Op-ed: Banning the anchored stroke is bad for golf
By Ryan David
There has been speculation for over a year now, and we finally have some sort of confirmation. The USGA and the R&A have hinted they will ban the anchored stroke sometime “in the coming months.” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis presented the topic recently to the PGA Tour Policy board, to mixed reviews. While I’m sure the USGA understands it will have a fight on its hands from professionals, I’m not convinced they understand how a belly ban will hurt the game overall.Keegan Bradley spoke out recently, telling Golfweek,
“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour.”
Ernie Els, who won The Open Championship in 2012 with an anchored stroke (remember, Adam Scott lost the Open with a long putter) has famously been quoted as saying,
“As long as they’re legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”
Okay, fine. To me, Bradley doesn’t issue the statement as a protection of an advantage. He understands that as a professional an equipment change of that magnitude requires a major adjustment and really doesn’t equal the playing field. It’s obvious that in the world of golf, anchoring the putter is a divided and heated issue. It’s also an irresponsible and short-sighted move by the USGA and R&A to ban it.
In a nutshell, the mission of the USGA serves to preserve and foster growth of the game to all who love and respect it. No mention here of preserving integrity of Tour players or tour equipment. A ban on an anchored stroke would leave the casual/beginning golfer in the cold. In order for the game to grow, it must appeal to a wider audience. An anchored stroke helps derive enjoyment out of the game far sooner for a new golfer, increasing the likelihood of retention. We’re a passionate and driven community here at GolfWRX, so thinking about golfers at the margins can sometimes be difficult.
The USGA ‘Tee-it-Forward’ initiative was a step in the right direction to growing the game. By helping players understand the relative distances and advantages of playing a slightly shorter course, the USGA opened the game to a broader audience. To me, it just seems a little odd that one hand promotes a faster, simpler game while the other takes strides to make it more difficult for some. If I were a cynic, I’d imagine Mr. Davis sitting back and saying, “Play up guys, because your wedges are duller, your putter is shorter and you need all the help you can get.”
Understandably, It is a delicate balancing act to build an inclusive environment for new golfers and reign in Tour players from shooting the lights out. They’ve spent too much effort and time during these last few years focusing on pros and not building relationships with beginners and casual players.
The governing bodies need to take a step back and generate a holistic view of putter performance and regulate from there. In my hasty analysis, I could not find any rules regarding weight or MOI rating. Since most of the belly putters of note are mallet style, is it possible that the anchored stroke alone is not the entire driver of the advatange of a belly putter? Although a ban on anchoring seems a foregone conclusion at this point, I’d hope the USGA/R&A would take a deep breath, ignore the media frenzy and make the right decision for the future of the game we all love.