The USGA and R&A formally announced a ban Tuesday on the anchored putting stroke.
When first announcing the proposed rule, the governing bodies cited a “tremendous spike in usage” and “growing advocacy” among pros and instructors. Though long putters have been around for decades, USGA executive director Mike Davis said in November that the percentage of players who have used the putters has increased from about 2-4 percent in the 1980s and ’90s to close to 20 percent.
However, according to USGA president Glen D. Nager, recent surveys now indicate that anchoring is used by only 2-4 percent of golfers in the U.S. and Europe.
Rule 14-1b will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published. After the rule was initially proposed on Nov. 28, 2012, the governing bodies opened a 90-day comment window that allowed industry leaders to address any lingering concerns.
This ban will affect the estimated 18 percent of PGA Tour players who anchor their putters, including four of the last six major winners Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott.
It’s important to note that the new rule still allows those players to use their long or belly putters, so long as the butt of the handle is not affixed to a part of the body (stomach, sternum, chin, etc.).
“The new rule upholds the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf,” Nager said.
During Tuesday’s announcement, the governing bodies jointly released a 40-page document that explained their decision to adopt the rule.
Their main findings on anchored putting stroke:
• The new rule should not negatively affect participation
• It is not too late or unfair to require players to comply with the rule
• The new rule will remove potential concerns about any advantage that anchoring provides
In February, Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the Tour’s opposition to the then-proposed rule, saying that the ban was not in “the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.” (The European Tour, LPGA, Ladies European Tour and Sunshine Tour each publicly supported the ban, furthering the notion that the issue was more controversial in the States than it was overseas.)
At the time, Finchem stopped short of suggesting that the Tour would break from the Rules of Golf and create its own set of rules. Now that the anchored putting stroke ban has been passed, it was not immediately clear which direction the Tour would take.
I believe that the PGA Tour will obey this ruling because the touring professionals do play the European Tour events, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and USGA events like the U.S. Open every year. The PGA Tour does have the power to override the ruling and splinter off in another direction, but this would not be good for the game; golf chaos would ensue. Stay tuned.