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Langer On Belly Ban: "I can tell you what changed. Three major winners, that's a problem now. Well, it makes no sense."

I asked Bernhard Langer about the proposed anchoring ban, his reaction to the PGA Tour's stance and whether he's tried moving the putter away from an anchored position in anticipation of a possible rule change.

The unedited answers, from his Toshiba Classic media center press conference, are worth reading in their entiretly if you have an interest in the topic. If not, scroll on by!

He certainly scores some points with his case. Up to a point.

Q.  Since you've been away, the Tour has staked out a position opposing the anchoring ban.  Obviously it's a subject you've been vocal about.  I'm wondering how you feel about the Tour taking that stand.  And also, did you during the comment period give any feedback to the USGA and R&A?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I wasn't personally asked to give feedback to the USGA and R&A, but whenever I was asked in interviews and was talking to some other players and officials, I clearly voiced my opinion.  I think the PGA TOUR came to the right conclusion for many areas, what you say, arguments, just point in that direction.  There's really no real reason to ban the anchoring after this many years being out.  You're going to hurt the game by banning it.  You're going to drive people away from the game of golf because they're not going to enjoy the game if they. I'm talking about amateurs.  This is not for me personal.  If they take the putter away, I'll find a way to putt or I'll go retire, so this has nothing to do with me personally.  I'm thinking for the better of the game, growing the game and what's good for amateurs.  

That's the very same reason that the PGA of America is very much against it, too, because the owners of golf courses, because they can see that hundreds and thousands of people would leave the game because putting is a huge part of the game.  And if you had certain ailments, you know, a bad back or if you're not a good putter and you're used to the long putter, it might help you a little bit in that regard, and you now take that away from them, they're going to leave the game.  They're going to start up croquet or bowling or whatever.  No, I'm serious.  

Here's where the arguments start to not make sense. Bad backs? How does moving a long putter an inch away from your body put a strain on your back?

I've talked to a lot of people.  I'm a member at three different clubs in Florida where I live and we discuss it because it's a topic that has been out the last few months and a lot of them say, yeah, that would be a very bad thing to do.  Some of them considering to probably give up the game if they're forced to give up the belly putter, the long putter. 

Again, they can continue to use a long putter, no?

To me, that's the main reason not to do it.  There's obviously a bunch of other reasons, and it's been around way too long.  Even a year or two ago, Mike Davis from the USGA said long putter is no problem, we don't see a problem in the future with it.  It was changed in 12 months.  I can tell you what changed.  Three major winners, that's a problem now.  Well, it makes no sense.  If you look at it if it was a real improvement to everybody, if it was easier or simpler or better, everybody would use it, and I'll give you an example.  How many people are using a graphite shaft in a driver?

Q.  100 percent?

BERNHARD LANGER:  100 percent.  How many are using the big headed driver?  100 percent.  Why?  Because it's an improvement.  How many people use a hybrid?  Almost 100 percent because it's easier to hit a hybrid than a 1-iron.  

See, those are the things.  Well, how many using a long putter?  10 percent, 6 percent, 15 percent, whatever it is.  It's the minority.  So why go there after having it out, making it legal for even 90 years or 80 years.  There's a picture out that somebody used it in the 1920s or 1930s.  So it makes no sense, I have no idea why they're going there.  I hope they're not going through with it.  Not for my own personal reasons, just for the better part of the game, to grow the game.

Q.  When you anchor, have you tried just moving it a little bit away from your body and is that a big difference?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I haven't tried it, to tell you the truth, but I would think it defeats the purpose somewhat.  I have not been messing with it because I'm not convinced it's going to go that way.  So why spend hours of practice and energy doing stuff if it's never going to happen.  And I still think there's a good chance they might not go through with it because of many arguments that point in the other direction.

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Reader Comments (25)

Langer always expressed himself well and eloquently for a non-native english speaker, I think he makes some really good points.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGraham Cotton
"...but I would think it defeats the purpose somewhat."

Hopefully, the followup question was: "And what is the purpose?"

Obvious answer: To steady my arms and hands.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHolly
Funny stuff. So people who can't golf anymore because they have to bent down more without a long putter (which, by the way Mr. Langer, is absolutely not true since they can still use long putters) will go away to croquet and bowling, two sports where they have to bent down more than with a short putter. Langer personifies everything that is wrong with the sports of golf, including snail's pace
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
... including snail's pace and evangelical zealotry. Agree.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfreshfrankie
Are we supposed to expect anchored putter users to be for the ban?
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
Langer, with his slow and methodical pace, is probably responsible for more people quitting the game than all the anchorers playing the game right now. I've yet to meet one person who would quit the game if they couldn't anchor but I know hundreds who have or are close to giving up on the game due to slow play.

Maybe the USGA/R&A could compromise...allow anchoring, but make a rule that says any round over 3 1/2 hours starts to accrue penalty strokes.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
I'm not sure that I buy the bad back argument. My back occasionally gets tweeked and the full swing is where I experience the most discomfort. I'm no expert on chronic back pain but it seems to me people with that condition would have the most dificult time getting to the green. Anyone have experience with a bad back who could explain?
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarker81
Marker81...I've had back issues on and off for the past 20 years. Putting is by far the least affected (if at all). Bending over to tee the ball up or pick it up from the green/hole is where you can really have problems. But if someone is able to go out and play golf at all, their back isn't as bad as they say it is. I've passed up on playing more than a few times due to some back issues, but putting is probably the one thing that I could have done at that point.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
It's interesting that Herr Langer, as many other people, blame Mike Davis for the proposal to ban anchoring the putter. Mike Davis doesn't make policy for the USGA. Mike Davis is the Executive Director of the USGA, but he reports to the Executive Committee. It is the USGA Executive Committee that is responsible for all policy decisions at the USGA.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMajor Dad
I am surprised that many of these guys keep saying "what about metal heads, size of the heads, balls etc". All of these are issues (and they cause compression in abilities in my opinion). There is a difference in stabilizing nervous hands on a more stable platform and technology that helps performance. If a putter head on an anchor/long putter corrected via spin or otherwise then I could see tying all of these together.

It is getting tiring (and I am losing respect for those) to hear the amateur will not play the game if anchoring is banned (forget cost, time needed to play etc) and the "look at the clubs, balls etc" argument. Two wrongs do not make a right.

I wonder how happy Langer would have been (and how much poorer he would be) if anchoring was banned 20+ years ago?

Please USGA and R&A just end this issue. I think you are on the right path. PLEASE.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Well said, Jim.

Langer should be grateful he got away with it as long as he did. Instead, he wants more.

Please act swiftly, USGA and R&A. It is not a true stroke.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfyg
People with bad backs are able to practice putting with a long putter almost infinitely longer than a short putter, legitimate point.

Geoff, I'll take credit for repeatedly harping on the point that simply moving the left arm 1" (or even 1/16") away from the body satisfies the "ban" seem to believe this also.

My question is how much of an impact do you think this will have on the putting stats of players like Adam Scott and Bernhardt Langer? If they employ this method would you then be satisfied? Does this accomplish the goals of "the ban"? If Adam employs this method and continues on with the same putter and putts well will there be call for further rules changes to eliminate this version of the stroke? Have you tried it? If Adam uses this technique and left hand or arm is touching his shirt are you going to trust him that nothing is anchored?

Guess that was 6 questions ;)

I have tried it and can assure that (i) nothing in the stroke changes, (ii) same right hand grip, (iii) same left hand grip, (iv) same putter head movement, (v) movement of butt of club is identical and (vi) I personally believe Adam and Bernhard will easily adjust. I also believe the Aesthetics Patrol will be mad about it and then we will have another crusade on our hands.

The belly putter is a completely different can of worms, the new rules impact that method much more severely. Is that fair?
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Del-I've putted with a long putter since 1982-I'm not brilliant with it but 32 putts a round is a lot better than the 40 plus I was doing with the short one.I've tried the long putter just off my chest but am absolutely hopeless from there-what's your secret?!
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
I do agree with the bad back argument because I've tried the long putter and it does put less stress on my back. Having said that, I must address the scary image people like Bernard Langer is sending that shows the game will lose golfers if the PGA Tour bans anchoring. I, for one,I can't imagine an amateur playing non-tournament course at some public/resort course is going to get kicked off the course because he/she is anchoring. The amateurs will continue to anchor, continue to goof around and give 3 foot putt, continue to drop a new ball next to the OB stake and play on with one more stroke, etc. IE certain rules will be broken by amateurs playing non-tournament golf and the game is not any worse because of it.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenternguyenvuminh
chico.....practice, and concentration!

5 minutes on the putting green and I think I could get you sorted.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
@ Steve - best comment I've heard on this boards in a long while - Langer's pace of play. On a scale of 1 to 100 in terms of a problem for golf, this anchoring issue is around a 1 - slow play is in the 90's.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan B
Ian B, I am 110%in agreement with you!

Haven't thought about it much before now but I wonder why the USGA chose to spend all this time and effort and energy on the 1% all while completely ignoring the 99%?
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I see the weekend or casual golfer using banned/non conforming clubs all the time whether it be drivers larger than 460cc or wedges with something similar to sandpaper on the face. The golfers that are using long putters seem to be more invested in the game, I really have a hard time believing that they would quit the game over the possible ban. On another note stopped at a Golf Galaxy earlier today which sees a lot of business (busy suburb of Chicago) and noticed all long putters were 25% off. Wonder if they are taking a chance planning ahead or are confident in a certain decision. Golf Galaxy being owned by Dick's and being a nation wide retailer makes me think they are making an educated guess in preparation.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarter Redbush
What a bunch of stupid arguments these are against the long putter.

Langer is slow, so ban it!

My back hurts more when I take a full swing, so ban it!

It works for Langer and he said so himself, so ban it!

These arguments are asinine and merely highlight the zealotry of those for a ban. Tyrany of the majority is a dangerous thing for precisely this reason: the majority is too often loaded with idiots.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
Carter, the other possible reason for the 25% off sale is that longer putters are a fad and Dick's failed to recognize and over-ordered...

...over-shooting happens all the time in all kinds of industries.

Matter of fact, in case people haven't really thought it through, if the new rule is approved the "ban" won't go into effect for another:

33.5 months


145 weeks


1,019 days...

...there's just no way Dick's is already adjusting pricing based on something that is happening that far away.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
So, how many leaving the game is acceptable?
1, 5, 1000?
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
Just another question for the crowd:

Where do all you "slow play is the scourge of the sport" golfers live? I play every day and every weekend all over the south and never find it a problem. Ever. Courses are practically always empty. (A benefit of being a Southern Man?)

However, the one year I lived in Connecticut and played courses there and in NY it could take 6 hours!!! Omfg-- shoot me. Something tells me we have a lot of guys from the northeast in this forum. True?
@NY and G. I live in Australia. Many courses here have time limits in Saturday competitions (4 ball) of 4 hours 10 minutes. More than that - your score doesn't count. So, for the most part pace of play is OK. I was recently in the US and played Harding Park in SF. 15 holes took 4 hrs 45 minutes. I walked off after that and don't bother playing much anymore when I visit. Pace of play in the US is ridiculous - not matter where I go.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan B
IanB, you are hanging out at the wrong places in the USofA ;)

As mentioned above, this is mostly a public facility issue.
03.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Langer’s argument that people will quit the game because of the long putter ban is suspect and self serving. The reason people quit the game is because of how slow and expensive it is to play golf. How much time it takes and how much it costs. God forbid Langer to go there, the veritable poster child for glacial play.
03.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfishman

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