A Breakdown of the USGA’s Ban On Anchored Putting

By:  Mark Burns, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @MarkJBurns88)

The belly putter is still in, but anchoring is officially out.

On November 28, 2012, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A — the ruling authority for the world minus the United States and Mexico — initially proposed the ban on anchored putting.

Earlier this week, the USGA along with the R&A finally announced an official ban on anchoring. The effective date of the ruling is January 1, 2016, which is the same date that the new Rules of Golf will be released.

As defined by the USGA, a golf club is anchored “when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.” Furthermore, an anchor point is a “stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.”

Still unsure on what anchoring is? Then, check out this informative infographic from the USGA about what grips are permitted and which ones are prohibited.

The ultimate question surrounding the entire situation is whether anchoring is a method of making a stroke that should be allowed; the USGA has ultimately said ‘no’ and that the anchored putting stroke gives players a competitive advantage. From the USGA’s findings, the governing body stated that the ban won’t negatively affect player participation.

In adopting Rule 14-1b, the USGA ruled that “freely swinging the entire club is integral to maintaining the traditions of the game” and preserving the integrity of golf. Moreover, the governing bodies concluded that the players’ challenge in playing should be directing and controlling the golf club in making a stroke.

You can find the USGA’s full length 40-page report here.

Even with less than five percent of all golfers in the United States and Europe actually utilizing the unconventional method, the ruling has been swiftly met with backlash. Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, challenged the USGA and R&A to prove that anchoring gives golfers an actual advantage before issuing the ban. According to the USGA’s ruling, though, the Rules of Golf are not grounded in science or statistics, but rather, tradition, judgment, and experience.

Long-time user Tim Clark has been one of the most vocal golfers opposing the elimination of anchored putting. In fact, it looks as though Clark and eight others will attempt to take the governing bodies to court and potentially seek financial damages. Despite some players looking to take legal action, USGA President Glen G. Nager is fully confident the ban is sound legally.

“In the event that any litigation is brought, we’ll respond to whatever the claims are,” said Nager to GolfChannel.com. “But I can assure you of this, we have looked at this from the legal perspective and feel confident of our position.”

Arguably a bigger question is whether the PGA Tour will adopt the USGA’s anchoring ban. The LPGA Tour, The European Tour, Ladies European Tour, and Sunshine Tour have all supported the USGA’s ruling, further perpetuating the notion that this entire situation is a bigger problem in the United States.

Earlier this year, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that the ban wasn’t in “the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.” The PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council along with the Policy Board will meet to discuss the potential adoption of Rule 14-1b in the coming month.

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