discussion is whether the tour, given that its 2016 schedule actually starts in 2015, would opt for an earlier implementation of the rule if adopted.
Champions Tour member Tom Lehman was sharply critical of the proposed rule, saying, "There are many young players who have grown up with the belly putter, never even using traditional methods. To tell them it is illegal or against the spirit of the game is way late, very unfair and in my opinion unethical."
Still, two of the poster boys for anchoring kept their angst in check -- at least for now.
"It's difficult for me to 100 percent understand this," said Bradley, whose win with a belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship is often looked at as a tipping point in the anchoring discussion. "I understand the USGA is trying to protect the game. ... There's part of me that realizes there's not much I can do personally. I just want to make it obvious that I respect what the USGA is trying to do. I don't want to say the wrong thing."
Simpson also spoke stoically about the proposed ban. "It's something I expected," he said. "I knew they were going to do it, so it didn't surprise me. I've got 3½ years to adjust, hopefully I'll be in a short putter before that."
In 1989, the USGA made a statement saying that it thought long putters were OK for the game, and Davis said the association still stands by that statement. "This is all about the stroke," said Davis. "This decision gets back to the USGA and R&A feeling that fundamentally golf for 600 years has been about picking up the club, gripping it with two hands and making a free swing away from the body. ... In this case, the game has always been about swinging the club freely, and the anchored stroke is really a diversion from that."
The rule's proposed language is not overly complicated. Slated to appear under Rule 14, Striking the Ball, the new stipulation would be listed under Rule 14-1b, Anchoring the Club, and would read as follows:
"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."
The proposed rule doesn't restrict the use of any currently conforming equipment. "You can use that same club and just move the club, your hand or your forearm off the chest and putt that way," Davis said. "We're not trying to hurt the game, we're giving you options." Some unique putting styles aren't characterized as anchoring by the new rule. Examples of accepted strokes include bracing the grip against the inside of the forearm with the opposing hand (similar to Bernhard Langer's method in winning the 1993 Masters) or allowing the grip to extend up from the hands but rest against the lead forearm (similar to the stroke employed by Matt Kuchar). The USGA has produced a Power Point presentation, a poster and a video that illustrate which strokes are permitted and which aren't under the new proposal.
Still, there is no doubt that the ruling will put a chill on the sales of long and belly putters. In fact, since talk heated up on the topic this spring, sales of such clubs have tumbled.
Most equipment manufacturers, however, seem unconcerned about the proposal. "Does it mean the demand for these kinds of putters would drop? Maybe," said Mark King, president and CEO of TaylorMade. "But, at the end of the day, I don't think we would sell one more or one less putter if this change to the rules is made."