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« Langer Considering Anchoring Ban Challenge? | Main | Second Instant Poll: Would Two Sets Of Rules Make Golf Less Appealing? »
Thursday
Nov292012

Open Comment Thread: Belly Putterers Speak Your Peace

I've gotten quite a few correspondences from USGA members or folks who consider themselves core golfers and who are upset by the anchoring ban. Several have written eloquent letters and shared them with me.

So I'm starting a thread where they can post them or with their permission, I will add them here. Or in the case of a few, excerpts, since they are pretty long in some cases. We'll start with reader Jerry...

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Reader Comments (33)

John, The “proposed” change is flat out wrong. Yes, it is the mission of the USGA to maintain the traditions of the game. Yes, the USGA is not specifically charged with growing the game. However, everyone connected with golf should have an eye on maintaining the health of the game which is in a state of decline. Study after study has indicated it’s become too expensive, too slow and too difficult. To the latter study after study has shown that as golfers age putting ailments creep in, most notably known as the yips. There is no question that anchoring assists these millions of golfers. (note: at this year’s US Senior Amateur Championship 42% used a non-traditional putter.) Now, in an attempt to protect tradition, the USGA is telling these souls sorry, we are going to take your fix away. No one can convince me that it’s OK to let technology have an unimpeded path as in wood shaft to steel to graphite, wood headed clubs to steel, 400CC drivers etc. but swing technique is somehow different and should be monitored and checked – in the spirit of the game of course. Fast forward to 2016. Prediction: Up until now golfers in general have agreed to “play by the Rules” thus many maintain a somewhat valid USGA handicap and the Saturday shoot outs / twilight leagues / Member Guest tournaments continue on. But what if a large segment of the golfing community says “Heck with the USGA. I am not going to give up my putter” More join in. The only victim to this mass rebellion will be the handicap system which has served the game well. The hammer will lose considerable weight. Then it’s “Are those the new 400 yard balls from Japan? Let me try one” I say – “Beware of unintended consequences.”
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Duffy
To the USGA:

Over the past few months I have heard rumors of a ban on anchored strokes and the subsequent arguments about how it is fundamentally easier to perform a stroke. As a current anchored stroke user I was reluctant to wholly accept that argument, but felt if there is actual evidence concluding a material advantage I would comply and change for the spirit of the game.

The announcement today that no such study was conducted and the decision was made based on subjective views of the governing bodies laughs in the face of golfers who enjoy this game recreationally and have spent their disposable income on anchored equipment over the past few years. The argument ‘we are not banning the putters but the stroke’ is questionable at best because no current user of a long or belly putter can continue to do so without either modifying the length of their equipment, the loft and lie of the putter head, or the stroke which they have spent hours ingraining, ultimately costing more money and time to golfers, who have less of both.

Based on the tone of the discussion today this decision won’t be for review, and that’s unfortunate. I am extremely disappointed in the ruling and this email is my feeble attempt to illustrate the fate for thousands of golfers. Hopefully in the long run the assumptions about growing the game are correct (and I am incorrect), but the reality is for the short term there is a major financial and time inconvenience for a significant percentage of golfers due to this ruling.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMS
Doesn't your poll, scientific or not, crush this thought process that banning anchoring is going to somehow hurt the game? If these anchorers want to keep playing rec golf with them using an anchored stroke no one is going to push their money back across the counter. Keep writing people it's really doing a lot of good for the shredders in Far Hills!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Dear USGA,


THANK YOU! It's about damn time! Better late then never! Well done!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterViz
Sorry to intercept this thread, but I'd just like to add my two cents to the discussion. Long-term followers of this blog probably know me as quite a passionate follower of the game. I'm a former elite junior player, and I still have an excellent short game. The thing is, though, that I've had to give up playing actively due to a severe case of tee yips, and there is absolutely no cure for that. I simply can't make my way around a golf course anymore, despite the fact that very few of you could whip me in a putting match. So for those of you who think that you can't keep playing because you might miss a few more three-footers, think again. You Will still have the joy of smacking a ball off the tee and feeling the sensation of a crisp strike with an iron off a tight fairway lie. I envy you.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
I agree with the USGA. It should be a "swing." They cleverly avoided lawsuits by the manufacturers by banning the method and not the equipment.

Why not grandfather those who have used the anchoring method for a period of more than three or five years, the way baseball grandfathered spitball pitchers when the spitball became illegal.

The effect on growing the game will be minuscule. Of course, which "game" are we discussing, the one that is 600 years old, or the game that the PGA and NGF are trying to promote to be more fun and easier through Tee It Forward, the 8 1/2 inch hole, the unlimited distance ball, and other innovations. To paraphrase Frank Thomas, their playing something, it just is not golf.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yacobellis
Hawk-i,

The yips are curable. I switched to putting lefty. Took some time to get used to lining up and finding the right putter (a Rife 2-bar mallet center shafted) but I am here to say I cured mine. Same grip and stroke as before just in the opposite direction. If you read Haney's book about TW he brings up the driver yips and his philosophy on tricking the brain by changing his take away. I think there is some merit to his madness in that the brain develops the yips not the golfer and a little re-wiring is the road back.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Ahem... allow me a few random thoughts, perhaps posted previously in various unconnected threads.

This ban is obviously aimed at the small fraction of golfers at the highest level of the game. Peter Dawson was rather disingenuous when he claimed on Tuesday that three quick victories by anchored putters had any influence over the decision. If that's not the case, then why not outlaw the method when Orville Moody won the 1989 Senior Open or when Paul Azinger took the 2000 Hawaiian? Nope... you acted ONLY when it appeared that the anchored method was gaining popularity and becoming effective in majors. As stated before, this completely ignores the many yippy and back-back suffering amateurs who turned to anchoring only out of desperation. Of course, now that they're enjoying the game again, let's make SURE to oust these dangerous "hingers" from the game.

There's no empirical evidence that anchoring is a superior method (see: not one long putter in the PGA's top 20 and while many have tried anchoring, it appears that just as many have said, "Didn't work for me." If the method were superior then NO-ONE would go back.) The ruling bodies might have a valid point if Luke Donald or Matt Kuchar suddenly took up anchoring and never missed inside 15 feet but that's not the case, is it?

THIS is the most important issue you choose to address? Not the hot golf ball that's rendering classic courses obsolete, not the Already Illegal spring-faced drivers that force designers to build ever-longer golf courses, immediately adding to the cost of land, price of maintenance and ultimately higher green fees and longer rounds. Brilliant. Forget "Play It Forward." Even if I choose to use the tee markets set at 6200 yards, I STILL have to travel all 7700 yards of your "championship" layout (and that's ignoring the likely increased distance between a green and the next tee.) Fewer walkers, less exercise? Tell me, who would WANT to hike that ordeal? And you want me to play in less than four hours? Nice try.... Lanny Wadkins, Bobby Jones and Wile E. Coyote would be out there for five at least.

First the silly groove ploy and now they've gone after the game-killing anchor method. What's next... outlawing soft spikes because they contribute to smooth greens and "Walter Hagen never had that advantage?"

Somebody should tell these clowns that the first rule of getting things done is to address The Most Important Issue First.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbenseattle
I use a long putter-have done for 25 years so I'm stuffed!
Don;t have a problem with the ban-in fact I support it.I love golf far too much not to try and find another way of putting-and I suspect 99.9% of golfers will feel the same.
Now its time to go after the ball and the driver too!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Just a thought...what would kill growth in the game more:

Anchoring ban

Rolling back equipment

I'd venture to guess that the results would be about 99% the latter, as 99% of the people I play golf with A) don't use an anchored stroke and B) think of putting as a "formality" and not what keeps them coming back. So those who are all up in arms over nothing being done about the ball/oversized drivers...I assume you either would apply that to the pro tours (bifurication) or would be OK with something that infringes on the enjoyment of the game.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
About time its flat out CHEATING. Cant putt, well sell hotdogs, as Ben would have said.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVincent de A
About 6 years ago, I had a severe back injury that prevented me from playing golf for about a year. I didn't want to miss out on a whole year's worth of 19th hole fun though; so what I could/would do is go to the course about an hour or two before I expected my friends to finish and putt on the practice green with a broomstick putter. I went from being a horrible putter to a quite good putter. Was it the broomstick putter or was it the fact that I practiced putting for the first time in my life?

I used the broomstick for two or three years after I was able to return to golf, but eventually changed back to a conventional putter. I made the change back when playing on huge resort greens that required some very long lag putting. I was surprised to find that the change back didn't seem to negatively affect those three footers that had become nearly automatic with the broom stick.

I don't think the ruling will have too much impact on weekend groups. My group already disregards the 14 club rule and plays OB and balls lost as if they were in lateral hazards. If anyone wants to use an anchored putter, so be it. We are also quick to pick up on disaster holes and we readily concede putts. We play from around 6200 yards and we finish in about 3 hours.

If there was some sort of requirement to play USGA golf every time, play by the rules and hole everything out. I would have time to play about 2 rounds a year when my wife and kid were out of town without me.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael M
A lot of chaos, but thanks for posting these, Geoff.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
Amen, surely you are familiar with the concept of adverse selection? No way the readership of this site is in any way reflective of the broader golfing population!

I still haven't seen an answer to "why now"? And if they're gonna do it now, then why implement in 2016 instead of, now? Didn't they change the ball-moving-on-the-green rule out of sync with the tri-annual rules update or whatever it is?
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
@DTF agree the three year gap is a head scratcher
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
>> Didn't they change the ball-moving-on-the-green rule out of sync with the tri-annual rules update or whatever it is?

No. (quadrennial)
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Clarke
Bob, was that rule change made in-sync with the quadrennial update? I seem to recall some rule was changed in the recent past without waiting for the official rule-book "update"? Am I mistaken?
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I play about 6 rounds a month at a constantly changing rotation of Chicago-area public courses. I have NEVER seen a player using the long putter...not on the practice green or the course. NOT ONCE!

I realize that my perceptions are limited and maybe the long putter is more popular than I think. But I sure have not seen it and thus have a hard time believing the cries that the rules decision will somehow "limit the growth of the game."
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCigar Man
DTF, the change to Rule 18-2b was enacted on Jan 1, 2012 in line with the quadrennial cycle.

Recent changes not made in line with that cycle were:

April 2008, the over-reaction to Stewart Cink's bunker raking penalty.
Jan 1, 2006, range-finders allowed by a Decision (Decisions books are changed every two years) that contradicted aspects of the rules (which were then brought into alignment on Jan 1, 2008).

Changes that involve equipment (and this is such a change even though the change is about the method involved in using the piece of equipment) tend to have 'grace periods' (see groove change and maximum non-putter club-length change) so that players can adjust to the change before being required to comply.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Clarke
Cigar Man, my experience at the Bethpage complex has been the same -- bet there aren't 10 guys (or girls) out there regularly using a belly or long putter (other than me, on occasion;-). 5 courses, thousands and thousands of golfers, hundreds of thousands of rounds played. About the only time I can ever remember another player having a long putter was once Rocky Thompson happened to be a few groups in front of us and somehow he lost his long putter, and it was the one that he had won several events with! (someone stole it after he left it leaning on a bench by a tee box)

So, taking the other side of your trade, it sure appears that the vast majority of ALL golfers learn to putt with a regular putter, and continue putting with it for the rest of their life.

Brandt Snedeker: "...this rule has been made because there's a generation of golfers who have never had a short putter and is that the way the game of golf is supposed to go?"

What a massive load of BS.

PS...tx Bob.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Good, now get onto the equipment problem asap!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrad
DTF & Cigar Man -- ditto what you say. Other than on tv, I've never seen a golfer using a belly or broom on a course. Not at my club, not even at muni's. The only place I see them is at the Roger Dunn store where the curious pick them up, hit one or two balls, and then laugh, shake their head, and dump the thing back on the sidelines (where it belongs).
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
DTF, Cigar Man, and RLL - agreed. Though I've used a belly on and off, I have not seen a single casual player wield a long putter. I've seen it aplenty on the Chicago tournament circuit, myself included for a while, but to think that there are hundreds of thousands of casual players that are lugging around bellies or broomsticks doesn't seem to be true.
Furthermore, to claim that a large number of players would quit playing golf if they weren't allowed to use a belly, is absolutely illogical and unfounded. Also, to cite the large number of players at the U.S. Senior Am as evidence is taken completely out of context. These are highly competitive tournament player. Does anybody, even for just one second, believe that a single of those players in the US Senior Am will stop to play golf? Unfathomable.
This ban will have zero, no, nada, nilch effect on participation.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex H
I tried a belly putter for a couple rounds. Hooked the crap out of putts mostly.
Was going to stick with it until I chunk hooked a 4 incher and missed.
Used a long putter for 4 events on tour, and putted short putts well, long putts miserably.

Went back to standard length, and still use standard length.

This mistake was overlooked for 10 to 11 rules reviews (4 year cycles), and it was okay until
now. So to quote Del, why now?

Bifurcation. The USGA makes the rules of golf, which the PGA TOUR uses. It does not make rules FOR
the PGA TOUR. So bifurcation would have to be whatever the competitive body determined without a sea change, wouldn't it?
Asking, not stating.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Burke
Dear USGA-- You make the rules, I will follow........when I play in tournaments. But during casual rounds please note that I hit 2 off the first tee about 30% of the time; I rarely putt putts inside the leather; I roll the ball in the fairways during the winter:I play OB as lateral; I play the leaf rule in the fall; I sometimes leave the pin in on long putts, I use triple max - not ESC. I also gamble and sometimes drink a beer at the turn. My group plays in 3 1/2 hours walking if we don't have to wait, if we ride sub 3 hours is easy. Oh by the way we have fun. If someone in my group wants to anchor his putter, because he is twitchy it will be fine by me........

This game is already so multi-furicated it is scary, you know it, go ahead and admit it and govern accordingly.
The 460cc titanium head with its trampoline effect made the game easier.All accepted it as an evolutionary progress to the game and made it a part of his/her arsenal. Not one golfer griped that it made the game too easy and that it should be banned and all should continue playing with persimmon heads. Likewise hybrids were accepted gleefully. Those who preferred the long irons continued using them and never for a moment considered considered asking for a ban of the hybrid as it now created a level playing field.
The belly putter is preferred by some.Statistics do not show it to be superior to the non-anchored putter.If it is a better performer, then as they did with the 460cc heads and the hybrids, they are at liberty to change.
To decide to ban it after thirty years of use is certainly not cricket!
Anthony D'Cruz
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony D'Cruz
Hawkeye, I feel your pain with the driver yips. Absolutely nothing worse. Went through a stage when I could literally hit my 3 iron farther than the driver because I couldn't swing at a driver. Best cure, at least for me, was to step away for a pretty significant amount of time. Or just completely not give a s@## about where the ball is going, but that is easier said than done. I agree though, I would rather 3-putt every green than struggle with the tee ball....just no fun.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
@S&T, they do govern accordingly by writing one set of rules that players may choose to follow if they so desire. Trying to write multiple sets of rules in an attempt to satisfy the many variants of the game would be foolish (and unsuccessful).
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Maroney
I don't buy the argument, "if it's so easy then why aren't 90% of players using it?" Implicit in this argument is that governing bodies should wait until 90% of players are using long putters, then try to ban them. Waiting until 90% of players are using long putters, then try to ban them, isn't working for the ball and driver, why should we do it for the putter?

And, "why have the governing bodies allowed balls and drivers to get out of hand, but they're stopping long putters?" It's possibly because improvements to balls and drivers were gradual, and didn't change the look of the game, but long putters and hinging is clearly different from standard putting.
11.30.2012 | Unregistered Commentermelnik
On further reflection, I don't buy my last argument. Big Bertha wasn't exactly "gradual".

But I do still believe the goveners are acting now because they've learned from the ball and driver that you can't wait to act until everyone is doing it.

Ball and driver next...
11.30.2012 | Unregistered Commentermelnik
It's absurd to wait until 2016 to have this take effect. Give them a year to figure out how to actually putt and implement it.

If were worried about losing golfers in the game by enforcing this then what the hell do you think participation in this great game will be if they rolled the ball back and stopped creating all these crazy drivers and irons!
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterViz
Three questions:

a) How many greens have been made too easy with anchoring that have had to be changed?

b) How many golf courses have been made too easy with the increased distance (ball and/or driver) that have had to be changed?

c) What has had the bigger impact on the game...ball/driver or anchoring?

My point is...he house is on fire and the regulatory bodies are out watering a brown spot in the yard.
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Architect
Dear USGA, Please reconsider and allow anchoring. That way, those of us who can putt well can quickly identify those who don't. Best, a scratch player who plays like Brad Faxon.
11.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe O

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