This week, PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem threw a new ingredient into the potboiler that is the anchored putter debate. Just when it looked like the USGA and the R&A had a clear path to send the broomstick the way of the dinosaur, the PGA Tour stated its opposition to such a ban in its formal comments to golf’s governing bodies.

Finchem is saying the position is based on three things: statistical evidence that long putters don’t make a difference, the unfairness to players on Tour who have grown up using an anchored putter of some sort and the fact that the amateur player would be harmed by a long putter ban. Since Finchem is an attorney, I’m sure that he would appreciate a critical examination of his evidence. Let’s begin.

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Finchem said in an interview there there was an “absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring.” In one sense, he is correct. Of the top 20 percent of the Tour’s leading putters, none used an anchored putter. But the point is not if the long putter makes a given player statistically better than everyone else; the only meaningful statistic is if it makes the player better than he or she might have been using an unanchored putter with a conventional stroke. While the Tour has no way to compile such statistics, you can bet the players and their putting gurus do. If the putter works by the numbers on the practice green, then you can bet they are going to bring it to the course.

Then there’s the issue of players growing up using the longer putters. Finchem points to players like Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, saying, “given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there is no overriding reason to go down that road.” It is true that the long putter has been around for a full generation, and until now there has not been a serious move to shut it down, partially because the broomstick was seen as the last resort for old men and basket cases to maintain a vestige of dignity on the greens. But in recent times, talented young players have begun to see obvious advantage of the method to make themselves competition-ready in a facet of the game that might have taken many more years for them to become proficient with the unanchored putter. Again, it doesn’t make them ready to compete for the title of best putter, but it does put them a position to challenge for best player. Also, if something is inherently wrong, is the “we’ve always done it this way” argument a valid one?

Lastly, Finchem noted the he and the 12-member Player Advisory Council (Jim Furyk, Ken Duke, Harrison Frazar, Carl Pettersson, Patrick Sheehan, Chris Stroud, Bo Van Pelt, Joe Ogilvie, Stewart Cink, Ben Crane, Jason Day, Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Scott Verplank and Mark Wilson) were concerned about the welfare of the amateur player. If the long putter is banned, they reason, then thousands of amateur players would be robbed of a tool that makes them more effective and the game is more fun. Here’s where it gets tricky for the Tour. On the one hand they say that we should keep the anchor because there is no evidence that it makes anybody any better, but on the other hand they assert that it definitely makes people better, so we should keep it. It can be one or the other, but it can’t be both.

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On the Tour, there are no bigger prizes than the major championships. A single win at one of these exalted contests bring generational wealth and a lifetime of honor to the victor. Again, one of the reasons that a rule change was slow walked in the past was that no one had won a major using an anchored putter. All that changed with Keegan Bradley’s victory at the 2011 PGA Championship. And just in case anyone thought it was a fluke, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used anchored putters to garner major wins in 2012. Bradley and Simpson are young bucks who broke through under the searing pressure of major championship competition. On the back nine on Sunday when you can’t feel your hands, isn’t it an advantage that when they are standing over a 6-footer for par, they don’t need to feel their hands? Isn’t it the same advantage for Els, a guy whose putter had recently stood between him and victory like a palace guard?

There are other rules that need to be addressed by the game’s guardians to ensure that the integrity of the game is maintained. I agree with Jack Nicklaus’ position that it is more important to address the physics of the golf ball than the anchored putter. I also have sympathy for Arnold Palmer’s view that there should be different equipment rules for amateurs playing in an unsanctioned environment purely for fun. But whether the anchored putter is kept or sent packing, golf must be honest and consistent about its reasons for doing so.

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  1. Lol so many comments regarding the long putters. It makes me laugh when those pure golfers make comments we should play golf as it was meant to be. I suggest that we then get rid of those high tech clubs and balls, get rid of the carts both driven and push, carry our own clubs, wear ties and shirts like they use to do, bring back the stymie rule. I always thought golf was to be enjoyed, as it is impossible to become perfect at this sport. I play golf for the pure enjoyment and friendship I have. Do want u want to those that make a living at this sport but as for me let me enjoy the sport as I do. My next question is when are we going to have drug tests for all amateurs?

  2. I agree with Stephanie Wei. It’s BS to assert that too many amateurs would be affected as 20% use it. We would have two out of our 400 members that use it and I’ve never payed someone in pennants that uses one. Secondly that’s why we have handicaps in amateurs; just because you don ‘t don’t do a particular skill doesn’t make it unfair. I struggle driving, my mate would be off 6 if he could chip and some blokes don’t put real coast. It’s called GOLF !

  3. Michael:

    Here are some additional facts

    Ernie Els used a long putter to win the 2012 Open Championship
    Adam Scott used a long putter to choke away victory.

    I guess you can say what was written does not ad up.

    I can tell you from personal experence that using a long putter has helped me control my hands. I have a putting green in my back yard and spend hours practicing with a ball on a 4ft x 3/4 inch piece of steel. I have to keep that ball on the steel before it falls into the hole. When giving yourself goals ie like I have to make 8 in a row, something in my body changes as I get closer to the goal.(maybe presure) The same goes when I practice with a short putter. I also see a difference when using a super stroke type grip that helps with hand issues. The facts are the facts, the best putters in the world use standard lenght putters. If in fact, Brandt Snedeker uses a pop stroke and is considered a very good putter then why did he 4 putt from 12ft a year or two ago to get a invite to the Masters. Maybe presure. I believe long putters have been around since 1936 with only a handfull of victories so whats the problem? Whats nice is to see is a 14year old, Guan Tialang from China winning an invite to the Masters using a long putter. The only thing I would change is the rule that allows using your longest club to make a drop, it should be the club you will use to make the shot.

  4. I still don´t get it why people get so bothered with the useage of long putters. Every player on tour have tried it and only 18% use it. That tells me that if even one of the 82% not using it would feel like it is an advantage, easier or “the easy way” that someone here called it they would instantly change to one. The tour players try everything just to improve their game 0,00001%.

    It doesn´t add upp to me, and dont´t come with “a golf stroke shouldnt be anchored because its not meant to be bla bla bla”

    I think this whole disscussion smells of bad publicity for the game of golf and just scares people away from the game. There is enough of rules as it is. ” This and that is banned, dont do that etc”….

  5. I don’t think this is about whether an anchored putter makes it easier or not (I certainly can’t work them out) – it’s more a question of whether the anchored stroke is really a golf shot or not. The argument is that the club should be held in the hands away from the body. For me, they do not represent the challenge of a golf stroke. This also has nothing to do with technology – 460cc drivers and SGI irons have brought more people into the game at the lower end, but they maintain the requirement for a semi-decent golf swing. They don’t turn people into great golfers because there is a trade off with what can be achieved with them.

    • Why even bother? I dont get it? Why even care if its not easier or an advantage?

      The thing is that you get almost the same stroke not anchoring the broomstick i.e holding it 0,2 inches away from the body.

      Like Adam Scott said, this “rule” doesnt change anything!

      • This so true! I just stood and held a long stick like a broom putter out in front of my chest and even without anchoring it at all the stroke would be the same. Thnx for sharing this. Although belly putters would be penalized by any new ruling, long broom style would not.

  6. In my estimate, this article is one of the most reasoned analyses on the PGA Tour decision. I want to play by the same rules as the professionals as a matter of personal integrity and challenge, but also as a matter of practicality where the USGA handicap is concerned. I think anchoring the putter is damn creative and works great for many, but inconsistent with the stroke rule. I will not do it, but I can understand why many do, especially if you have built great proficiency with such a stroke (or an anchored version of a stroke).

  7. Waiting 30 years and then banning it, I don’t really care one way or the other but how about showing some pro-activeness in your decisions. At this point I think you have let it alone and let the R&A and the rest of them figure it out, good job Finchman.

  8. Why do people continue to use other equipment as a comparison? Isn’t the article about anchoring the putter? Meaning using part of your body as assistance to stabilize your stroke. You can use a flag pole for all I care, but its not supposed to be attached to a third body part and used as a hinge. Why is that so hard to understand. Whether there has been a benefit or not, it’s the stroke that is the topic, not the tool used in a game that is challenging, and no matter what the outcome (“long putter hasn’t affected anything”, how do you or anyone else know until its gone?), having assistance as a hinge and not affecting outcome of gameplay just shows how much worse you would be without the stability of your chest or stomach.

  9. Im against long putters, thats where i sit.

    But what really annoys me is that you are allowed to use that club to get yourself out of trouble ie. with a drop.

    It’s a clear foot longer than a driver (the broom handle) and should not be allowed as the club you can use to get yourself a drop away from trouble.

    • no its not! A standard length driver is 48″ including head and 50″ is the maximum these days. So 4″ at max!

  10. kind of hard to post an article against finchem’s 3 reasons when your opening statements agree with each point.

  11. If it was an advantage most pros and amateurs would be using it…pure and simple. In these days of mincing words and mis-speaks why is it so hard to comprehend. I putt cross-handed, is that fair? What about cavity backs over pure blades, they never outlawed cavity back irons despite them being an advantage over blades…pure and simple. I think the long putter especially looks ridiculous and I have tried it and see no advantage. I know many people who have tried it and gave up on it. Some golfers like cord grips, others like plain rubber or synthetics. Why outlaw it, it is nothing more than some powerful people in golf choosing who can own…guns. The USGA, PGA and R&A are the govt telling us what we can and cannot shoot…pure and simple.

    • There’s valid arguments to be made about the advantages given by modern equipment, but this is to do with a fundamental change in the way a ‘stroke’ is made. I think that’s why it’s being highlighted ahead of any other issue. Things like different grips – either the rubber ones on your clubs or the way in which your hands are placed on the club – are relatively minor details in the grand scheme of things.

      • Colin, I respect your IMO purist arguments. But the game of golf is played with your whole body not just hands and arms. I see people who swing, although poorly, with there arms almost locked to their sides trying to hit a driver. It may be almost comical to witness but it is a golf stroke, ie an attempt to advance the ball to the hole. As an advanced player, yes this is not as we see it,PURE golf. There are thousands of players who will buy a purespin or whatever to advance their games. It has been this way since ancient times in Scotland.

        • Likewise, Charles. It’s good to have sensible debate on these things. You’re right about me being a bit of a purist, although I do use cavity back (albeit forged mizuno pure-looking ones) irons and I’m a sucker for an adjustable driver! I’m not sure where that leaves me in a debate about whats traditional in the game of golf!!

    • You are missing the point….every novel you right you speak of equipment. It’s the swing that’s the issue. So stop reiterating equipment references. I nor anyone cares how you hold your hands…so long as nothing is attached to any part of ur body other then ur hands. Did you read the title? Carry whatever you want, harnessing for extra stability is an advantage, and why doesn’t everyone do it? Same reason people play from tips. Playing at maximum difficulty is the game for some, not taking shortcuts to make easier

      • The point is that it there is an advantage or not! Who the fudge cares if someone anchors his putter or not!!??

        Go out and practice or do something useful instead of complaining and whining!

        I.e Mind your own bussines!

  12. My issue is with being able to use the long putter to gain an advantage when dropping 2 club lengths, surely you must use the club you intend to use for the shot after the drop. As far as putting goes, so what, we are In aperpetual state of
    Change in all areas of life, things change and develop, bottom line is you still need the talent to swing the club.

    • My putter is 48 inches and my driver including the head is 48 inches long. The longest putter ive ever seen is a 50 inch putter and the guy using it is almost 6 feet 5 inches. If im not misstaken you are not allowed to have a longer club than 50 inches.

      So a normal driver including clubhead is 48 and the maximum is 50, that gives 4 inches of extra droping space.

      Do you still think its unfair if I have a 50 inch driver and use it to drop?

  13. Calling anchoring “inherently wrong” begs the question.

    “Anchoring” has never been illegal – which is why we’re where we are. It’s hard to call something which has never been illegal “inherently wrong” …. that’s elevating your opinion to a status which isn’t justified. Your opinion is just that – “your opinion.”

    “Anchoring” wasn’t widely practiced until Orville Moody, et al. because, for anything other than putting, it’s impractical – it simply isn’t possible to generate the power required for the vast majority of golf shots if the butt of the club is anchored. And while someone could, perhaps, use anchoring to “solve” problems with chipping & pitching yips, a wedge of that length would be unusable for all the other shots for which we carry that club.

    You suggest that it provides players using the anchored stroke some sort of unfair advantage – “they’re better than they would be if they weren’t allowed to anchor.” With all due respect, we don’t know that. All we do know is that anchoring has allowed some players who were disasters via other methods to compete – Moody, Litzke, Langer being a few examples. We also know that a number of players have gone “long” and then, eventually, abandoned it and returned to more conventional methods – in other words, it doesn’t work for everyone.

    For players like Bradley, it’s all they know. And they’ve known it as “legal” for a long, long time.

    Absent demonstrable evidence that it is a superior way to putt – absent a stampede of golfers abandoning the conventional stroke for some sort of anchored stroke – all invoking Bradley & Webb Simpson & Adam Scott does is demonstrate that, for these guys, it works.