Okay I guess it’s time to chime in:  To ban or not to ban? The R&A and USGA‘s question/comment period regarding their proposed ban on the anchored stroke ended Thursday, February 28.  Not surprisingly, the PGA Tour is against the ruling, and many players who were initially pro-ban have now done an about-face. Many former players and media pundits claim a ban would drive droves of people from the game. This is simply not true. We have seen decreases in the numbers of people playing the game in the last decade, and the anchored stroke has increased in popularity. That being said, an interesting statistic to determine would be the amount of people who have returned to golf due to the popularity of the anchored stroke. Probably very few. Time, economics, and family commitments are all reasons for fewer golfers. Banning the long putter will not prevent new golfers from learning, former players from returning to the game, nor existing players from quitting.  A few, yes, but a few is not a consensus or majority. Is it not fair, however, to say there are two sets of rules in many sports? Basketball’s three-point shot is further away in the pro game than in the college game, and the aluminum bat is permitted in amateur baseball. These are but two examples. Lest we forget in golf, not that long ago, the smaller ball was used in Great Britain by both professionals and amateurs. The small ball is an interesting example to use. When it appeared during the 1930s, the R&A permitted it within the rules; the USGA did not. It became known as the British ball or British Open ball. Most American players used it when competing in events governed by the R&A.  Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were practitioners.  The ball was .06 inches smaller in diameter and the same weight as the standard larger ball. The British ball traveled farther and was easier to control in windy conditions. Eventually, the R&A banned the ball for use in the British Open in 1974 and banished it completely from the game in 1990. The question is, why was the British ball banned? The answer was the governing bodies wanted uniformity and equality throughout the game worldwide. Fast forward to today. Is this now the reason for the ban on the anchored stroke? The governing bodies say yes. In my opinion, this is a much-skewed yes. There is something less than equitable in their decision, and in my opinion, it is in contradiction to the nature of the game. Regarding the rule to be implemented on anchoring, it is odd that the governing bodies made this decision after three recent professionals won majors using it (Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, and Ernie Els).  Perhaps they truly feel it is of assistance. As an instructor, I beg to differ. Many professionals have attempted using it with no success, and these are the most talented players in the game.  Many, of course, claim it alleviates the yips. It most definitely does; however, as a golf fan, one must ask these questions:  Who is a better putter, a top touring professional who does not have the yips and putts with a non-anchored method, or the top touring professional who uses an anchored method because of the yips? Are they playing on a level playing field? I would say no, and the player without the yips is the better putter. We know it’s a game of confidence, and once a golfer experiences the yips, the supreme confidence they once had on the greens is gone. The anchored stroke restores some of the former confidence, but the player’s putting confidence is broken…forever. Unfortunately, this ban is being implemented for all the wrong reasons. It is about Orville Moody resurrecting his playing career on the senior tour, Ernie Els winning the British Open, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson winning majors, and the awkward elbow-flaring putting style of Adam Scott that the governing bodies abhor but will never admit. It should be about making the game equitable for all. My position, as you are discovering, is one of equality, but from a contrarian viewpoint. In some sports a different rule for professionals is required.  In golf, whether you’re an amateur or a professional, those afflicted with the “yips” are severely handicapped, and the game for them is no longer played on an equal playing field.  Some reading this will surely say that the “yips” are psychological, so get over it. It is not; it is neurological and is a topic onto itself. Additionally, it has not been proven that a player who does not have the “yips” performs better with an anchored stroke over the player who employs the non-anchored method.  I would certainly take Tiger Woods or Nicklaus to make a putt when required over Keegan or Webb. Rule 14-3 states: Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment The USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these rules. Under the same ruling there are the “Exceptions” which state:
  1. A player is not in breach of this rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition. (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and (c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player and undue advantage over other players.
AH HA! Got you governing, bodies. There is no doubt in my mind the committee looks at the belly or long putter as being used “unusually.” They have a history of not liking “unusual use” of equipment. because aesthetically it does not adhere to their views of a proper stroke. Remember this?   The powers that be were not particularly fond of a West Virginia hillbilly superstar using this style of putting (left photo). They felt he was making a mockery of the game, and hence banned the method by implementing a rule that one cannot straddle the target line. Mr. Snead simply adjusted his style to “side saddle” (right photo). He was never a great putter. Now, more importantly, what we read within the exceptions is most likely the true reason the R&A and USGA are implementing the ban. “(c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player and undue advantage over other players.” They claim they wish to maintain the integrity and traditions of the game, hence the ban, but it is obvious they are not satisfied that the anchored stroke does not give an “undue advantage over other players.”  Again, in my opinion they are dead wrong on this issue as they have no concrete proof that the long putter helps a golfer who is not afflicted by the “yips.” The governing bodies take pride in maintaining the traditions of the game, one of which is maintaining an equitable game for all. This is why we have a handicap system.  The onus is on the governing bodies to prove unequivocally that the anchored stroke provides an “undue advantage.” They can’t. and if they could. all players would employ the method. One of the great aspects of our game is that it requires skill and creativity to get the ball in the hole in the lowest amount of strokes possible. I respect the governing bodies’ role within the game. but not all their decisions. which are often held to subjective opinion. Perhaps if they listened to Ben Hogan. who strongly believed that a putt should only count for a half stroke. we wouldn’t be faced with this odd decision today. For the record, I do not use the anchored stroke.
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