If you use an anchored putting stroke (in which the club is braced against the chest or abdomen), you have 2 ½ years to transition to a conventional stroke. After January 1, 2016, anchoring will run afoul of Rule 14-1b of the Rules of Golf, which was adopted yesterday by the USGA and the R&A following a comment period during which thousands of golfers and golf organizations weighed in on the issue.
Although the PGA Tour and the PGA of America had staunchly opposed the ban on anchoring, few expected the USGA and R&A to change their position, which had been announced last November when the proposed rule was released. In a statement yesterday, the USGA said that “the decision to adopt the new Rule came after a comprehensive process in which comments and suggestions from across the golf community were collected and thoroughly considered.”
The two governing bodies also issued a 40-page report which reviews the comments received and explains its reasoning for adopting Rule 14-1b. The report states: “In adopting Rule 14-1b, the USGA and R&A have concluded that freely swinging the entire club is integral to maintaining the traditions of the game and preserving golf as an enjoyable game of skill and challenge. The essence of the traditional method of golf stroke involves the player swinging the club with both the club and the gripping hands held away from the body. The player’s challenge is to direct and control the movement of the entire club in making the stroke.”
USGA president Glenn Nager commented that “our best judgment is that Rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game – that the player freely swing the entire club.” He said that the rule “eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf.”
The report responds to a number of the criticisms of the proposed anchoring ban, particularly the charge that, since long putters appeared on the scene at least as early as the 1980s, the USGA and R&A had tacitly approved anchoring and that it is too late in the game to prohibit such putting styles. The report explains that, while the USGA & R&A did determine in 1989 that long putters themselves did not violate the rules of golf, they did not address the anchoring issue and did not approve that method of stroke. It was not until anchoring became widespread in recent years that the issue became significant.
The opposition to the anchoring ban by the PGA Tour and the PGA of America has created concerns in recent months that a bifurcation of golf rules could develop if some organizations do not adopt Rule 14-1b. Both the PGA Tour and the PGA of America issued statements yesterday indicating that they plan to review the new rule and determine how to respond. The brief statement by the Tour indicated that it will engage in discussions with its Players Advisory Council and Policy Board members to “begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation.” There has been speculation that if the Tour decides to adopt the rule, it might accelerate its effective date so as to avoid an awkward 2 ½ year period with players using a putting style that has been deemed to violate the rules.
Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, stated: “We are disappointed with this outcome. As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game.” Bishop said the PGA will consider the decision to adopt the rule and discuss the matter with its board of directors, PGA Sections, and its 27,000 PGA professionals.
Jack Ross is the editor of Ross’s Rulings and writes frequently about golf rules issues.