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Wednesday
Feb202013

Lorne: "The one and only relevant question: Is anchoring a stroke of golf?"

As the bickering over the anchoring ban turns political, Lorne Rubinstein tries to get us thinking about the heart of the issue: is it a stroke or not?

This seems to me to be an argument about that cloudy and also dreamy subject of “growing the game.” That’s the new buzz phrase in golf. The PGA of America and Golf Canada, to cite two national organizations, are always going on about “growing the game,” and if that means changing the game, or at least one important aspect of it, so be it. They may be interested in growing the game, but maybe they don’t care about considering the central and fundamental question of whether anchoring is a stroke of golf.

This all leads to irrelevancy number two, which is that anchoring has been around for 30 or more years, and it has, in much more limited numbers, and so why ban it now? Phil Mickelson has said he doesn’t think anchoring should be part of the game, but that it’s too late to ban it. Why should that be? If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

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Reader Comments (47)

For the sake of protecting what the game looks like, it is okay to fire a torpedo into
players' careers, even though they developed what is the most important part of the game, in a way that has been accepted for decades.
It has also been said that the players who leave the game due to health or the yips, are acceptable losses to this rule change.

Imagine developing your business for 30 years, and having the government tell you you cannot operate in the same manner that has been legal that whole time. I'm sure it happens, but usually not because it doesn't look right
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
Errrrr.......... in reply to the above comment about the government changing things around in law........ it happens ALL the time. How about the law about civil rights? Rape? Banking and tax policies? They changed!

Ban anchoring. Period.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRP
The 'waist and bulge" paddle putter grip was around for longer than 30 years. Ben Crenshaw joined the PGA Tour in 1972, he went on to win the 1984 Masters with this particular grip on his Wilson Staff 8802 putter. The USGA made this grip illegal beginning January 1st, 1990. Ben then won Colonial, the Western Open, and the 1995 Masters after this grip was deemed illegal.

There is nothing in the USGA rule book that says a rule cant be changed at any given time, even if its been legal for decades. Then this rule was changed it greatly affected Ben, for awhile. Great players will conform as did Ben. Those that cant contemplate changing are probably not your "Great Players" anyway. Anchoring is a crutch in my opinion. Building a fulcrum point so as to keep the hands mostly out of the stroke is not a stroke as one sees with the Driver swing, pitch shot, chip. To me a stroke is when both hands move the club hack and through without the butt of the club affixed to anything. Affixing the club DOES NOT in my opinion constitute "TAKING A BACK SWING"!

How can anybody call it a backswing when the butt of the grip has not moved during an anchored motion. I hate to bust everybody's bubble, in making a backswing you actually have to take the club BACK. In an anchored stroke the club is never taken back as the butt of the grip is FIXED, it cant go BACK. Without this backward motion, one can not call it a stroke.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEuropean Tour
Tried to post last evening but it 'wouldnae go'.

@ non profit ... the following is taken from the R&A website comment thread on this subject. It explains why it wasn't banned in the 1980s ...

Q) Have the governing bodies previously considered taking action to address anchoring?

A) The USGA and The R&A have monitored and discussed the topic of both longer putters and anchoring a number of times over the years.

In response to concerns arising in the 1980s about the emerging use of the long putter, in 1989 The R&A and the USGA considered but decided not to adopt an equipment Rule to limit the permissible length of a putter. The basic issue addressed was not the use of an anchored stroke, but whether long putters should be allowed at all. A key basis for the decision was that long putters were viewed as helping those with physical problems (e.g. back problems) who otherwise might have difficulty playing the game. Moreover, the view at the time was that long putters were used almost entirely by a small number of golfers with serious putting difficulties and there was little concern that this putting method would enter the mainstream.

The issue was also discussed a few years ago when concerns were deepened because of the more recent emergence of anchored putting with a belly putter. But there was no clear consensus about how best to address this issue through a Rule change (e.g. whether to use an equipment Rule or a playing Rule), and given the minor level of usage of such strokes, there was a continuing perception that there was no significant long-term threat to the traditional and established way of playing the game.~
@ non profit ... the following is taken from the R&A website comment thread and explains why no action was taken in the 1980s ...

Q) Have the governing bodies previously considered taking action to address anchoring?

A) The USGA and The R&A have monitored and discussed the topic of both longer putters and anchoring a number of times over the years.

In response to concerns arising in the 1980s about the emerging use of the long putter, in 1989 The R&A and the USGA considered but decided not to adopt an equipment Rule to limit the permissible length of a putter. The basic issue addressed was not the use of an anchored stroke, but whether long putters should be allowed at all. A key basis for the decision was that long putters were viewed as helping those with physical problems (e.g. back problems) who otherwise might have difficulty playing the game. Moreover, the view at the time was that long putters were used almost entirely by a small number of golfers with serious putting difficulties and there was little concern that this putting method would enter the mainstream.

The issue was also discussed a few years ago when concerns were deepened because of the more recent emergence of anchored putting with a belly putter. But there was no clear consensus about how best to address this issue through a Rule change (e.g. whether to use an equipment Rule or a playing Rule), and given the minor level of usage of such strokes, there was a continuing perception that there was no significant long-term threat to the traditional and established way of playing the game.
Once again, Lorne Rubenstein is able to boil a golf issue down to its elements in a thoughtful and reasonable way. I couldn't agree more with the premise of his article.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
Who says it is not a stroke. The is so up to opinions. Is it a stroke when you pin your elbows to your body on a putt. Or when you anchor your grip to your left forearm. In the end the long putter is a different type of putting stroke that has become a more popular. That's it.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSL
This should be a really simple question to answer; where exactly in the lore of golf, or the rules of golf, or in the history of golf as, say Old Tom knew it, is the definition of "a golf stroke" actually written down and defined?

Is Lorne making up a definition of his choosing? Or is he actually citing an actual rule or definition that has been written down and understood for hundreds of years?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
Is anyone else tired of this "growing the game" issue? It seems like some drag this out too often. I prefer a better game played by fewer to a dumbed down game played by more. The same can be said about match and medal play. We have too much medal play.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn S.
Joe, Under definitions in the rules; "A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke."

Apparently, Euro tour above believes the club does not move until the butt of the club changes it's linear position.

I couldn't find butt in the definitions.

Funny how much bruhaha has been made over this rule change. But several years ago when they changed the rule about identifying one's ball in a hazard, nobody said a word. To me, touching your ball in a hazard, leaving it up to the competitor to replace it exactly, is much more an egregious act that this red herring.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Clayman
Next, they'll want to outlaw the stymie.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
LLynn,

It would certainly seem that everyone who is employed directly or indirectly in the golf business would care about growing the game.

Employees at 16,000 public and private courses;
Employees in the travel industry that cater to golfers;
Architects and course builders ;
Equipment manufacturers (Booooo!)
PGA teaching pros


There are probably more than one million people whose jobs benefit directly or indirectly from a growing game of golf..

So I can see why we shouldn't care.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
If "shrinking the game" means I play in 3-3.5 hours instead of 4-4.5 hours, I am all in favor of shrinkage! (cue cheap Seinfeld reference)

(@LynnS - when do you think they'll be building that statue of Dwight Howard at Staples?)
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Scenario 1: using a 50" putter I anchor the butt of the club to my chest just below the throat and my left hand is in contact with my body, none of the rest of left arm touches my body.

Scenario 2: Same putter, same exact setup, I move my left hand 1/2 of 1 inch away from my body.

From which position am I able to make a "stroke"???
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Adam,

Thank for the text, which seems to be silent about anchoring. So what exactly is Lorne citing with such certitude?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
@RP -

Thankfully a clear thinker has finally linked the anchoring ban with Rape and Civil Rights laws.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterVRWC
If "shrinking the game" means I can play in 3-3.5 hours instead of 4.5 hours, then sign me up in favor of shrinkage. (cue cheap Seinfeld reference here....)

(OT: @LynnS - what do you think of a statue of Dwight Howard in front of Staples? Happening anytime soon? :-) )
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Lots of things were legal (& illegal) in many sports for a long time & then changed. Like all changes it will help some & not others. While I understand why current players would care about it, that shouldn't be the basis for or against the change. Lorne has the central q correct: is it or is it not a correct way moving forwards to hit a golf ball?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterElf
elf, which begs my question...

Scenario 1: using a 50" putter I anchor the butt of the club to my chest just below the throat and my left hand is in contact with my body, none of the rest of left arm touches my body.

Scenario 2: Same putter, same exact setup, I move my left hand 1/2 of 1 inch away from my body.

From which position am I able to make a "stroke"???
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
elf: "a correct way..".

Very very weak. "Correct"? That's all you got? Your demand to ban anchoring is based on the word "correct"?

Obviously without any factual backup, the word "correct" is truly meaningless. "Correct" is in the of the beholder and has as many definitions as there are golfers.

Why not "Fairness" or "Reasonable" if you are using words without any meaning.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
@ Adam

I've looked in the Rules Book at a couple definitions that has formed my opinion that an anchored motion is not a stroke.

Yes, a stroke as defined in the rules is the forward motion with intent to strike the ball. It also says you can not Push, Scrape, or Shovel the ball. With this in mind I would say the anchored move is a shoveled motion. And i'll explain in a moment.

Another rule to look at is the Temporary Immovable Obstruction. Specifically the "area of intended swing"....because after all the club has to be Swung.

The next definition that I looked at was the definition of Club. It consists of a club head, shaft, and grip. These three elements making up a club have to be swung. They all represent one unit, where this unit has to be put into motion as defined in area of intended swing.

The reason I feel the anchored motion is shoveling the golf ball is precisely explained earlier, AFFIXING and part of the club to your torso does not allow the Unit or Club if you will to be swung. In my opinion, and its my opinion, affixing one part of the club to the torso, so that part of the club can't move freely during the backswing and forward swing to me would constitute "scraping the ball or shoveling the ball forward" because one part of the club was affixed to the body, and thus had no freedom to move during what should be defined as a stroke. When one affixes a portion of the club to their body they are causing a portion of the club (the grip) not to have the freedom to move back and through. Affixing the grip to the torso can be defined as a part of the club not making a forward motion, WHY? Because that portion of the club has in fact not moved during an anchored motion. In the forward motion of an anchored motion the grip is affixed to the torso to KEEP IT FROM MOVING....thus in my opinion a TRUE STROKE as we have all come to know it has not occurred.

Because the club is defined as being made of of three parts, it would seem elementary in my judgement, that we see all three parts of the club move in the forward movement of a stroke. The definition of area of intended swing had to have been written in a manner in that the USGA expected to see the entire Club move at least in one direction. Affixing a portion of the club to the torso affirms the butt/grip of the club is in fact not going to move. Without the entire Club moving through the ball, i personally don't' see how anyone can say the Club has been swung. The grip is defined as being part of the club, if the club is to be swung for the purpose of striking the ball I think we should all see the ENTIRE CLUB being swung. The only way in my opinion that we see the entire club swung is to see that it (any portion of the club) is not affixed to the torso.

Bernard Langer's method, and Matt Kucher's method in my opinion would constitute a stroke in that we can see the entire unit (club head, shaft, and grip) moving back and through during the swing. Neither method affixes the grip of the club so that it can't move freely back and forth. In both their styles the entire unit is free to move back and forth.

Affixing a part of the club, so that it has NO FREEDOM to move to me is not in the spirit of the game, and does not constitute swinging the club, therefor can not be defined as a stroke.

Thats my interpretation of what should constitute a swing and thus be defined as a stroke made at hitting the ball.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEuropean Tour
I like Lorne's post. It gets to the fundamental question. What is a stroke. If a putter (arguably the most important club and stroke in the game) is anchored to increase the probability of an online motion (back and forward) than it is not a free flowing stroke. The body is easier to hold still especially under pressure than smaller muscles. So is this right? Is this in the spirit of the game? Why isn't sidesaddle allowed? That was a free flowing stroke. The USGA is trying to protect the intergrity of the game. Yes they are late. So too was this country in allowing women to vote. But the powers that be realized that the world and now the game would be better for it. Golf should be about physical talent and mental strength. If you anchor to your body it takes a lot of the skill out of it in my opinion and it certainly takes the nerves mostly out of it. Yes, anchor guys still yip them but not as often as they probably would if there hands were free flowing. If it isn't such an advantage then why wouldn't they change to a non-anchored stroke? People change putters all the time, different weightings. Kevin Stadler made the exact point that anchoring aids the player without the talent or nerves. I have nothing against Stadler but if he can't putt he shouldn't be out there. He is taking a spot from someone playing in the spirit of the game.

Yes, the USGA is not perfect. They should have done this sooner. Same with the golf ball. But not correcting a wrong does not make it right. If Keegan and Simpson are so talented they will make the transition easily. If I can putt with a short putter they surely can.

One a side note, some of these new putters almost putt themselves given the weighting and they should be looked at. I tried a new putter and it literally was diffiult not to make it with. Unreal weighting and while I was using it it didn't feel right to me. I did not buy it. Maybe I am a fool but there is right and wrong and I play golf for the challenge and the personal test and the friendship and the beauty of the locations and because it is a game of integrity. If the SEC made insider trading legal it may be legal but it still isn't right (or fair).

DTF,

I would personally say neither is a stroke as there is anchoring to the body on both (club). The USGA will determine it though.

Personally I am surprised Kutcher's method is being allowed. I guess I can see the point of the USGA but I think it is another form of anchoring that should not be allowed.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Civil rights, rape, banking laws.
All changes brought about when harm is done to others.
has the game been harmed by the long putter?

The willingness to screw other people by some is incredible.

As I see it, no ban, we have some players who don't look right to some. (man we've heard that in golf before)
If we do ban, we damage some careers, and chase a small number from the game.

What is the benefit to the game
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
"Is anchoring a stoke?"

Well, of course it is now, however the Rules should change that.

An anchored stroke should fall under the "not fairly stoke at" stokes like the scrape, pull, and push shots (in the Rules of Golf). Just count the stroke and add a two stroke penalty.

Anchoring is similar to the croquet style stroke in that it isn't traditional.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFLGolfer
Is the impediment affixed? Or is it a loose impediment? If its affixed can we still pull it out?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTour Weed
I don't think it is personal for anyone involved. I do not like Keegan but banning anchoring is not about Keegan. It is about a player that MAY possess less physical and mental skills than the other players (who may have been harmed by the long putter). I contend Ernie would not have won the Open if he had a non-achored stroke. Tough to prove though but given his putt at Innisbrook and his putting in general I think it may be accurate. Scott couldn't handle the pressure even with the long putter. I wonder how Brandt or Tiger feels about the result.

How has the game been damaged? Tough call. But I would say that it at the very least blurs the line of what is allowed. It is like Ernie's drop at the US Open those years ago. The rules allowed it but it really wasn't in the spirit of the game. Golf is about integrity and I believe about doing what is right. People call penalties on themselves. We can trust that the game is played fairly (unlike other games with PEDs or the stock market etc). Thre is a slippery slope argument. Well, why not allow a hotter ball (to grow the game) or how about make the hole bigger so more putts are made so that poorer putters aren't penalized so much. Or how about allowing any size of a golf ball. And on and on. If we lose the integrity we lose a lot. It is tough to build a reputation but it is really easy to lose it.

Personally, I hope the USGA rolls back the ball and brings skill more back into the game. Imagine how many players of today would not be on Tour with the old balata balls? Now has this technology hurt the game? In my eyes yes as it has increased costs for golf courses.

The game today is not healthy. It is not because of anchoring, it is because of cost, slow play (which the PGA Tour allows so when the PGA Tour talks about wanting to grow the game they are being hypocritical). I am not sure technology has helped the game as much as the people who make money from it want you to believe.

I say if the average guy wants to anchor go ahead and anchor but not in competition. Chances are he is not re-teeing after a lost ball and chances are he already uses a mulligan. But the game needs a standard to look up to and maintain the integrity. And I give kudos to teh USGA and R&A for trying with anchoring. Now hopefully the ball and technology are next.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
@Jim

Be careful of putters that can't miss in the store. There was a used club store near me that had VERY subtle breaks to the hole. I hit a putt and it went in. Hit another 5-8 same result. Finally I started trying to miss, and I had to aim about 6" wide on a 10' putt to not sink the putt. You had to get right on the ground (spiderman style) to see the break.

I'm just sayin'
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMattS
Matt,

Thank you very much. Very interesting. I never even thought of that as a selling tool. Wow. Amazing.

I actually took this one out to the putting green from the pro shop. It basically was idiot proof. The weighting was unreal. I used it on straight putts, left to right, right to left. The putter almost did all the work, just take it back and the weight just took it through. I actually thought, this isn't right. I didn't buy it. But amazing how technology has changed the game.

Thanks for the heads up on what to watch out for.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
@non profit winner, don't kid yourself someone is always getting screwed. If say Keegan can't put without a long putter & that's the reason he can play on tour (I don't believe this but hypothetical, I'm sure it's true of someone) it means he's taking a spot on the tour from someone who if they're both using short putters is better. Ergo that player is currently getting screwed out of a living.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Matt,

Thank you for the heads up on what to look out for. I never knew that. What salesmanship. Yikes.

I actually took this putter out on a practice green. The weighting was such that it practically did all the work. It just didn't seem right to me.

I appreciate the info to look out for that in the future. Thanks
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
I'm still pissed about the designated hitter.
Jim you're DQ'd for confusing Kuchter with Kuchar!

As for my two scenarios...

IF this situation is truly about a proper *stroke* (which it is not), AND one is unable to make a stroke from the position I describe in Scenario 2, THEN this USGA ruling is not about the *stroke*...

...because Scenario 2 is perfectly legal under the PROPOSED rule.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Elf,
Remove Keegan and move everyone up one spot, and you've added a guy that doesn't keep his card.
Nobody is being kept out of the top levels of professional golf if they can shoot the scores.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
Think Finchem is primarily concerned with "the one and only relevant question"?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfyg
DTF,

I was talking about Ashton. :O Good call, I should be DQ'd for that one.

Is the second one legal? It seems like teh club is still anchored even though teh ahnd is not touching the body.

Scenario 1: using a 50" putter I anchor the butt of the club to my chest just below the throat and my left hand is in contact with my body, none of the rest of left arm touches my body.

Scenario 2: Same putter, same exact setup, I move my left hand 1/2 of 1 inch away from my body.


The club I believe was still anchored into the body in your 2nd example (maybe I am reading the example incorrectly). I can't get on the rule on USGA.org for some reason but I got this from Golf Digest.

"You can use that same club and just move the club, your hand or your forearm off the chest and putt that way," he said. "We're not trying to hurt the game, we're giving you options. We're not saying everybody has to putt conventionally with a 34 or 35-inch putter."

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/blogs/hotlist365/2012/11/usgara-propose-ban-on-anchored.html#ixzz2LZ6ZzYpL

"In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either 'directly' or by use of an 'anchor point.'




"Note 1: The club is anchored 'directly' 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.




"Note 2: An 'anchor point' exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club."


Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/blogs/hotlist365/2012/11/usgara-propose-ban-on-anchored.html#ixzz2LZ6AOGhN
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
fyg,

Money?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
When defining a stroke, try to envision the artisan golfers of the 1800's (whom I'm sure had callused hands simply from day to day life) jamming a club into their tweed plus fours before whacking a ball into a gopher hole versus simply using only their hands to control a lightweight stick.

Nope...pretty sure anchoring ain't golf.

That said, I'm still OK with the broomstick style, since it gives folks with bad backs a lifeline and looks pretty goofy from a distance. But the teaching aid extension style belly putterers like Keegan, Webb, etc are OB.

I'm not allowed to anchor my arms to my body with say Jimmy Ballard's Swing Jacket during a round, why should they be allowed to stick a club into a body part while assuming a normal stance in order to stabilize a gin-stroke?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Here is a quote from Keegan. The PC Keegan.

"I'm obviously not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA, and especially Mike Davis," Bradley said. "They make the rules, and I'll adjust appropriately. I'm going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it."

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/blogs/hotlist365/2012/11/usgara-propose-ban-on-anchored.html#ixzz2LZ99MhSC

Interesting how things change. If they do ban it and he doesn't make the Tour he could be a politician.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Jim, trust me, Scenario 2 is perfectly legal under the PROPOSED rule. The bracing of the left arm against the body, combined with the anchoring of the butt of the club, is the focus of the Heimlich Chart they put out. As long as no part of the left arm is touching the body and the butt of the club is not anchored this method if perfectly legal.

Using this setup the butt of the club remains completely stationary and the stroke (shovel, push jab, whatever you want to call it) remains unchanged...

...as such, the PROPOSED USGA rule has nothing to do with what is a *proper stroke*.

Here's another wrinkle, the Heimlich Chart says it's ok to brace one of both elbows against the body, or hold the forearms against the body, and simultaneously use a claw grip like Mickelson. Imagine him then making a stroke/shovel/push/jab where the butt of the club remains stationary and essentially acts as a fulcrum, the way the PROPOSED rule reads this is LEGAL.

This PROPOSITION has more holes in is than Swiss cheese!!
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
And JFTR, the motion Tim Clark makes with his putter is in FACT a *stroke*....the USGA says so right here:

usga (dot) org/news/2012/November/Proposed-Rules-Change-to-Prohibit-Anchoring/

"The proposed Rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes..."

Tim Clark and his *stroke* are squarely in the crosshairs...so lose all this "it's not a stroke" rhetoric because none other than the USGA and R&A have clearly deemed it to be a stroke!

Next, from the press release:

**The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf’s governing bodies, today announced proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that would prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke.

Prior to taking a final decision on the proposed Rule, The R&A and the USGA will consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community.

“We believe we have considered this issue from every angle but given the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A.

Each organization is expected to take a final decision on the proposed Rule change in spring 2013.**

Translation...

Sentence 1: this is a PROPOSAL.

Sentences 2 & 3: comments are welcome on this PROPOSAL and will be considered prior to making a final decision.

Sentence 4: if the "comment period" isn't strictly for show the FINAL DECISION could be abandonment of the PROPOSAL.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF

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