Anchors away? Proposed rule change brings conflict

March 1, 2013

Last November, the United States Golf Association announced a proposed change to the Rules of Golf about the right way to putt.

In essence, the USGA and its counterpart the R&A would prohibit strokes made with the club held “directly against the player’s body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.”

This style of putting, using belly-length and long putters, is generally called “anchoring.” If adopted, the new limitation would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

The rules makers emphasized that they are not suggesting a change in the rules about equipment, as long as the putters aren’t anchored during a stroke. As they see it, the proposed change “preserv[es] a golfer’s ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style.”

At the same time, however, the USGA and R&A suggested that anchoring while putting does not permit the usual “swing” of a club. They also expressed concern at what they considered the growing number of golfers of all abilities adopting the method.

Up to that last point, they might have convinced me. In the last few years, however, I have seen very few golfers who anchor their long putters.

Charlie Gouert, last mentioned in this column for his hole in one last season, is about the only Cape Region golfer I know who has used this method.

On the other hand, the plural of anecdote still does not equal data, so perhaps the USGA and the R&A have a point about the number of golfers who anchor their long putters.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t look like this proposed rule change will be put in effect without a bit of a fight.

During the recent World Golf Championship match play event in Tuscon, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem addressed a press group about the opposition to the potential change.

According to the transcript of the press conference, Finchem said, “Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour. I would note that the PGA of America came to the same conclusion after consultation with their membership.”

“[The] Golf Course Owners Association came to the same conclusion, as well.

I think there are a number of factors here, a number of details, a number of issues, but I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board of directors and others that looked at this was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road,” Finchem said.

The USGA issued its own press statement Feb. 24, noting that it is continuing with its 90-day comment period, and that it has heard a wide variety of comments. The organization also stated the following:

“…[I]t has always been our position that Rule 14-1b aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke, which has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge.

“It is our plan to take final action on the proposed Rule in the spring.”

We’ll know soon enough, it appears.

Cape High golf team update

Head coach Claudio Smarrelli sent a note to let us know that the Vikings’ first day of practice is now Friday, March 1, not March 4. In addition, anyone wishing to make a contribution toward the golf team should contact the Cape Athletic Office at 302-645-7099.

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