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New rules prohibit anchoring putters

Mark Guttenberg
The USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, R &A, implemented a new rule prohibiting a player from making a stroke by anchoring the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point” on Jan. 1.

This one change has brought about a huge debate as to whether this is good or bad for the game of golf. As a PGA professional, my job is to promote the game and make it enjoyable for everyone, pros and amateurs alike.

I think this change does the opposite.

* The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of the body except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

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

This is the wording of Rule 14-1, b in the "Rules of Golf" handbook.

You almost need a law degree to interpret the rule book which is also supplemented by a book called “Decisions on the Rules of Golf, ” 600 plus pages of interpretations on the 34 different rules in the handbook.

Jack Nicklaus was once quoted as saying that it would be easier to pass the Bar Exam than to interpret the rules of golf. I wholeheartedly agree.

In my opinion, the spark which ignited this change was when Keegan Bradley won a major championship (PGA Championship) using the anchoring method. Long putters and belly putters are still legal but the use of an “anchor point” became viewed as an unfair advantage and so the ruling bodies decided to do something about it. Pros such as Adam Scott, Bernhard Langer and Keegan Bradley, to name a few, were seen as having an unfair advantage because they won using this type of stroke/grip. When the hands start to shake due to nerves, this seemed to be an advantage to some.

Since the ban took place, Adam Scott has won back to back events on tour, Bernhard Langer is still a dominant force on the Champions Tour (winning this week’s tournament by 6 shots) but Keegan is struggling with his putting. His struggle began prior to the ban.

It seems that the ban hasn’t prevented winners from winning but it has penalized the majority of the golf world, mainly the amateur body, to make a point that wasn’t worth mentioning in my opinion.

The claw grip, which has become popular with many struggling pros has saved many careers because is serves to take the hands out of the stroke and allow the shoulders to control the motion.

Why haven’t they banned that, too? Or why not allow amateurs to anchor putters and keep the rule for pros only?

We can only hope that the ruling bodies will reconsider this rule for next year. These governing bodies are intelligent and trying to protect the integrity of the game, however, in this case.

I think they may have 3 putted.

Mark Guttenberg is the PGA Director of Instruction for Raspberry Golf Schools at Bull Run Golf Club in Haymarket. He is a former PGA Tour Player and has been ranked the No. 1 Instructor in Virginia by Golf Digest Magazine. Contact him at (703) 327-7288 or MarkG@golfbullrun.com.
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