The USGA and R&A, which make the rules for golf, are holding a special press conference next Tuesday, May 21, where they will announce a decision on anchored putting.
The USGA and R&A are widely expected to ban anchored putting.
There are two styles of anchored putting that are popular — belly putting, where the putter is stuck in your gut, like Keegan Bradley, or using a tall putter and holding the putter to your chest, like Adam Scott, who just won the Masters.
The ruling bodies believe that anchored putting is not part of the golf stroke, and therefore should not be allowed. They believe the golfer should make a free swinging motion. By affixing the club to his or her body, the golfer takes some of the swing out of putting.
The anchor ban wouldn’t preclude a golfer from using a longer putter, it would just stop the golfer from attaching it to their body.
This is a seriously controversial decision in golf. Pro golfers think it’s capricious and unfair.
Belly putting and tall putting have been around for decades. Initially, the USGA looked the other way because it was only a few (usually older) guys who got the yips that went to anchoring.
In the past few years, a lot more players have been using anchored putting. Of the last four majors, three were won with anchored putting — Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open, Ernie Els at the Open Championship, and Adam Scott at the Masters.
These pros are, naturally, against the ban. They say there is no evidence that anchoring makes a big difference. They point out that none of the top putters, as measured by strokes-gained putting, use anchored putters.
The PGA of America, which is the group that represents teaching pros is also against the ban. It says that its pros, who are teaching lessons to amateurs everyday think people should be allowed to anchor their putters.
The PGA of America’s argument is that if belly putters are banned some people will stop playing golf. And if even one person stops playing, it’s not worth it.
Golf is an odd sport in that it’s divided by four major groups.
There is the USGA, which governs the U.S. amateur game, and puts on the U.S. Open. There is the R&A, which oversees the European amateur game, and puts on the Open Championship. Then there is the PGA Tour, which is playing pros, and the PGA of America, which is teaching pros, and hosts the PGA Championship.
The USGA and R&A set the rules, and the PGA Tour follows those rules. The PGA Tour, incidentally, has no control over the four majors. (Imagine if an outside party set the rules for the NFL and that same outside party was in charge of the Super Bowl. That’s what it’s like for pro golf.)
If the USGA and R&A do ban belly putting, some people think the PGA Tour could create its own new set of rules, which would be somewhat chaotic. One of the things golf purists love is that there is one set of rules that everyone follows. In this way, you’re playing the exact same game as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, or Arnold Palmer.
If the PGA Tour had one set of rules, then pros competing in the U.S. Open and Open Championship would have to play by a different set of rules.
Bottom line: Stay tuned! This will be one of the more interesting announcements in golf.
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