The "Anchoring Ban"
I'm one of the most traditional guys in this game. I still think that Hogan, Nelson, Snead and that generation defined the modern game. I think the golf ball goes too far, and modern equipment has changed the game from one built around precision to one built around power. And I don't like that one bit.

I worry about the obsolescence of great old courses that just cannot be stretched to 7500+ yards to challenge the modern tour player. And I think the PGA Tour is as much a negative influence on the game as it is a positive one.

And it was there, based on the success of a handful of high-profile golfers ... particularly in a recent run of major wins by Bradley, Simpson and Els ... that the USGA and Royal and Ancient apparently has seen what they consider a "problem." So they've rolled out a "solution", which will ban the practice of "anchoring" the putter, the upper hand or the forearm during the putting stroke.

I'm a believer that a ruling body is necessary to monitor the game and its rules. Without rules, it's a free-for-all, and none of us want that. But is this method of putting really a challenge to the integrity of golf? If anchoring the putter is something that helps a recreational golfer find continued enjoyment, isn't that good for the game as a whole? Or is it better to finally tip the scales in favor of the yips, which I'm certain is a significant reason why some golfers leave the game behind for good.

If you've never suffered the yips, you can't objectively weigh in here. I can. I've suffered from them since I was in my early 20s. Johnny Miller said there were only 3-4 years in his career when he didn't. Ditto for Bernhard Langer. But for every one of those high-profile players, there are dozens or hundreds of recreational golfers who suffer ... many to the point of considering quitting.

I could be one. If I didn't love this game so much to spend my entire career chasing a better idea in equipment, I could see myself having quit years ago. Really. When a 2-5 foot putt is more daunting to you than a 205 yard shot over water to a tough pin placement, the game begins to take on a whole new challenge. If you've never been there, you just don't understand. In an interview this week, Johnny Miller said it's like a woman trying to explain to a man what it's like to be pregnant – if you haven't experienced it, you'll never understand.

So, here go the ruling bodies, making a new rule to "protect" the integrity of the game. "It doesn't look like golf." Well so what? Neither does two guy in tank tops and cargo shorts, with a cooler of beer. Caps on backwards. Untucked shirt tails. Drivers the size of a Volkswagen. Or sandals with spikes. Or spikes made of plastic ... Who gets to decide whether it looks like golf or not, anyway?

Sound off, readers. What do you think of the proposed ban?
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[ comments ]
larrynjr says:
I don't have any problem with the long putters or anchoring. If they were truly that great, the pro's who use them would be winning more.
11/30/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
If you have an opinion or suggestion for the USGA (now, now - be nice) consider contacting them. If they receive an overwhelming amount of negative feedback, they just might consider making a change to the proposed Rule. Okay, it is a long shot. I sort of doubt the USGA monitors golf websites & blogs so complaints recorded here are unlikely to be heard where it counts (although a former editor of the USGA Golf Journal did correct me on a column I wrote recently - maybe they are spying on us!)

If you want to hit the USGA where it hurts them most, cancel your "Membership."

Executive Committee
The United States Golf Association
P.O. Box 708
Far Hills, N.J. 07931
11/30/12
 
Mr_X says:
I do not write the income tax codes. I cannot change posted speed limits in my state. I am unable to change the local ordinances about texting and walking through an intersection. Do I break these rules on occasion? Yes, I do. Have I had to pay fines for some infractions? Yes. Do I whine about it? No. Do I write my representatives and complain? No!

Fact: The vast majority of golf played today is played outside the rules of golf. I would bet that gimme putts, mulligans and free drops happen on every single golf course in this country each and every day they are open! Since golfers do not follow the rules, and most golfers cannot change the rules, why is everyone bitching about this? Play the game. If you don't like the rules the governing bodies created, fine! Play by your own rules, but stop whining about it! I want to play golf. I am tired of listening to everyone complain all day long about rules they chose to ignore anyway!
11/30/12
 
windowsurfer says:
One of Wedge Guy's best! Gold, Terry, GOLD! I would suspect that Mr. Koehler is exactly the type of person whose opinion would hold some merit with governing bodies looking to represent their constituency and at the same time, lead with wisdom. Perhaps a Wedge Guy petition, leveraging off the social network power of oobgolf could make a difference?
11/30/12
 
peachlarson says:
You make some very good points...
11/30/12
 
Scott Shields says:
Mr. X ... you nailed it. I have never seen anyone (myself included) play to the exact letter of the golf law. But I'm sure on a busy Sunday morning, we all head back to the tee box after looking 5 minutes for our golf ball, to hell with slow play. (heh).

But seriously, if a long putter is the difference in a person playing golf, or not b/c of the yips, then for god sakes use the putter. Until you're on tour/Q-school/ or playing for something besides a couple dollar nassau with your buddies, then I don't see how this is relevant. People worry too much about what putter style is OK, but in the same breath complain about slow play. People are going to break /bend rules as required to enhance their golfing experience and for that I say, fine, b/c if we're not gambling, then I don't care if you straddle your putt, bag 18 clubs, roll every lie, use anchored putting, and take every drop free.
11/30/12
 
Kurt the Knife says:
I always play by my own rules (very close to the USGA book, tho') because that makes golf enjoyable for me and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

I think pros should not use anchored strokes and everyone else can do what they want.

Ive even "billiard" putted a few holes in my time.
11/30/12
 
jeremyheslop says:
I'm all for ignoring the rules and having fun. But when it comes to a fundamental way of playing the game. In this case putting. It becomes stickier. So a kid who is having fun playing the game plays with a long putter even though it is banned gets good enough to start playing in events that are to be played by the rules now has to change how he uses a putter. That's different than taking a mulligan or free drop in my book.
11/30/12
 
Dusty23 says:
Terry, I assume that do to your suffering the yips that you use an anchored or longer putter, but as, "one of the most traditional guys in this game" Do you think you'd feel differently if you did not suffer the yips? It seems that most of the debate is from those who do versus those who don't use the equipment.
11/30/12
 
Mr_X says:
Jeremy, I do not have kids and I have never taught children to play golf. But if I did, I would never encourage them to use a long putter, anchored or otherwise, because I think that is a stroke foreign to the rest of the swings in golf. Chipping, pitching, half swings and full swings are all further extensions of a traditional putting stroke.

But, if you did encourage a child to learn to putt one way, they progressed to a level where USGA rules were enforced you need to tell your child to play a game by a different set of rules. The phrase that comes to mind is "Man Up!" Telling a child that the rules of the game are changing as they progress in skill, age and/or size happens all the time in almost every other sport out there. Look at the American game of baseball: tee ball, little league, high school baseball, college baseball and the Majors all follow different rules. (Could you imagine how well the Cubs would hit if they got to use tee instead of facing pitchers all the time?)
11/30/12
 
Mr_X says:
Golf is the sporting anomaly which requires everyone to play by the same rules regardless of skill level or experience.

If you consider the mandates from the USGA and Royal and Ancient scripture, then by all means follow their supreme rules because the governing body has spoken! As I stated earlier, most of us are golf sinners. We don’t follow the rules. So everyone else who isn't getting through college on a golf scholarship or making their living as a PGA instructor/touring pro should quit worrying about this stupid rule. It does not apply to us!!

Now I gotta go... It's 49 degree outside here in Chicago. I need get 18 holes in before the sun sets!
11/30/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I have a personal rule: If I'm going to damage my equipment or myself to hit a shot I'll move it (like if the ball is on a rock, or next to a tree) to a place of no greater advantage. In other words, I could hit the ball, but would bend or break a club. If it's just inconvenient too bad, I'll take the shot or the relief and the stroke, no biggee. The lost ball issue is hard to resolve sometimes - informally guys will ask for consensus as to where to put the ball and take a stroke.
I didn't know that the Yips would figure into this ruling. That kind of fear must be awful on the course. Once every few months I'll shank a shot, and it takes a bit (a few holes) to get over that.
11/30/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I would like to comment on Terry's nostalgia for a bygone era. There are two things happening here: Golf is juiced for the pros and the schmoes. For the pros, the game is longer and stronger and so are the players: sorry Sam, Ben, and the Babe. Today's pros are way better athletes (I didn't say better golfers, I'm talking about the total, year round support and resources they wield).
But you also have to accept that the game has opened up to the unwashed masses. You've got to accept the hoodies, the women, and the cultural diversity of the game (and I'm sure you do).
What the schmoes need is not a longer course but a course three times as wide. Courses need to start listing their width, or girth!!!
Bloated Pines presents a course 5370yds long and 3707yds wide. Better yet, a course wider than it is long!!!
My feeling is that the PGA will start playing around with rules like the NFL does (many every year) - to promote the star they want to promote in a certain way - aka Passing Machines.
11/30/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
Doesn't matter how they rule on the issue. Doesn't affect me because I don't own, use, nor have any plans to purchase or begin using a long putter or anchoring. Ban them...allow them...I really don't care one way or the other.
11/30/12
 
dave1269 says:
The equipment issue is a huge problem. Trying to make a very hard sport easier and more enjoyable for hacks like us while balancing the impact of this same equipment at the elite (and very small minority) level. If they "dial back" the golf ball, this hurts you and I. Manufacturers will scream and likely sue. Historical courses are being rendered obsolete at the pro level. I'm really afraid as to how "tricked up" Merion will be next summer. I love the fact that the US Open is incredibly difficult. I also don't like to see guys simply going sideways to get back in the fairway, which are only as wide as a pool table. I thought Medina was set up very well for the Ryder Cup, but this is a match play event, where par does not matter. If the US Open was held at Medina the prior week with the same course setup, the scores might be "embarrassing" the USGA and its view about par....continued....
11/30/12
 
dave1269 says:
Bifurcation is very complicated. I do think this is the ultimate answer. The playing rules (philosophy) are the same, the equipment rules may be different. At our level, make the game fun and enjoyable for everyone who maintains a handicap. Let's face it, if you have a handicap, you're never going to earn a living from playing golf. Sandbaggers will always exist. However, when competing at a level where handicaps do not factor (this includes elite level amateur play and the pros), bifurcation becomes reality beginning with the golf ball. All competitors will play the same golf ball. It will be a PGA Tour ball (to be used in all PGA events), a USGA ball (for all USGA sanctioned events), a Masters ball, an R&A ball, a PGA of America ball (PGA Championship and Ryder Cup), an NCAA ball, etc. There is no brand identifier. Rory and Tiger can still play Nike gear, Phil and Ernie will play Callaway, etc. BUT, they will play the same golf ball, which is a good place to start (IMHO).
11/30/12
 
joe jones says:
Terry, As a survivor of the yips I couldn't say it better. The long putter, used side saddle allowed me to continue to play the game for the last 43 years. I know the USGA and the Royal and Ancient couldn't care less what I think but if I had the talent to play on the tour I would sue over this stupid rule. And I don't anchor anything. Bernard Langer is making threatening noises and is totally supported by Tom Lehman. If Lehman's opinion doesn't matter, who,s does?
11/30/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Love the thoughts dave1269. We've discussed other ways in this column to "bring down pros closer to our level," and I only came up with 1) crappy unkempt courses with puddles in the rock-hard bunkers) 2) no caddy (or their wife/ S.O. as caddy) 3) playing barefoot 4) use rusty/ unmatched clubs found at the local thrift store.
...And they would still play fantastically well. Your ball sounds like the K ball in the NFL. I like the fact that the ball would be a constant topic of conversation. "This event's balls are slippery and soft." "There going to use a hard one for the Open." "Are these balls thrown for charity, or for fancy dress? The ones thrown for pleasure are the ones that I like best."
Tennis introduced the Rally Ball, and had grass/ clay/ pavement compressions, right? Heck each manufacturer could throw their own event with only their clothes, clubs, and balls. Anyway, players are way too superstitious for that; so am I.
11/30/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I'm a huge Rugby fan, and am always bothered by the latest development in the forward pass (NFL). During the transition to NFL rules under Teddy R., there used to be a 5-yard penalty for incomplete passes. Decades went by with all the changes to pass interference, "in the grasp," roughing, and now, baring your teeth at a quarterback. Being in the general vicinity of a WR can be trouble, and pushing war is OK if you were Jerry Rice. Luckily, I can still follow Rugby, and there are even old-time baseball leagues with rules from 1629 around here in New England. What I'm suggesting here Terry and others is this: Let's form an old-timey golf league for everyone: OGLE. So let's lay out the rules:
1) Any clothing or equipment has to be identical, even if remanufactured, to anything you can find before color photography!
2) Caddies must carry and drink coffee with whiskey drunk from plaid thermoses.
3) Only white men with high waistlines, who talk like Bogie and chain smoke.
Whaddaya think?
11/30/12
 
mantajim says:
I'm 61 and started using a belly putter to relieve back pain. Now, thanks to the USGA, I either endure the back pain or the jabbing by my golf buddies for 'cheating' A big Thank You and up yours USGA for making the game less enjoyable and more painful. I'm not putting any better, but I'm playing with less pain.
11/30/12
 
sjduffers says:
@mantajim - Don't anchor that putter to your belly, i.e. keep the hands in front of you, like you would with a regular size putter, and you won't be "cheating" while still enjoying a less painful round. Where is the problem? That goes to @joejones as well.

The USGA and the R&A (and the rest of us avid golfers as well) have got to do a better job at explaining that they are not banning the long putters, but banning the anchored stroke instead.

Look at the graphics the USGA supplied (it's been linked into a couple of other threads here and in the forums) and it's pretty clear that you can use a long putter without anchoring it, and no I am not talking about the "Kuchar style"...
11/30/12
 
sjduffers says:
@joe jones - You could be sueing as much as you want and you would lose or rather, your case would be thrown out as you are not being harmed by the change of rule since you are not anchoring the long putter. Again, the issue is better communication.
11/30/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!!!
11/30/12
 
onedollarwed says:
OK Chef, make me a legitimate hamburger. Was that too gross?
11/30/12
 
joe jones says:
sjduffers. Tom Lehman no longer uses the long putter and he says he will join Langer and anyone else who sues over the rule change.Joining a law suit is a way of showing your disagreement with the ruling, nothing more.
12/1/12
 
wedgeguy says:
Nice dialog, guys. To answer the question, no, I do not use a long putter or anchor. I just continue to work hard to beat these damn yips by beating them into submission. And I'm working on a novel concept in putter design that I think has great merit. You guys will have to wait a while to see that, however, as we are staying focused on revolutionizing the short end of your set to make you better than ever inside 9-iron range.
12/2/12
 
joe jones says:
Wedgeguy. Looking forward to anything you have to contribute to helping solve the mystery of putting.Especially the yips.
12/4/12
 
onedollarwed says:
The yips is one thing; fear of the yips is something else. Fear of the yips seems to manifest in the area of anxiety. Fear before something happens, or might happen can be crippling if it is outside the normal range. We all get anxiety, but most of us can deal with it. The usual way is to rationalize our realistic chances of success and failure, and to keep a healthy perspective. I can pretty much guarantee I'll miss a 4 foot putt in every round (due to lack of concentration, fatigue, a tough break, volcano hole coming down hill, etc.). So no big deal; I'm going to luck in some long ones too.
So why the fear for the shorter putts? Most anxiety stems from fear of humiliation from one's peers. The easier the putt, the math problem, the sure investment, the sure bet, the greater the humiliation. A tap in should be ok, because it's "already in." A lot of people with these fears have strange behavior around the hole - slapping nonchalantly at the ball (it misses) and saying "oh that was in, right?"
12/4/12
 
onedollarwed says:
They also get into all sorts of gimme games, or reputting of the nonchalant miss: "see I had it." I don't blame people with that type of anxiety - because as Terry and Joe have said, their just happy to still be playing.
So what can they do?
Generalized anxiety = long-term excessive anxiety or worry about events or situations.
Panic Disorder = recurrent and unexpected episodes and fear of more panic attacks: rapid heartbeat, sweating trembling shaking, short of breath, choking, chest pain, nausea or stomach ache, dizziness, feeling of unreality or detachment, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, numbness or tingling, hot flashes or chills.
Social Phobia = a marked or persistent fear of social and/or performance situations in which a person is exposed to social judgement or scrutiny by others, and worries about embarrassment.
Other anxiety disorders include OCD and PTSD.
Anxiety disorders can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or with medications.
12/4/12
 
onedollarwed says:
What's important to remember is that the yips, just like stuttering, is separate from the fear of the yips or stuttering. The fear may cause a person to avoid putting, or speaking. I have known stutterers who introduce themselves and explain their stuttering problem to you, and how their trying to treat it. This is a meta-cognitive approach. Think of it like an AA script. "Hi, I'm Terry, or Joe, and am working to overcome my fear of the yips. You're going to see me do or say some weird things, and I may take extra long to get ready for some short putts. I may even pick up a putt. I'm sorry, but I would have given up playing years ago because of the very real fear of the yips." And then you need to find routines/ mantras/ physical or psychological aids to use. You may ask to walk up and putt first and get it over with before the others putt. Or gradually approach the green until you get uncomfortable and then back off until the fear dissipates (desensitization); gradually getting closer.
12/4/12
 
onedollarwed says:
You may need to tell yourself that you're not going to take the short putt (to remove the anxiety), but you will approach the ball and practice the routine until it brings no fear. ...Only then begin striking the ball when the set up and routine bring zero fear. Until you can take the practice swings and fearlessly feel the mechanics, etc. That would be an example of some cognitive-behavioral or meta-cognitive treatments. You may need to do this many times until you get it right, and then use it in the future if the problems return. Meta-cognitive means that you know how and why you're doing it, and can self treat, as it were. I'm just wingin' it here. I'm sure there are some books about golf-specific treatments and some pros must really need this kid of help for sure.
12/4/12
 
lewisgl says:
I think you nailed it. There never has been a rule against anchoring and to make one now after 25 years of anchoring on tour is probably a big mistake and there isn't even any concrete proof that anchoring is really any kind of advantage. What a dumb knee jerk reaction by the governing bodies. I have suffered with the yips for a few years and like you say, if one doesn't have the yips then he or she can't understand how bad it can be and undoubtedly a lot more cases will crop up as time continues.
12/12/12
 
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