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« R&A Chief Architect Dawson: Anchoring Ban Distracted Us From Announcing Most Extensive Old Course Changes In A Century | Main | Battle Of The Bagmen Down Under! »

Former USGA Tech Director: Anchoring Ban May Create More Problems Than It Solves

Former USGA technical director Frank Thomas says the R&A/USGA proposal banning anchoring of the putter "has some inherent problems which add to the predicament rather than resolving it."

Besides noting that there is no statistical evidence to make their case but even worse he lays out a case for the many issues that figure to arise with enforcement. Baggy shirts may make a comeback.

However, a vague and ambiguous rule specifying how to hold and use a club, will linger for many years, challenged and argued daily by all and sundry; “Are you or are you not anchoring your putter?” “Is your fore-arm touching your belly or your thigh?” “Your clothing is so loose that we are unable to see if you are anchoring your putter.”

These challenges will persist until the rule is clear and unambiguous, which is almost impossible for two reasons, first because the differences between “what is” and “what is not” anchoring are extremely small and vague and second because the methods one can use to hold and use a putter, are infinite.

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Reader Comments (34)

I'd like to believe Frank Thomas. I always find his views interesting. I would just like Frank to start at the point at which he had deterimined that no limit on the size (volume) of driver clubheads was needed when he was the USGA Technical Director. Frank was wrong about that, and by the time a limit could be enacted, drivers had grown to 460 cc.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
A couple of years ago I put away my belly because----if I couldn't putt any better than that unconventionally - I was just going to putt bad conventionally--. Because of the ban and the ridiculously long time before the ban is enforced, I have dug out the belly (which I can use as a broomstick as well) and will put it back in the bag. Eventually I will learn to putt like Kuch or the non anchored method Scott was practicing.

Another unintended consequence of the ban....a traditionalist like me putting a belly their bag.
I think Frank is wrong here. The proposed Rule states intent and the Rules assume honesty and knowledge. Most golfers are honest and don't purposely cheat. Come 2016 I feel the new Rule will a non-issue and will have a very smooth transition to no-anchoring.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSunshine State
Frank Thomas devised the Overall Distance Standard which capped out about 290 but somehow the pros blew by that....what happened? I've never heard a good explanation. He was of a mind to do nothing to stop the gains except when it came to the rebound effect on drivers and he got shot down on that and was gone. I don't know how anyone can sit by and see the ridiculous stretching of courses and think they shouldn't have rolled back the ball. The anchoring thing is a nothing issue compared to that.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMedia maven
If he's right the networks are going to need to man a phone bank to handle inbound call volumes.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark B
@Sunshine State
Correct, the proposed rule's wording states.."intent"
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterhh morant
This is precisely what I've been saying for months... Arguments will ensue.

And, FWIW, I heard long ago that Frank wanted enforce the decades-old rule prohibiting spring-like effect, and wasn't allowed to. And that it might have been why he left the USGA.

12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkenoneputt
I played with my father-in-law in a club tournament over the weekend. He uses a long putter. As I watched him putt I thought he was holding his upper forearm against his pec. When I asked my wife (she played in the group) she didn't think he anchored. So right there we had a difference.

Neither of us said anything about the ban to him, but it supports the confusion aspect.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMattS
@MattS, so your FIL had his arm "anchored" against his body but not the top of the club itself? Interesting. Not sure about that either.

I've joked about the clothing issue. Sure the current fashion is fitted, but when baggy clothes ala the 80s come back in style and on a nice windy day the ban will be enforced by twitter. "@PGARules, Today, H16, 2nd putt, J.Smith's putter touched windshirt during stroke. Enforce the rule! #anchoring #penalty"
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Simple solution – make the rule "hands-contact only”. Sorry, Kooch…
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill o'the Glen
When I look at the example pictures it is close between the "Long putter not anchored" and the "Anchor point created by forearm." Though he doesn't have his thumb on top of the club.

It was cold (we're in Michigan, just happy to play) so we had loose wind shirts on. Making it harder to see actual contact or not.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMattS
That's right, folks. Keep focusing on the anchoring ban. Pay no attention to what's happening at St. Andrews. Let's keep the distration going.

Now, I'm probably the least conspiracy-minded person I know, but I have a very hard time believing that the timing of the anchoring ban and the changes to St. Andrews are coincidental.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPete the Luddite
@MediaMaven: re: <<I don't know how anyone can sit by and see the ridiculous stretching of courses and think they shouldn't have rolled back the ball. >>

Couldn't agree more. It's a simple, direct solution that could be implemented before the first Major next year.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
Pete, you are giving these guys WAY too much credit.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheeks
Once you can no longer achor against the belly, I don't think you will see very many long putters in use - they are harder to putt with than an short putter since it is a longer club to control with only 2 hands. So the idea that it will be up in the folds of one's shirt and have to determine if it is touching the actually belly I do not think will be an issue.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Let's ban steel shafts, 60+ degree lob wedges, 460cc drivers, graphite shafts, tin-head drivers, multi-layer golf balls, and THEN you won't have to roll back the ball. The St. Andrews conspiracy is interesting. The USGA has lost control long time ago, period. Question to the PGA and LPGA tours - how do a bunch of amateurs control the rules by which the professionals play? The putting ban is ridiculous.....they didn't ban the over-sized putter that Jack won with. They didn't ban the 64+-degree wedge that Phil introduced. Nor the hybrid club. Nor the tin-head driver. Or graphite shafts. But the anchoring ban is that BIG? They have lost their focus.
@cheeks: point taken, but there's an interview out now in which Dawson says he didn't communicate the changes to The Old Course as well as he could have because he was 'distracted' by the announcement of the anchoring ban.

Of course, the project to change The Old Course began seven months ago, so that's quite the 'distraction.'
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark B
To the Pro from Dover:

I've said this many times before. The campaign to roll back golf balls is not a Luddite position. I don't oppose all technology. Here are some examples of good technology, that helped to make golf significantly less expensive, more friendly to recreational players, more accessible, etc.:

~Steel shafts. Hickory shafts were horribly expensive, fragile, inconsistent.
~Modern clubmaking materials; one-piece compund grips, thermoplastic epoxy, etc.
~Metal clubheads. See, "hickory." Persimmon was expensive, prone to water damage, inconsistent, expensive, etc.
~Surlyn golf balls. Never popular with tour players, they were hard to cut and allowed recreational players to play with cutproof balls.
~21st century adjustable clubheads. Previously, only the tour players had ready access to unlimited numbers of driver heads to bend and re-work. The tour vans, in essence, could break all the clubheads they wanted to, cost-free to the players. Until adjustability, recreational players had to go to the very few, very rare specialty shops to get that service. Adjustability puts everybody on the same level.

Now, for the bad technology:
~460cc exotic-alloy clubheads. More expensive, and helped exacerbate the gap between elite players and recreational players.
~Exotic-materials composite shafts. Ditto.
~Multilayer solid core urethane balls. Ditto. (Most recreational players don't even use them; few if any need to use them. They are almost purely a boon to elite players, who need no additional technological help.)

You get the idea?
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
MattS, if your FIL had his forearm resting against his body, AND was using a "long" putter, AND it were 2016, he WOULD have been in violation.

However, if all of the above was true but he was using a "standard" length putter, he would be in compliance.

But if he was using a "standard" putter and the "claw" grip, and he rested his forearm against his body, and it were 2016, and the left hand remained stationary and he followed thru with the right hand, we may have to call for a ruling.

Got that?
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
This nothing more than the modernistic, "progressive", "forward thinking" mentality in society. The insatiable appetite for novelty, while admirable in some areas of our lives, wrekas havoc in others. It's the "we're smarter than our predecessors" mentality.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
I'm 6'2" and use a 37" putter with both hands high and together (normal reverse overlap grip) but with my right elbow in contact with the point of my right hip. It's a piston-push stroke, not dissimilar from Jack's, though somewhat less effective. Anyway, as I was reading these comments I began to think maybe MY stroke had been outlawed. Because I hadn't yet read the actual rule, I promptly did so.

Now I've spent the past few minutes standing in my office in my usual awkward crouch, stroking imaginary putts to see whether my style is compliant and praying that no one will walk in...
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Frank's wrong but they are still going to have to man the phone banks.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
the grip should only be allowed to touch the hands. simple as that!
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenteraj ellis
Craig Stadler has a bit of a belly that will always hit the putter handle. Is that anchoring? Mike Coo Coo Bird Davis has struck again.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames
By definition, YES, there was a conspiracy to release TOC news while the media focus was on the anchoring ban. PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
It is funny - earlier this summer all you would see on this site would be comments again and again blasting belly putters and those that use them to win titles and majors. Now that something has been done, somehow it has become all about distance and the ball and club technology. Why those things are mutually exclusive I have no idea. You think at USGA they figure they have a quota of rules changes, and now they are locked out ? If they want to address they ball, they will do so, the ruling on anchoring has no bearing on that action one way or the other.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
AJ Ellis,

So you object to belly putting but not to anchoring on the chest like Adam Scott? His upper hand is at the top of the grip, and it's his hand rather than the club which is the fulcrum or anchor point.
12.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
So few casual golfers use these aids plaing, that it is really no big deal as to ''rulings'' As to the pros; hey-be a pro about it.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
digger, Brandt Snedeker said this of the new rule -->. ".....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?"

But you said -->. "So few casual golfers use these aids plaing, that it is really no big deal...."

One of you is correct, one is wrong. i'm inclined to agree with you.

12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
@DTF - there is a big difference between "casual golfers" and competitive ones. The average guys out on the weekend or down in Myrtle Beach for a golf trip - my experience is very few long putters. But NCAA players, would be pros, I'm sure Snedeker has a good handle on the prevalence of long putters out there. They said at Q School it was 20%
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
"...a whole generation..."

That sure sounds a lot broader than the 175 people that went to q-school finals. Who said it was 20% at Q-school?
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
IT might be worded and show incorrectly now and that is why it will take until 2013 to go into effect. In those years they will be able to observe, rewrite tweak and fill loopholes.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt A

We are both right, I'm referring to currently playing: he is referring to newly learning.

Gotta go-my computer cooling fan is blowing up.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
digger......Brandt said: "....there's a generation of golfers who have never had a short putter...."

What generation would that be? I play a lot of golf a lot of places and I have no idea what generation he is referring to.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDTF

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