Date: November 29, 2012
Author: Luke Elvy / Golf Australia

Luke Elvy blog: Weighing the anchor

After years of rhetoric about whether anchoring a putter to the body is cheating, golf’s governing bodies the R&A and USGA have made a decision to ban it well sort of. Overnight, it was proposed through Rule 14-1b, which prohibits the anchoring of the club against the body the long putter will become ineffective. But here s the fun part. We all get three months to offer feedback to the governing bodies before the rule gets officially installed. But wait there s more once it gets signed off on, it doesn’t come into effect until January 1, 2016. And furthermore, you can still use long putters after that date so long as its not anchored to your body. Brilliant! It defeats the purpose of why the belly putter or broomstick was invented but hey, the manufacturers can t be upset because they can still make these soon-to-be redundant clubs and nor should you, the common golfer, bare a grudge as you have three years to learn how to putt with a conventional length putter again. Ok, I ll take my tongue out of my cheek and get serious for a moment. This is a big decision, which needed careful consideration but let&aposs cut to THE REASON why the governing bodies moved to ban anchoring. It’s because three of the past five major winners used a belly putter, not because, serial yipper Joe Bloggs won the C Grade Club Championship after switching to the long putter. It doesn’t matter what the common golfer uses, it doesn’t impact the game. More and more professional golfers made the switch to a longer putter to take the hands out of the stroke, particularly under pressure. Reigning Open Champion Ernie Els said last year as long as it s legal, I ll keep cheating like the rest of them. This prompted sometimes public but mostly private outrage amongst the pro ranks because great putters felt they had lost an advantage or those that had issues with putting under pressure became better thus taking an important skill of the game away, the ability to overcome nerves. The long putter was designed to allow those with issues to still be competitive at the top level but the knock on effect was what eventually led to its downfall. All of a sudden college kids and elite amateurs were going straight to the belly putter before any putting woes had entered their game and arrived on the professional scene and started winning big without ever having issues in the first place. Think Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson. However, the kicker had to be 14 year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang riding his belly putter all the way to win the Asia Pacific Amateur recently and ensure a berth at next year s Masters Tournament. It’s certainly not because a common golfer – honestly, sit and think about it for a moment – anchors a putter to their belly. Once the announcement was made it set of a frenzy. People from all over the globe offered their opinion but Golf Channel s Brandel Chamblee, one who gets paid to tell his side, Consider the fact that the vast majority of people play the game for enjoyment purposes only. This is a decision that affects the whole game, not just the professional game and I think it s going to affect the game in an adverse way. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III offered his thoughts through Tim Rosaforte on Golf Channel. I think this proposal will create more division and controversy, than impact on scoring and be a distraction to the pro game which is in a great place and takes some fun away from the amateurs. It’s not a positive to grow the game and in a bad economy, for any business, so why now? For what its worth, I think it should be banned at the Pro and elite amateur level (first class golfers). But for the average Joe, like Davis Love III said, Why take fun away from the amateur? Here s a collection of tweets sent to me after this morning s decision. Going to the long putter brought the enjoyment back for me (and my handicap down). Short stick = cold sweats. May give up. Danny Bowerin @thedeejaybee I ll continue to use it for as long as I play golf; for me no fun without it. They can disqualify me from whatever they like. Kevin Gates @kgatesy Hope it s only for tour pros! My handicap went from 9 to 4 with it! #Keepthebelly Dave Macalpine @RawiriMac At this point in time, golf simply cannot afford to lose people from the game. But it s not for me to jump up and down and call for different rules. Perhaps someone with real power, like Ted Bishop, is the person to turn to. If ever there was a calling for bifurcation, maybe this was it. said the PGA of America President on John Maginnes radio program Maginnes on Tap. Bingo! Just to clarify, the R&A/USGA are NOT banning the long putter, just the method in which it s being used. Under the proposal, you cannot anchor it, in any way, to your body but it doesn’t come into affect until January 1, 2016 or 12 majors from now. Luke Elvy will &aposanchor&apos Ten Sport&aposs coverage of the Australian PGA Championship coverage in December but doesn&apost anchor his putt to his belly. He writes exclusively for Golf Australia. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. Follow him on Twitter – @elvisgolf