Tuesday, November 20, 2012

USGA Likely to Ban the Anchored Putting Stroke

Earlier this year I mentioned that the USGA and the R&A would be ruling in December on anchored putting. Rumor has the decision now being announced in March, and the ruling could already be in the bag pending its announcement.

Even though anchored putting has been around for decades, the controversy did not arise until last year when Keegan Bradley won the PGA, and again this year when Webb Simpson and Ernie Els both won a major championship, all three using an anchored putting stroke.

Golf's two governing bodies make the rules for tens of millions of golfers all over the world. But, because of the success of three (count'em, three) of those golfers, the rules for everyone could be changed.

Let us remind ourselves that golf belongs to the millions who play it for recreation. That several thousand play golf professionally does not give them ownership of the sport, and should not even be the driving factor in rules changes. Grooves notwithstanding.

Because three golfers had success at the right time with an anchored putting stroke, there is a very real chance that stroke will be taken away from many thousands of recreational players who need it to continue playing the game they love.

I'm talking about golfers who have the yips. Senior golfers who can't bend over for the time it takes to hit a putt. Golfers of any age with back conditions which give them the same problem. The long putter with an anchored stroke lets them keep playing and keep having fun.

I'm a purist. I think you should dress well when you go out and play. You should follow all the rules even if it's a recreational round. I believe in sinking every putt. I replace my divots and fix ball marks on greens. And so forth.

But you can be a purist to a fault. Saying that this is a "nontraditional" stroke might be true, but so what? It helps people keep playing their game. It helps keep them getting outdoors in beautiful surroundings, having fun with friends, doing something athletic, getting exercise.

I doubt that an organizing committee sat down in 1840-something and said that golf is intended to be played by swinging a club that is not anchored to your body. No. That's just how it worked out.

The tradition of golf is that it is a sport which can be played as long as you can stay upright, which might be well into your 90s. Long after you had to give up tackle football, full court basketball, and so forth, you can play golf. Or if you were never good enough to play those sports or because of gender bias you were never able to, you can still play golf.

That is a tradition we want to foster and maintain, and if it takes anchoring your putter to make golf playable and fun (that is, not taking three strokes to the green followed by four putts, or after the first few holes putting makes your back hurt), then go ahead and anchor. I want you to play golf with me.

This week's Golfweek magazine suggests that the professional tours might not go along with the ban if one is imposed. Wouldn't that be something? The consequence would be that golfers the rule was intended to affect would be untouched, and golfers who really need an anchored stroke to keep playing would be out in the cold.

There are a lot of arguments for and against anchoring that I don't have the space to go into. All I'm saying here, is that the hoo-hah seems be over the affect of anchored putting on professional competition. If that's so, the professional tours can address it on their own. There is no need for me and my millions of peers to be affected as well.

Quite frankly, if you want to anchor and want to keep anchoring even after a ban goes into effect (the earliest would be the year 2016), go ahead. You wouldn't get a handicap, and couldn't play in tournaments, but if you don't do that anyway, you won't be losing a thing. The USGA advises us through the rules on how to play golf, but it does not command us.

Just in: GolfWorld magazine reports that Keegan Bradley will fight a ban in court and Tim Clark is making noise about the same thing. Should be interesting.

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