The PGA Tour came out with a statement Monday July 1st that it would follow a new rule that bans the anchored putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, asking instead Monday for a temporary reprieve for those who play the game for fun. The announcement Monday after a PGA Tour board meeting is the final piece of confirmation from a major golf organization for Rule 14-1b, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2016 when the next “Rules of Golf” is published. The rule makes it illegal for players to attach the end of the club to their body would making a stroke.
Finchem said in February the tour was opposed to the new rule because there were no data to suggest an advantage and no “overriding reason to go down that road.”
The tour’s opinion was shaped by a players-only meeting earlier that month. “In making its decision, the policy board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour,” Finchem said in a statement. “The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules … applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion.” The decision to go along was not a surprise. The common ground by all sides was the importance of golf being played under one fundamental set of rules, as has been the case for hundreds of years.
The wrinkle that came out of the tour’s meeting was asking the R&A and USGA to give amateurs more time to adjust away from the anchored stroke. PGA of America president Ted Bishop was among those concerned that banning the stroke used for long putters would force too many people to quit the game out of frustration, at a time when golf is worried about decreasing participation. “The policy board continues to believe that extending the time period the ban would go into effect for amateurs would be beneficial for golf participation and the overall health of the game,” Finchem said. The PGA of America also said it would follow the new rule, while expressing concern about amateurs. “We continue to feel strongly that the amateur player needs a longer period of adjustment to this rule,” Bishop said. Neither Finchem nor Bishop recommended a date for amateurs. Finchem also sounded a warning that the tour reserves the right to make its own rules for its players, and that the USGA pledged “open and effective communication” on any future discussions on the rules. “It is not inconceivable that there may come a time in the future when the policy board determines that a rule adopted by the USGA, including in the area of equipment, may not be in the best interests of the PGA Tour, and that a local rule eliminating or modifying such a USGA rule may be appropriate,” he said.
Here are some facts on the use of belly and long putters so far in 2013, 21 is the highest number of players in a PGA Tour field to use a belly or long putter in competition. That number happened twice, at the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Tampa Bay Championship. The fewest numbers were five in the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions and six players in both the WGC-Accenture Match Play and WGC-Cadillac Championship. On average, 13.6 players have used a belly or long putter in each tournament this year, but that doesn’t truly reflect the percentage of players using them as field sizes vary week to week. That number also doesn’t reflect how many of those players anchor the putter under the definition of the anchoring ban covered in Rule 14-1b, to become part of the Rules of Golf on Jan. 1, 2016. In announcing the anchoring ban on Tuesday, the USGA said no more than 2-3 percent of amateur players use an anchored stroke. So even though there has been quite the controversy over this ban on anchored putting it looks like the numbers reflect that it will effect only a small number of players on the PGA Tour and even a smaller number of amateur players.
I personally have tried the belly putter and I didn’t feel like it gave me any advantage over anyone else. This style of putting still requires a golfer to practice and achieve a certain level of proficiency to be good at it. You just don’t pick up a belly or long putter and become a great putter over night as we all know practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
By Mike Hallee