It appears as though the anchored putting debate has finally been put to bed (or has it). The USGA and R and A announced a joint effort to ban a putting stroke which utilizes anchoring against the body, above the forearm.
The ban, or proposed rule change 14-1b, as it’s being called, is currently in a 90 day waiting period in order to listen to the golfing community and to be sure that valid arguments don’t exist which they hadn’t considered.
At Pro Putt Systems, frankly we love the proposed ban (from a business standpoint) as it will cause serious golfers to explore new techniques for consistent putting that avoids anchoring. Particularly new ways of perfecting the putting stroke from within 8 feet. This creates an improved business environment for us and…we like this.
However, I believe that there are some notes that are worth mentioning surrounding the rule change. I’m not even sure why, but for some reason, I’m incredibly ticked off about this ruling.
USGA and R and A Negotiation Table
While the R and A is almost as powerful in Scotland as the Supreme Court here in the US, they run very low risk of getting any “guff” from players and equipment companies who oppose the rule change. By guff, I mean legal action.
They admitted that they discussed the “process” with legal counsel in order to make sure they got the rule change correct and they even brought up the fact that they are governed by Scottish rule during the press conference.
The USGA on the other hand is not so lucky and there is a potential litigation issue in the United States from Tour Players, Equipment manufacturers and even disabled amateurs.
When the USGA altered the rules surrounding square grooves PING made quite a fuss and cost the governing bodies some serious dough in the legal system. PING wasn’t the only one but they were the most expensive.
In the most glaring cop-out in rules history, there is little doubt that the USGA had a list of demands at the negotiation table. My opinion is that front and center of this list was the request that the change not be an Equipment Ruling but a Stroke Definition Ruling.
That’s an important distinction. A ban on long putters, i.e. putters in excess of 35” in length certainly would have raised quite the outcry and certainly a major point of contention among equipment companies. Which would have no doubt led to a major litigation issue.
There is no doubt in my mind that the R and A came to the table seeking a full ban on the long putter, not to define a stroke.
The proposed ban on anchoring came on Wednesday the 28th. At Tiger’s press conference from Sherwood on Tuesday he suddenly became an opponent of anchoring. Well, I love ya Tiger but, that wasn’t your position a few months ago?
Tiger made it quite clear over the last year that his position was that the putter should be the shortest club in the bag. On Tuesday, the day before the announcement, Tiger told a “little white lie” saying that he had made it clear over the last two years that anchoring was the problem. That’s not true…you changed your position to mirror the actual announcement, which you must have been made aware of in advance.
And that’s ok, 14 majors and $100,000,000 in career earnings will give you some preference.
However, it still bears the question: If they felt Tiger Woods opinion important enough to let him in on the news early, why didn’t they feel his opinion and input on the rule was important (i.e. the putter should be the shortest putter in the bag)?
Well, they did. They just couldn’t reflect it in the proposed rule change.
The rule 14-1b does not outlaw the long putter. This makes it very difficult for an equipment manufacturer to sue the Tour or the USGA or the R and A. How can they sue, the equipment is fine, it’s been left alone.
The R and A doesn’t like the look of the long putter, if they say anything else they’re lying. It has to be aesthetics. They pretty much admitted this during the conference when they said that the increase in adoption was the reason for a ruling now.
What, No Science?
During the live teleconference in which the proposed rule change was made, the governing bodies readily admitted that they had no evidence that anchoring represented any statistical or performance advantages to the player.
Then what’s the problem? Again, they don’t like the look and there is no way they are happy about the idea that the USGA succumbed to legal pressure.
Then they went on to present bungled facts which led to the suggestion that as many as 20% of players are switching to long putters. I’m not sure about that, I play a lot of golf and I watch as much golf as a human can watch and…those numbers are crazy.
Why So Late?
The most egregious aspect of the change is that they waited so long. Why did it take 30 years to change this rule. Actually, why did they OK the concept 30 years ago? Oh wait, they didn’t change a rule they provided a definition.
Ok, then why in the last 600 years has the definition of a putting stroke never come up? Putting is pretty important and it seems as though this would have come up ages ago if it were just a definition.
Here’s the problem with waiting.
3 of the last 5 majors were won by players who were using a long putter with an anchored stroke.
Ernie Else won the Open Championship
Webb Simpson won the US Open
Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship
Will these three majors now have an invisible asterisk next to them in the record books?
If Keegan Bradley goes on to win 5 more majors, he would be sitting at 6 majors in his career. This would tie him with Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino. This is pretty thin air.
There is no way you can tell me that the anchored putter factor won’t come into play when the discussion in the bar room comes to Top 15 players all time.
“Well you can’t put Keegan in the same conversation as Lee or Nick because he won his first one with an anchored stroke” Guyat Bar. That’s an asterisk and it’s barely invisible.
What about waiting until 2016?
The official rules of golf is only updated once every 4 years. The next scheduled update is January 2016. The 2012 vintage just came out earlier this year.
Well, this presents an important scheduling conflict. Starting in 2013, the PGA Tour is going to a split calendar season. The 2013 Fall Series will now be the official launch of the 2014 season.
If the rule doesn’t go into effect until January 2016, then the first portion of the 2016 PGA Tour Season will allow the anchored technique and the second half will not.
Further, the long wait is going to bring up the old asterisk question again and again for the next 3 years! The writers who cover the PGA Tour will not be able to control themselves when it comes to raising the anchored putting technique issue, each time a player wins with it.
If the Tour decides that they don’t want to have half a season with one rule and the other half with another, then they will have to bifurcate, at least for a few months.
The definition of bifurcation is “splitting the main body into two parts”. As it pertains to golf, it means that the PGA Tour would have different rules than You and I.
While I can’t stand the idea of bifurcating the rules of golf, the reality is it already happens.
Three examples of existing bifurcation:
1) The use of GPS Devices and Laser Range Finders – You and I can use them and the PGA Tour cannot.
2) Riding a Golf Cart – We can ride a cart but the PGA Tour players cannot.
3) Wearing Shorts – Tour players cannot wear shorts in tour events, we can wear shorts whenever we like.
The idea of bifurcation is not attractive to me in the case of anchored putting and many other rules which people believe should be bifurcated for the very simple fact that we want to play the same brand of golf as Pros do.
Any serious player with a handicap lower than 8 wants to be able to compare their games to tour players. Even though the comparisons are practically non-existent.
Anchoring Against the Forearm
There is only one Long Putter in the entire golf world which has been left alone…that’s Matt Kuchar’s long putter.
In the spirit of “creativity”, according to Mike Davis Executive Director of the USGA, a grip which anchors the putter against the forearm is fine. He claims that an anchor point below the elbow is actually part of the grip and not a fulcrum point which does whatever it is they’re trying to end.
So…some anchoring is ok and other anchoring is not.
The problem is I don’t see any real winners in this ruling.
Who was upset about the use of long putters? Oh, sorry I mean anchoring a putter, regardless of length?
This is much different than the square groove issue years ago. There were no asterisks created when that ruling came out, everyone used the same groove.
There are only losers as a result of this change:
- Young kids who have been using the putter for years. It is unlikely that a 16 year old top prospect for the Wake Forrest golf team is now going to be a top prospect unless he can make the change…and fast.
- Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Else who have all but had a Major stripped from them.
- Tim Clark who won the Players with his broomstick, he has a wrist issue which prevents him from comfortably putting with a conventional putter and he has had his Players yanked.
- Bernhardt Langer and Adam Scott who now have to resume putting with conventional grips which….wasn’t working out very well, if you remember.
- Every single player who has spent the last couple years working on their putting with a long putter.
- Equipment makers who have spent millions on R & D developing long putters.
Is golf participation a loser? I find it hard to believe that anyone who is playing now with an anchored grip is suddenly going to switch to tennis? That seems like a stretch?
It simply seems that this entire thing is result of a small group of old curmudgeons, sitting in an old clubhouse, at an old course, simply didn’t think the long putter looked old enough.
Again the issue is, there are no winners…nothing advances…no problem is solved?
Why would there be a problem solved? There was no problem to start out with.
Aren’t there more serious issues that could be dealt with?
Putt well, buy a putting green and I guess I’ll settle down. But I still won’t be happy about this stupid rule…sorry definition.