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Tour’s anchored putter explanation doesn’t add up

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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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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

73 Comments

73 Comments

  1. Rewp

    Mar 13, 2013 at 12:45 am

    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. Michael

    Mar 12, 2013 at 1:05 am

    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. Tom Hertwig

    Mar 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    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. So why care?

    Mar 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    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. Colin

    Mar 1, 2013 at 11:26 am

    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.

    • So why care?

      Mar 2, 2013 at 3:44 am

      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!

      • Charles W. Wright

        Mar 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

        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. TJ Cahill

    Mar 1, 2013 at 10:46 am

    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. David

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    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. The Hinge.....

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    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. Paul

    Feb 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    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.

    • Do your matchs!

      Feb 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

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

  10. peter cybulski

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I guess the pga tour , would vote for a bigger hole if given the chance.

    Ban em!

  11. m Bartolomeo

    Feb 28, 2013 at 8:09 am

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

  12. Leftyken

    Feb 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

    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.

    • Colin Gillbanks

      Feb 28, 2013 at 8:37 am

      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.

      • Charles W. Wright

        Feb 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

        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.

        • Colin gillbanks

          Feb 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm

          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!!

    • Really? 3 posts

      Feb 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      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

      • Long putter

        Feb 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm

        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!

  13. John Waring

    Feb 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    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.

    • Long putter

      Feb 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      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?

  14. Brad B

    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    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.

  15. reasonable human

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I think a lot of people are getting a bit confused and angry. The R&A and USGA have nothing against the technology of the putters or the length, only the actual act of anchoring the putter to your body, which essentially adds an element of stability to the swing. Older players and others with bad backs will still have all the remedial effects of the longer putter, but will still be making a pure stroke at the ball with only their hands as points of contact with the club. I have nothing against people who use long putters, and don’t think it takes anything away from the amount of skill it takes players like Bradley, Simpson and Els to win majors with them, but I think the PGA Tour throwing all it’s toys out the pram over it is a little ridiculous. They are not a ruling body, and should respect the ruling bodies decisions. Any comments they felt they needed to make to the R&A and USGA should have been made behind closed doors.

  16. Nicksmate

    Feb 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    At my club one person uses a belly putter, no-one uses a broom.

    I sometimes get the yips but hey, that’s golf it’s not supposed to be easy. They should have been banned years ago but better late than never.

  17. Charles W. Wright

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    If anything new like long anchored putters are to be deemed to be evil and banned. Why not go back 40 more years and ban metal woods and cavity back irons as they are definitely easier for most people to hit. We can all be stuck in the past with our little wooden clubs and Gutta-percha balls.

    • Colin gillbanks

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Charles,

      The club isn’t the issue, it’s the anchoring. Large headed drivers and cavity back irons undoubtedly make the game easier because do their forgiving nature, but they still need the skill of swinging the club in the correct manner to work for player. Anchoring a long putter is deemed to be in contravention of the rules and/or spirit of the game because it alters the way a stroke is made. Technology and its advancements are one thing, but a change to the very essence of the skills required to play the game are quite another.

      • Charles W. Wright

        Feb 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        And it took these self professed “guardians of the game” 40 years to come to this conclusion? If their argument was of merit it should have been addressed a VERY long time ago. Do we now rescind all wins that have occurred at all levels because these “guards” don’t like that they were won against what they believe to be the only WAY it should be. I have tried the belly putter and quit it very soon because there is very little feel in lag puts. But, I just feel these putters have been a part of the game too long to arbitrarily change now.

        • Colin Gillbanks

          Feb 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

          That’s a fair point. Why now? I don’t have an answer to that apart from it maybe having become more of an issue in that a lot more players are using it? I don’t think there’s an issue about rescinding wins as it was legal when players won using the anchored putter. To me, anchoring a stroke is not part of the game of golf and should never have been allowed in the first place.

          • Leftyken and Charles

            Feb 28, 2013 at 10:26 pm

            What will it take for you guys to understand its a hinged stroke situation and NOT equipment? Go ahead fire back with more useless political comparisons of guns, or crossing your legs….get it through ur head, not the gun, it’s how it’s being used.

      • Leftyken

        Feb 28, 2013 at 7:45 am

        What about all the different putting grips people use. The “claw” has won several times and people putt crosshanded. The equipment can be regulated but how someone uses it to get the job done is really irrelevant. What about the person who may be a baby now coming up with a swing that allows him to shoot 62 literally everytime he tees it up. The swing is as separate as fingerprints despite people saying the pros swing the same. It is a slippery slope and if the gray area is this large maybe it should not be messed with.

    • joemomma

      Feb 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      thank you you are the only one with any sense on this page. its just a bunch of salty people because they need something to complain about for tour players winning.

      • Colin Gillbanks

        Feb 28, 2013 at 6:33 am

        Steady on Joe! It’s all about opinions, dude. Most of the opinions I’ve read on here are well thought out and valid (for both sides of the argument).

  18. John B

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Since the R&A and the USGA have decided to ban something that has been approved and used for over 40 years, I am wondering what they will ban 40 years from now that has just come along.

  19. Travis

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Just my 2 cents i have no dog in this fight putt how you want
    I’m pretty sure Sam Snead probably has a comment or two about against allowing anchor putting to stand.
    The entire case brought against Snead and his method of putting to prevent his yips was that it went against the tradition of the game and the spirit in which it was founded…. With that said
    I am not making a case for or against
    But I know if a legal matter would come about from this subject
    Due to te reasons they gave for banning croquet style putting they would more than likely rule to ban anchoring

    • Jason

      Mar 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Is the long wand really that different from the oversize mallet that reduces the impact of off center hits, oversize drivers and irons, or hybrids? All of these were designed to make the game easier and you all use them without an inkling of guilt. Purists…..i think not

  20. Chris

    Feb 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Instead of the long short putter issue, how about limiting the ball distance

  21. Charlie

    Feb 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I’ve never had the yips, but have and use a belly putter. After the proposed rule from USGA I switched to use that putter as it is used by Matt Kuchar. Now it works better for me than before. I agree with USGA.

  22. illegal

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Question if its not a competitive advantage, do you know anybody with long putters, got the yips then switched back to a short putter?

  23. Dear John

    Feb 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Would the 18% even be on tour if they had to put with a non-anchored putter?

    • Leftyken

      Feb 28, 2013 at 7:53 am

      How many would be on tour if they had to use the clubs from the 70’s. Does that make them a better more skilled golfer? Why don’t we let the men and women play together, the women play at 6000 yards the men at 7000 yards. Tiger is so good, he should only get 12 clubs. There is too much intrusion in people’s lives as it is. The long putter has been around too long to ban now.

  24. Stefan on tour if........

    Feb 26, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Exactly, you can’t put with a short putter, so you are taking advantage of a long putter to better your game. Get it? And you said you even have trouble with that. How about practice with a short putter like the other 80%, and we will see you on tour or would that take too much effort? Or just continue to take the easy way out. What’s fun about taking the easy route? I prefer the challenge, but as a scratch golfer youre obviously spending time on other parts of the game while others are constantly pushing their skills on the green putting with there hands and dealing with yips. You’re dealing with lack of putting skill whatever the weapon of choice. I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO SEE THE RESULTS IF IT WERE BANNED AS IT HAS ” NO EFFECT ON THE GAME” that’s a joke.

  25. Winmac

    Feb 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Could be a good move as anchored putter could be the reason that hindered players like Keegan Bradley to putt better? Maybe after using normal lenght putters, he’d be as good as Snedeker?

  26. Dave

    Feb 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    You, like Finchem and the PGA, are using only the facts that serve your point.

    If you are going to say that Ernie Els’ anchored putter helped him win the British when the pressure was on, then you have to also discuss Adam Scott’s meltdown on the greens also using an anchored putter.

    Not saying I disagree with you – there are very strong arguments to be made on both sides – and honestly, I really don’t care which way they go. It’s tough however to say that the “integrity of the game” is threatened by anchored putters, but having no problem with 460cc drivers, cavity back iron, hybrids in general and shafts made out of space age material… you almost have to limit everything if you want to limit the anchored putter… and that isn’t going to happen.

  27. Stefan

    Feb 26, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I have used a long putter for over 12 years now (I’m 23 now). The argument that a long putter eliminates your nerves just isn’t true. I have a serious case of the yips and still have it regardless of the situation I’m in. I switched from a belly putter because I got the yips with it and am now using a broomstick.

    What people don’t understand is that just because my broomstick helps me eliminate the yips it wont stop me from hitting a bad stroke.

    I get so angry with people using the argument that they should ban it because “its much easier”… well its not! I would really like to putt with a short putter but i just cant. I’m a scratch golfer and loose all my shots on the green. If a had all my friends putting i would be on the tour as we speak.

    I really think people should mind their own business instead of complaining on what others do! Play and have fun and try to be the best golfer you can be!

  28. Brian Utley

    Feb 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    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?

    Well, it wasn’t the same advantage for Adam Scott on that same Sunday afternoon.

  29. M

    Feb 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Mike is asking the wrong question. It is the USGA’s explanation for the proposed ban that does not add up. The argument that a putt is supposed to be made with 2 hands swinging freely away from the body is not anywhere in the current rules (hence the need to make up a new rule) but also is not consistent with the long tradition of numerous styles of putting. Anchoring is only one style. Kuchar’s style (anchored to the forearm) although still legal is not swinging with 2 hands freely from the body. Langer’s old style (also anchored to forearm albeitly with different hand position is not either. Even under the proposed rule, a broom style stroke is still legal as long as the top hand is moved 1 inch away from the body–but even with that move it is still not 2 hands swinging freely. The fact is many styles of putting do not involve 2 hands swinging freely away from the body. In reality, the proposed rule is arbitrary and is a result of a change in leadership, and agenda, at the USGA. The day before Mike Davis arrived the anchored stroke was legal and essentially the day after it is proposed as illegal. The USGA as an entity hasn’t changed, only the agenda of a new leader has changed and that is completely arbitrary. I further think Michael Williams’ definition of competitive advantage (if something makes ME play better versus myself) is silly. It would makes literally any improvement by one player versus himself illegal whether a lesson, new equipment, etc. Competitive advantage is something one player would have over another, which anchored putting does not provide (there is no statistical evidence it does) and furthermore the fact that the vast majority of amatuer and pros do not use this style underscores this. I further take issue with the conclusory statement that anchoring is an advantage is majors or pressure situations. Putting for most players is about feel, and anchoring eliminates one major part of the feel. For most players, the loss of feel resulting from anchoring is a disadvantage. For those who anchor, the loss of feel is a major detriment and one that they endeavor to compensate for but can never really ever duplicate the feel of a so-called “traditional” stroke. It is a trade-off, and one that is frankly a net detriment to one who anchors. The loss of feel in my opinion makes anchoring a competitive disadvantage but, again, it is just one form of putting and players should be free to chose the style that they feel best allows them to play and enjoy the game. The USGA has it wrong on this issue and I trust that the agenda of the new leadership takes a back seat to common sense and empirical data (of which, again, there is none). We only have anecdotal, conclusory statements like those offered by Michael Williams which is not a basis to make, or support, a rule change.

    • Charles W. Wright

      Feb 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Well said. It is an agenda issue.

  30. Dane

    Feb 26, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Long or belly putters are a style of putting, just as cross handed, the claw, split hand, ect. Makes sense to some but not others. If they are banned cavity backs should be banned as well.

  31. Tom Otto

    Feb 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I think that the anchored putter has really brought all the importance of practicing off of putting. Last year, all but one major winner used an anchored putter and all of them were long hitters. It gives children the idea if you can jut hit the ball a country mile and be an average putter, you can make it on the tour. I don’t think anybody really “grew up” with the anchored putter because every player had started with a regular putter when they were young. The anchored putter just makes the guys who couldn’t putt before have an advantage with being able to save strokes on the green without practicing like all the other guys.

    • Jay

      Feb 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Kind of like the 460cc driver gives an advantagfe to the guy who wasn’t a great ball striker and didn’t want to practice to become one. He needed the extra distance/forgiveness the new drives provide so he took the shortcut?

  32. B

    Feb 26, 2013 at 4:17 am

    Who cares there are that many other facets of golf that provide distinct advantages eg ball, new irons, new drivers, were do you start. If you want to use a long putter use it, if you don’t like them don’t use one. I’d rather see them stop caddies planting themselves behind the player and helping them line up.

  33. T

    Feb 26, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Curious if Tom Watson used an anchored putter on the 18th hole of 2009 British Open, would he be holding the claret jug?

  34. G

    Feb 26, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Anchor putter users VS Traditionals: FIGHT!

    lol

  35. Harold

    Feb 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I would say that anchored putters allow you to practice putting for a longer period of time. I think that would be more performance enhancing than deer antler spray. I think the powers that be let it go too long now, (no pun intended) although I wish they would ban them. If they aren’t an advantage then people shouldn’t have a problem changing back to unanchored methods.
    I also don’t think using a line on the ball to line up a putt should be allowed either but all this is just my opinion.

  36. Andrew

    Feb 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    There is no reason to ban long putting. There is no evidence saying the game was intended to be played one way and not another. Had it been a problem it should have been said when it started. You can not say now that long putting is illegal because you have allowed to to happen. The best example is the prohibition of alcohol. They tried to stop it and the people didn’t care. Once you let in you can’t just take it out. Anyone who is golf a “purist” should understand the only thing that makes golf pure is the feeling of contact and getting the ball in the hole. I am sure you have all heard this a thousand times before “there are no pictures on the scorecard, only numbers.” “It doesn’t matter how but how many.” I personally could care less as long as the person enjoys the game pro or not but to take it out now is outrageous.

  37. Svensson

    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    What they are saying is pretty much this then;

    A. There is NO competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring on the Tour.

    – but –

    B. There is SOME competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring if you are an amateur.

    And of course you can feel your hands on Sunday. Don’t be ridiculous.

    • David Johns

      Feb 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Actually, what they are saying is that Anchored Putting does not make putting significantly easier (if at all) than regular putting in general.

      It is easier for some player so they choose to use it. It is also easier to use a regular putting stroke for some players, so they choose to use that.

      If we suddenly forced all players to used an anchored putting stroke there would be a ton of very good putters that would suddenly be only average and may never get very good again.

      “Different strokes for different folks” has never been more appropriate.

      It is kind of akin to a fade being easier for some players and a draw being easier for others.

      Or some players prefer blades and some prefer cavity backs…

      Unless the anchored putter is giving players an unfair ADVANTAGE there is really no compelling reason to make them illegal to use.

      DaveJ

  38. Kyle

    Feb 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Well reasoned. I disagree, but I understand your argument and think it’s a reasonable one.

    One thing I would say, however, is that the Tour’s stance that there is no statistical evidence of advantage on the one hand, and that the long putter should be preserved to keep amateurs in the game on the other hand, is not an inherently inconsistent position.

    The fact that, statistically, the anchored putter seems to make no difference as compared to the traditional putter, does not mean that amateurs don’t enjoy or prefer it, or even find it necessary. A thing can be statistically insignificant on the one hand, but still important or necessary to someone on the other.

    Thus, a close analysis of that part of the issue reveals it’s not really as tricky as it may seem.

    • CallawayLefty

      Feb 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Yeah, said even stronger, statistics citing that long putters do nothing for PGA Tour Pros does not necessarily mean that the statistics would show they do nothing for amateurs. At least in this lawyer’s mind, it’s a pretty big logical gap in your argument. I think we can all agree that the Alien wedge did nothing for the pros, but…well…you get my point.

  39. HawaiiDawg

    Feb 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Great article…agree 100%. p.s. You spelled the Bear’s name wrong. Yikes!

  40. t

    Feb 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve been playing this game for 30 years and every year I lose more and more respect for the USGA and the PGA Tour. Golf was meant to be played with 2 hands holding the club, pure and simple. The anchor putter gives a clear advantage to players who could not putt otherwise, and its quickly now becoming the standard. If it wasn’t a clear advantage, the players wouldn’t be fighting it. I would never resort to such lengths to putt better. That’s just me; I like to consider myself a golf purist. If I have the yips, I have the yips. But that won’t stop me from playing. It is what it is.

    • John

      Feb 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      If the long putter is clearly an advantage, why when large sums of money are involved do only 15-18% of pros use currently use them?

      • Dear John

        Feb 26, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        Would the 18% even be there using a traditional stroke?

        • AndyE3

          Feb 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

          Would 82% be there if they were forced to use and anchored putter?

    • Mike

      Feb 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Well T if you have been playing 30 years then i guess your bag is made up of Persimmon woods and old blade irons.. i doubt that is the case as I’m sure your’re using 460 driver and the latest forgiving irons. Guess what the world has changed get use to it. Belly/Long putters are new world order like computers,twitter,face book and internet golf WEB forums…..

      • Per

        Feb 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm

        Tomorrows new world order might be short putters?

      • Joseph

        Feb 27, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        Excellent point Mike! as for the others: wasn’t golf truly meant to be played with Hickory shafts and featheries? I think the writer is wrong, I’ll bet there’s a few pro’s out there who putt better with the long putter but would never use it. I’m sure too that these protesters don’t ride carts on their home courses either.

    • Golfzalo

      Feb 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Totally agree with you! I have yips, so I use pencil putting grip…yips gone, but anchoring the putter to my body is a shortcut for people who doesn’t want to work harder to put well under pressure.

    • bob

      Feb 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      So has the cross hand grip!!!

    • Reppoc

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      There is no evidence or statistics that prove it is an advantage! How can that be more clear? And the dumbest arguement of all is the “game that is meant to be played with two hands… Blah blah blah!!! I’ve played with guys with one arm! One leg! It is a game to be “played” and enjoyed! If you feel anchoring a putter helps you putt.., ok! Enjoy! Get out and play! And what about seniors with bad back? The long putter allows them so much relief!!
      Ok.. Golf was a game to be played by walking… With wooden clubs… And feather balls! Get back to that and I will listen to a. silly anchored putter arguement!

    • dcjazzman

      Feb 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Too bad some guys “grew up” with an ILLEGAL putter. I strongly disagree with allowing pros to use them in tournments. Personally, I don’t care what amateurs use, but the pros should tow the line. If they’re too shaky to use a regular puttet, then they don’t deserve to be on the PGA and senior tours in my view.

    • Jack Nash

      Feb 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Well said t. Couldn’t agree more.

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Equipment

Beyond limits: Carbon bending and the future of shaft manufacturing

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My name is James, and I am an equipment junkie. Like many of you, I am also a (mediocre) golfer struggling to take my golf game to the next level. But since I’m not so keen on hitting the range or the gym, I’m always searching for the next big breakthrough to help me avoid excessive practice and golf lessons.

TLDR: I am back to report that I may have found the ultimate breakthrough involving how golf shafts are manufactured. It will sound mind-boggling and counter-intuitive, but the new technology involves controlling a shaft’s variables of weight, flex (CPM), and torsional strength (torque) all independently of one another. As if this alone doesn’t sound far-fetched enough, it also purports to control the subjective aspect of how stiff the shaft feels without affecting the other variables.

To the best of my knowledge, I never knew any of these were possible, but seeing (and feeling) is believing, though I’m still reeling from my recent experience. Moreover, I dare predict that the sheer novelty of this discovery has the potential to redefine the golf shaft industry as we know it.

Also, the article is long. You’ve been warned.

In A League Of Their Own

Over the years, I have reported on several golf innovations and technologies that made golfers sit up and take notice. Of those finds, let me briefly recap two products that especially stood out before I unveil my most recent discovery further below.

Starting at number three, I present the now-famous Autoflex shaft by Dumina. Introduced in early 2020 during the COVID epidemic, the small Korean company claimed that their shafts didn’t use any flex designations and are to be selected solely based on a golfer’s swing speed. Against conventional wisdom, the company claimed that a super flexible, ultralight shaft can improve distance and accuracy for golfers of all swing speeds. The AF shaft, with its mysterious Korea Hidden Technology (KHT), sounded too good to be true, but more often than not, golfers who braved the steep price and the hot pink color agreed that the shaft seemed legitimate. Many also credit it with creating a whole new category of soft and hyper-flexible performance shafts.

Next in the number two spot is the groundbreaking FreeFlex shaft from SJ Golf Lab, also out of Korea. When the FF shafts surfaced in early 2023, I first thought they were a slightly improved version of the Autoflex. At weights and flex even softer than the AF, the shafts also improved distance and accuracy at a lower price point than their counterparts.

Upon delving further, FreeFlex Technology (FFT) was far more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Against the norm, the inventor of FFT claimed that a shaft’s weight, flex (CPM), and torque are NOT relative to each other and that each variable can be controlled separately. According to SJ Lab, a lightweight, flexible shaft with a strong torque was possible, and vice-versa. The incredulous claim went largely unnoticed at the time, but the folks at SJ Lab recently decided to prove their technology by introducing the ultimate unicorn of a shaft.

Aptly named ‘Hammer Throw’ the rubber-like shaft featured a conventional shaft’s weight of 62g yet measured only 140 CPM to be incredibly soft and flexible. To top it off, it also featured a strong 3.5 torque similar to an S-flex shaft, all unlikely numbers that have never been combined in a single shaft before. The Hammer Throw proved to be a wonder shaft for slower swingers, helping to increase club head speed, distance, and even accuracy.

Ultimately, SJ Lab redefined the concept of ‘shaft customization’ by proving that a shaft’s WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled independently to any degree.

Featuring SJ Golf’s FFT technology, the Hammer Throw and FF38 also caught the attention of many WLD athletes with swing speeds over 150mph.

Mind-Bending Revelation

The AF and FF shafts are indeed quite amazing, but what I’m about to share with you may be an even bigger discovery than both of them combined.

It was a Thursday afternoon in October when I arrived at SJ Golf Lab. I had just finished a round of golf that morning and felt flush after having bested my buddies on a tough track. I was to cover the story of a new line of putter shafts (based on the Chaos Theory in physics, no less) and was looking forward to seeing if it could help my putting.

I was making small talk with Dr. Choi, the inventor & CEO of SJ Golf Lab, when a courier arrived to hand him a sealed envelope. Inside was a patent certificate for a new golf shaft manufacturing process, which was to be featured in SJ Lab’s latest MetaFlex series of shafts.

“Oh, that sounds interesting” I said politely. “Is it like FreeFlex technology?”

What came next was a barrage of information so contradictory and yet so transformative in its revelation that I forgot all about the putter shafts.

Entering The Realm Of The Senses

Carbon Bending Technology (CBT) is the latest brainchild of Dr. Choi, the inventor of FreeFlex shafts. As incredulous as his FFT may seem, his new CBT technology takes it even further by stating that a fourth variable, the shaft’s level of firmness, can also be controlled independently of the other variables.

“CBT technology involves bending or wrapping carbon in a certain way to control how stiff a shaft feels, independently of weight, flex, and torque.” – Dr. Seung-jin Choi, inventor of CBT Technology 

Take a moment to let that sink in. Not only is he saying that the objective values of WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled in any manner desired, but he can also control the subjective aspect of how firm a
shaft feels.

If CBT technology is legitimately possible, the implications of his discovery are immense and may well change the way golf shafts are made. Needless to say, such a spectacular assertion begs the question, “How can such an improbable idea be possible?”

As I struggled to comprehend what I just heard, Dr. Choi handed me a shaft and asked me to try and bend it. Grabbing it at both ends, the shaft felt light and soft, and I was able to bend and flex it easily. I was then given another shaft and asked to do the same. The new shaft felt much firmer from the get-go, similar to what I’d expect from a typical S-flex shaft. When I said that the second shaft felt much stronger than the first, I was in for a rude awakening.

“They’re the same shafts” Dr. Choi said. “The only difference is that the second one was treated with the CBT process. Other than that, both are practically the same in CPM and torque.”

“What do you mean these are the same shafts? This one is definitely stiffer.” My eyebrow arched in puzzlement at such a blatant contradiction.

After all, I was holding both shafts in my hands, and no one in the world was going to convince me that these two had the same CPM and TQ measurements.

The skepticism in my voice must’ve been obvious as I was led to a measuring device. I wish I could’ve seen the look on my face at that exact moment when my eyes confirmed both shafts to have the same CPM and torque.

Two same-looking shafts measured similarly in CPM and torque, despite one feeling much stiffer.

Goosebumps broke out on my arms, and my brain felt numb. Stunned, I took turns grabbing each shaft by the ends and bent them over and over again. There was absolutely no doubt that one was stiffer than the other. It wasn’t even close. Yet, if the numbers don’t lie, how was I to reconcile the two empirical facts at odds with each other before my very eyes?

Seeing Is Believing… Or Is It?

After repeated measurements to ensure I wasn’t dyslexic, I regained enough sense to sit down with Dr. Choi to hear more about the sorcery of carbon bending.

ME: How does CBT differ from your earlier FFT technology?

CHOI: CBT came as a result of golfers loving our FreeFlex shafts with the FFT technology but wanting even more. The FFT allows us to control the weight, flex, and torque independently. We used this discovery to design a new breed of shafts that help all levels of golfers increase club head speed and distance. But some of the stronger, faster-speed golfers were eventually turned off from it, as they couldn’t get accustomed to the soft feel and flex. The fear of spraying the ball all over the course was just too much.

To solve this issue, I looked at many factors that led golfers to describe whether a shaft is soft or stiff. Similar to FFT, I soon discovered that a shaft’s stiffness is not relative to its CPM value. By reinforcing a shaft through a special process I call carbon-bending, it can be made to feel as stiff as I wish without changing the original CPM or torque.

ME: (blank stare)

CHOI: Did that answer the question?

ME: Uhh… no? What do you mean the CPM doesn’t change? If the shaft became stiffer, it means the CPM value must have increased, doesn’t it? How we perceive stiffness is subjective, so we measure the CPM value objectively with a machine. That way, we can compare the CPM values of different shafts to see which one is stiffer with the higher number.

CHOI: Normally yes, but like I said, how stiff the shaft feels does not have to correlate with the CPM. They are independently controllable. As I just showed you with the two shafts earlier, both measured at the same CPM and torque. It was only when I applied the CBT method to one of them that it became stiffer than before, as you have seen for yourself.

ME: Yeah, I’m still not sure how that is, feeling firm in my hands but the machine reading it as soft. Is this like the cat in Schrodinger’s box, where the cat is both alive and dead at the same time? This shaft is also both soft and firm simultaneously?

CHOI: Not quite. But how about this? What if the CPM measurement we currently use to gauge and compare stiffness between shafts is not the only method? What if there were other ways that we haven’t considered to control the feeling of firmness?

ME: So you’re saying you discovered a new way to objectively measure how we feel or perceive stiffness?

CHOI: I think it’s better to say that I realized that a shaft’s CPM and stiffness can be independent of each other, whereas before, we thought they were directly relative. It led to look for other ways to make the shaft firmer, which is what I did. In the process, it also made me think, what else are we missing? Maybe we’ve been limiting ourselves in believing there’s nothing new left to discover.

Shaft Manufacturing 101

According to Dr. Choi, the method of manufacturing carbon shafts has remained largely unchanged since 1979, when Taylormade first introduced the first graphite shaft that offered many advantages over conventional steel shafts. Since then, various new materials and technologies have made the shafts lighter and stronger, but the basic shaft-making process remains the same.

The making of a modern golf shaft consists of wrapping layers of prepreg (treated carbon fiber) sheets around a steel shaft (mandrel). As more layers are applied, the shaft becomes progressively thicker and heavier (WT), which makes the flex (CPM) stiffer and increases the torsional (TQ)
strength.

The characteristics of a shaft depend on the amount of material and how each layer is oriented on the mandrel. How this is done varies among OEMs.

The current method and its proportional relationship between WT, CPM, and TQ is widely accepted. However, it also presents a big challenge for shaft-makers, whose main goal is to make shafts that improve distance with more accuracy. This is because generating more club speed for more distance necessitates a light and flexible shaft; while improving shot accuracy requires the shaft to be firm in both flex and torsional strength.

To balance the trade-off as best they could, OEMs have continually researched new materials and higher-quality carbon, along with their own, often secret, ways of weaving and arranging the carbon prepreg. A good example to illustrate shaft improvement in this manner is the lighter 50-gram range of X-flex shafts, which were a rarity only a few years ago.

At least for now, 5X shafts seem to be the pinnacle of conventional shafts that can be made with the existing process.

Shaft Manufacturing 2.0

In physics, Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration (F=MA). The same can be applied to golf at impact, but since a golf club is designed to be in motion, its dynamic energy is calculated as Impulse=MAT, where T is the time the ball stays in contact with the club face.

Dr. Choi explained that increasing any of the three factors would transfer more energy to the ball (I).

In other words, by making the club head heavier (M), faster (A), and getting the ball to remain in contact with the clubface longer (T), the distance will increase as a result.

Now that we can get faster club head speed (FF shafts), how can the shaft be made to feel stiff while retaining a longer distance? The solution was surprisingly simple, as most discoveries tend to be at first.

“Imagine wearing a pair of skin-tight nylon stockings,” Dr. Choi said. “It’s tight, but you can still move and bend your knees easily.” Truth be told, I’d never worn stockings before, but I nodded to see where it would lead.

“If you were to put on one more, your legs will feel stiff, and with yet another, it’ll now be very difficult to even bend your knees,” he was building up towards a big reveal. “But no matter how stiff your legs now feel with the layers of stockings, you can still rotate them.” Come again?

“When you try to sit down, the legs will stick straight out like they’re in a cast, right? But you’d still be able to twist or rotate your leg [left and right] because the stockings are not exerting force in that direction.”

Dazed at the anticlimactic turn, I tried to recall the last time I had a cast but he plowed on. “The original characteristics of your legs don’t change because of the stockings. They’re still your legs, which are bendy and flexible.”

I may have missed a whole lot there, but loosely translated, CBT technology is like adding tight pairs of stockings to make a shaft feel firmer, but won’t change what the original shaft was in terms of
torque or CPM.

Helical Carbon Armour

Carbon bending involves a new step in the shaft manufacturing process, where a thin strip of carbon is helically wrapped tightly around the shaft to increase stiffness. This new sheath of armor will firm up the feel of the shaft but will not affect the CPM or torque. In addition, Dr. Choi’s in-depth research further showed that the width of the strip band and the spacing between the helical spirals all played a part in changing the characteristics of the shaft in minute ways.

Each shaft has been treated with CBT and using different carbon weave, band width, materials and alignment to display a unique characteristics that can be tailored to a golfer’s swing

The truly mind-blowing prospect of CBT, however, is its ability to create an endless number of unique shafts with specific performance characteristics. For example, the number of new shaft possibilities can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands, depending on various factors, including but not limited to the width and thickness of the band, the spacing and orientation of the helical spiral, the weave pattern of the band fabric, and each of the different materials that all of these factors can be applied to.

“Can you imagine a PGA tour pro being able to dial in a golf shaft to squeeze 99.9% of the performance potential from their favorite shaft, without giving up anything they prefer in WT, CPM, TQ, and now FEEL?” – SJ Golf Lab 2023 

If It Looks And Barks Like A Dog?

Several days later, I returned to SJ Lab to test the new MetaFlex CBT shafts. The lineup consisted of three driver shafts of 5H, 6H, 6.5M, and iron ix90 shafts (H for high kick, M for mid-kick). Again, the MF series is designed for faster-speed golfers who swing at least 100mph to well over 120mph. I purposely asked not to see the shaft specs beforehand, as I wanted to remain neutral in determining how the new shafts felt and performed.

Waggling the 5H shaft first, it felt similar in weight and flex to a typical R-shaft. I usually average a smooth swing of about 95 mph with my FF38, but the 5H shaft instinctively made me try to swing harder to compensate for the firmer feel. The good drives launched high and carried as far, with spin between 1900~2000 rpm. As I warmed up, I was hitting it quite well, despite swinging a bit harder than usual.

I had grown accustomed to swinging smoothly and in tempo with FF shafts, so it felt good to swing hard again and not worry about the head catching up. The overall distance was comparable with my own driver at 240~250 yards, so I guessed the 5H specs to be about 220 CPM and close to 4.0 torque. On the downswing, the shaft reminded me of the many 5S shafts I had been using before being turned onto softer shafts. I imagined I could play it well, but struggle to keep it straight on the back nine when I gradually get tired.

Next, the 6H shaft felt like a conventional 5S on the waggle, but much stiffer like a 5X shaft on the actual downswing. I guessed it to be about 230~240 CPM and 3.5 in torque, as I was only able to turn the club head over about one-third of the time. I got a couple out to 240 yards but the rest of the shots varied from a fade bordering on a slice interspersed with low pulls. I felt the shaft demanded more speed for it to show its potential, and my slower speed wasn’t making it sing as it should.

Lastly, the MetaFlex 6.5M told me right away that it was out of my league. The waggle reminded me of a Ventus or a Tensei shaft, and the actual swing was even stiffer and closer to a 6X shaft. As expected, my shots were mostly pushed dead right, as I couldn’t effectively load the shaft with speed.

When I tried to force the head to turn over, I’d overcompensate to flip the wrist and pull it low left. The few that managed to land on the fairway barely traveled 210 yards with a noticeable decrease in ball speed. I can usually muster enough muscle to make a typical stiff shaft work over nine holes at least, but the 6.5M felt like an iron rod.

Overall, MF shafts’ waggles felt similar to conventional aftermarket shafts and felt even firmer during the actual swing.

I was now ready to see the actual spec measurements of the three shafts.

I could never have imagined such numbers corresponding to the firmness I experienced with MetaFlex shafts.

“There’s no way these numbers are the actual specs,” I protested. “These are softer than my FF38, so how…?” Hearing my voice hit a high pitch, I quickly closed my mouth. I already knew to expect something different, but this? Trying to reconcile the stiffness with such low numbers was just as difficult as it was the first time I encountered this phenomenon.

For lack of a better comparison, imagine picking up a cute kitten to hear it purr, only to be shocked at hearing it bark like a big angry pitbull with its tail stepped on. Does this mean I can no longer use phrases like “seeing is believing,” What will happen to “if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog?”

More importantly, what does this mean for the future of golf shafts?

Implications For The Future

Deep down, I believe every golfer wants to increase their driver distance. It doesn’t matter if you average 150 yards or 300 yards. As golfers, the need to hit it farther is in our DNA.

Since discovering that longer, easier distance (and accuracy to boot) is possible with the advent of AF shafts, I’ve never looked back. When FreeFlex shafts debuted earlier this year, I switched all my shafts throughout the bag and couldn’t be happier. I’ve received dozens of similar emails from golfers who read about my experiences and took the plunge, mostly to their pleasant surprise.

As amazing as the shafts are, some scoffed at the absence of such shafts on professional tours. If they’re so good, why aren’t they used more? After all, a distance gain of 10 yards on drives can mean as much as 5-10 percent closer to the pin on approach shots for shorter putts, which can translate to millions of dollars in winnings. In fact, dozens of pros from all major tours have tried them, some openly and some in secret.

As a recreational golfer, I can live with an occasional OB if it means consistently out-driving my friends. But an elite tour pro for whom a single stroke may be worth millions? Not a chance. Even the best can become a psychological wreck if the shaft flexed more than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Especially on the back nine of a major on Sunday afternoon.

But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose there exists a shaft that truly offers longer distance and accuracy of the soft FF shaft with the reassuring feel and playability of a stiff shaft. Better yet, what if your favorite shaft can be readjusted to fit all of your needs for maximum performance output and feel preferences? I’d bet my last Pro V1s that elite professional golfers will stop at nothing to have them tested and optimized to benefit each of their own swing metrics and performance. It’s in their DNA.

Dr. Choi also mentioned that he is nearing completion of his state-of-the-art swing and shaft diagnostic system, which can prescribe precisely the type of shaft (weight, flex, torque, feel, kick, kitchen sink?) needed for a player. And he builds it to that specification. Customization to the fullest.

As the company’s name implies, that is the ultimate goal of SJ Golf Lab and Dr. Choi, who hopes his shafts will come as a “Special Joy” for each and every golfer.

All in all, CBT certainly felt to me like the next evolutionary step in golf shaft technology.

So, what do you think? Can we trust the accuracy of the statements made by SJ Golf Lab? I would love to hear from other golfers and knowledgeable shaftoids in the industry, and what it can mean going forward.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The science of spin

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Over my 30-plus years writing about equipment and designing wedges, I must have been asked thousands of times: “How do I get more spin with my wedge shots?” That seems like such a simple question, but the answer is as far from simple as you can get. So, today I’m going to try to break down the science of spin into its separate components.

The amount of spin imparted to the golf ball in any wedge shot will be affected by three basic things:

  1. The ball you play
  2. Your personal swing skills
  3. The specific wedges you play.

Let’s look at each of them.

The Ball

One very simple way to improve the spin you get with your wedge shots is to play a premium ball with a soft cover. The harder and usually less expensive balls typically have a firmer core and a cover that is more durable but doesn’t allow as much spin. You should experiment with various balls to see which gives you the optimum combination of distance and spin.

Your skills

We all know those golfers who seem to spin the ball better than others. That’s because they have honed their skills to make an accelerating, pure strike to the ball most of the time, and to make contact very low on the clubhead – elite players wear out a dime-sized spot on their wedges that is center-face and between the 2nd and 5th grooves. My bet is your wear pattern is more the size of a quarter or even half dollar and centered several grooves higher. You’ll see later why that is so important.

Anyone can learn to be a better wedge player by engaging a golf professional and spending lots more time practicing your wedge shots. I highly recommend both, but also realize that spin is greatly affected by swing speed as well. A strong player who can hit a gap wedge 120 yards is likely to generate much more spin than an equally skilled player who hits gap wedge only 90 yards.

Now we get to the fun part – how the specific wedges you are playing will affect the amount of spin you can impart to any given shot.

The wedges

Grooves

Very simply, if you are playing a wedge that you’ve had for years, the grooves are likely well past worn out and are costing you valuable RPMs on every wedge shot. That said, no wedge brand has any measurable competitive advantage over another when it comes to groove technology. The USGA has not changed the rules on grooves in over a decade, and every premium brand of wedges is utilizing the best CNC-milling techniques to push those regulations to the limit. There’s just no story here. And my robotic testing indicates the total absence of grooves only reduces spin by 15-17 percent on a dry ball.

The Shaft

Yes, wedge shafts are that important. You should have shafts in your wedges that closely match the shafts in your irons in weight, material, and flex. This is particularly important if you have evolved to lighter and softer iron shafts. The exception to that is if you play X-flex shafts in your irons, take a tip from almost all tour professionals and opt for a slightly softer flex in your wedges.

Clubhead Design

What is much more important to make a wedge “spin-ier” is the design of the clubhead itself. While wedges really didn’t change much for decades, over the past few years, every major wedge brand has begun to position a bit more mass in the top section of the wedge clubhead. This repositioning of mass raises the CG a bit and improves the “gear effect,” which enhances spin on every wedge shot.

While they all are doing so to a different degree, most are held back by their reliance on their tour professionals’ input. Those elite players already spin the ball as much as necessary, and they don’t need or want more spin in their wedge shots. But that isn’t in your best interest.

This subject simply cannot be addressed without referencing my own work in wedge design for over thirty years. My wedges for Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, Ben Hogan and now Edison Golf have put increasingly more mass in the top half of the clubhead to help recreational golfers get more spin on all their wedge shots. I’m flattered that all major brands are finally starting to follow my pioneering of this design concept, because it works.  (Caliper measurement reveals that none of today’s wedges even have as much mass above center-face as my original Reid Lockhart wedges did in the mid-1990s)

Regarding my reference to tour players’ skills and their dime-sized wear pattern earlier, by striking their wedge shots so low in the face, they are optimizing spin on their traditional “tour design” wedges, because it maximizes the amount of clubhead mass above the point of impact. We all know that “thinned” wedge shot that flies low but has sizzling spin – same concept.

To help explain how this CG placement affects spin, look at what has happened in drivers, fairways, hybrids, and now irons.

As the “launch monitor wars” have come to dominate club-fitting (and selling!), the “holy grail” of distance is high launch and low spin. The engineers are achieving this by continuously finding ways to put maximum mass low in the clubhead with carbon crowns, tungsten inserts and thin faces. But good wedge play is all about penetrating trajectories and optimum spin — and all that mass in the bottom of the wedge head is exactly the opposite of what is needed to deliver that ball flight.

Final thoughts

I’ll also leave you with this thought on getting maximum spin on your intermediate-range wedge shots.  You are quite likely to discover you actually get more spin with your 52- to 54-degree wedge than with your higher-lofted 56 to 60. That’s because the ball is less likely to slide up the clubface, which causes loss of spin and higher ball flight. Give it a try to see for yourself.

This has been one of my longer posts, but the topic is worthy of a full explanation. I hope the “science of spin” is much less mysterious now.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s RSM Classic betting preview: Experienced heads likely to contend at Sea Island

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The final full-field event of the 2023 fall season has arrived. The PGA TOUR heads just south of Augusta for the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside and Plantation courses) in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Each golfer will play three rounds on the Seaside course and one round on the Plantation course.

The Seaside course is a par-70 layout measuring 7,005 yards, and the Plantation course is a par-72 setup coming in at 7,062 yards. The Seaside course, which was redesigned by Tom Fazio, plays more like a coastal links, while the Plantation course is similar to a tree-lined parkland course. Both feature Bermudagrass greens and will be very scorable. The past five winners of the event have all finished between -19 and -22.

Some notable players in the field include Brian Harman, Ludvig Aberg, Si Woo Kim, Akshay Bhatia, Cameron Young, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Russell Henley, Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners.

Past Winners at The RSM Classic

  • 2022: Adam Svensson (-19)
  • 2021: Talor Gooch (-22)
  • 2020: Robert Streb (-19)
  • 2019: Tyler Duncan (-19)
  • 2018: Charles Howell III (-19)
  • 2017: Austin Cook (-21)
  • 2016: Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
  • 2015: Kevin Kisner (-22)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Sea Island Golf Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

The greens at Seaside are big, so it will be important to stick approach shots close to avoid having to make difficult two-putt par saves. In what should be a birdie-fest, golfers will need to stick their approach shots to contend.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Sam Ryder (+24.8)
  2. Russell Knox (+22.4)
  3. J.T. Poston (+20.3)
  4. Eric Cole (+18.8)
  5. Alex Smalley (+18.4)

Good Drives Gained

Length really isn’t a factor at either course. Looking at the past winners at Sea Island, they’re all accurate golfers off of the tee who know how to find the fairway. However, over the past few years, “Good Drives Gained” has been a much more predictive statistic at this event than “Fairways Gained.”

Total Good Drives Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+22.7)
  2. Brendon Todd (+21.8)
  3. Tyler Duncan (+21.7)
  4. Martin Laird (+20.6)
  5. J.J. Spaun (+20.5)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass

This tournament could become a putting contest if the winds aren’t strong this week. Historically, the winners of the RSM Classic are great Bermudagrass putters (Simpson, Kisner and Hughes).

Total Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda in past 24 rounds:

  1. Maverick McNealy (+27.7)
  2. Chad Ramey (+25.3)
  3. Martin Trainer (+23.0)
  4. Justin Suh (+22.7)
  5. Taylor Montgomery (+22.5)

Birdie or Better Gained

With birdies (and potentially some eagles) likely to come in abundance, pars aren’t going to cut it at Sea Island. I anticipate the winning score to be close to -20, so targeting golfers who go low is the right strategy here.

Total strokes gained in Birdie or Better Gained in past 24 rounds

  1. Eric Cole (+31.4) 
  2. J.T. Poston (+21.3)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+20.9)
  4. Luke List (+20.7)
  5. Justin Suh (+16.1)

Strokes Gained: Par 4 (400-450)

With eight of the par 4s on the Seaside course measuring 400-450 yards, I’m looking to target golfers who excel on par 4s of this length.

Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+21.1)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+13.4) 
  3. Matthias Schmid (+12.8)
  4. Callum Tarren (+12.6) 
  5. Ryan Moore (+11.4)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (25%); Good Drives Gained (21); SG: Putting Bermudagrass (21%); B.O.B (21%); and SG: Par 4 400-450 (12%)

  1. Russell Henley (+2200)
  2. Sam Ryder (+9000)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+6500)
  4. Brendon Todd (+5000)
  5. Eric Cole (+3500)
  6. J.T. Poston (+3500)
  7. Stephan Jaeger (+4000)
  8. Matthias Schmid (+6000)
  9. Brian Harman (+2000)
  10. Austin Smotherman (+25000)

2023 RSM Classic Picks

Matt Kuchar +4000 (DraftKings)

There are plenty of players at the top of the odds board who have a strong chance to contend this week, but few have had the recent repetitions that Matt Kuchar has had. The veteran is in fantastic form and felt as if his game was in great shape heading into the World Wide Technologies Championship, where he came agonizingly close to victory.

Kuchar has three top-19 finishes in his last four starts worldwide, including the runner-up in his most recent start. At one point, he had a six-shot lead before making a disastrous quadruple bogey on the 15th hole during his third round. Many expected Kuchar to struggle on Sunday after blowing such a big lead, but he performed admirably and would have won if Erik Van Rooyen didn’t shoot a ridiculous -8 on the back nine.

The 45-year-old currently lives in St. Simons, Georgia so will be right at home playing at Sea Island this week. His history at the course isn’t as spectacular as one would think given how well the course fits him on paper, but he does have four top-30 finishes at the event since 2013.

In five of Kuchar’s six wins since 2012, he’s had a top-5 finish in one of his three previous starts leading up to the win. I believe his start at the WWT was a foreshadowing of a looming victory.

Billy Horschel +4000 (DraftKings)

After struggling for much of the 2022-2023 season, Billy Horschel has finished the top 20 in five of his past six worldwide starts including a T14 finish in his most recent start at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

Horschel hasn’t played the RSM Classic with regularity but finished in 2nd place at the event back in 2016 where he lost to Mackenzie Hughes in a playoff. The course is a perfect fit for Billy, who’s not overly long off the tee and putts incredibly well on Bermudagrass.

Billy will come into the event as motivated as ever to contend on a course that he should be able to pick apart. With seven career PGA Tour wins, there’s no doubt that Horschel is a closer who will be able to keep his composure down the stretch.

Harris English +6000 (DraftKings)

After a 2021 Ryder Cup appearance, Harris English has had an inconsistent two seasons on the PGA Tour. However, the Sea Island resident finished the season on an encouraging note, finishing 10th at the BMW Championship.

English has a mixed history at Sea Island, but he does have a 6th place finish in 2020. He finished 29th last year, but a final round 65 may be an indication that the 34-year-old figured something out at the course that he grew just a few hours away from.

It’s a bit concerning that English has been off since August, but he’s played well off of layoffs in the past. Last year, he finished 9th at the Fortinet off a 6-week break. In 2021, he won the Sentry Tournament of Champions off of a 5-week break. This break has been a bit longer, but the extra time may not be a major detriment.

Enlgish is a better player than he’s shown over the past 18 months, and I believe he’s in store for a resurgent season that may start this week in Sea Island.

Taylor Pendrith +6500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Pendrith is in fantastic form. In his past three starts, he’s finished 3rd, 15th and 8th. Despite not seeming like a great course fit at Sea Island on paper, he’s had some great history at the course throughout his career.

Last year, Pendrith finished 15th at the event, gaining 5.4 strokes on approach. He also came into the event while playing some below average golf and still managed to hit it great at Sea Island. In 2021, he finished 26th despite missing the cut in two previous starts as well as the following start. I believe now that the Canadian is coming into the event playing some incredibly consistent golf he should be a serious threat to contend deep into the weekend.

Ben Griffin +7500 (DraftKings)

Just a week ago, Ben Griffin was 22-1 and one of the betting favorites at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Although some top end players such as Ludvig Aberg, Brian Harman and Cameron Young have been added to this field, I still believe the drop all the way down to this price gives Griffin a ton of value this week.

The North Carolina hasn’t built up an extensive course history at Sea Island just yet, but he did finish 29th at the event last season. The 27-year-old fired an opening round 65 to start his week and then shot two more rounds in the 60’s after a second round 71. His experience last season should be helpful in his pursuit of a victory this time around.

Sea Island should suit Griffin perfectly. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 15th in the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach and in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermudagrass. His sharp iron play and ability to hole putts on Bermuda make him an ideal candidate for to contend at Sea Island.

Alex Smalley +8000 (DraftKings):

The past five events in the PGA Tour’s swing season have given us winners who’ve already won on Tour multiple times. The fa oll is typically a time for first-time Tour winners to shine, and among the top candidates to accomplish that this week is Alex Smalley.

Smalley has contended a few times thus far in his career and one of those times was at last year’s RSM Classic. A consistent effort of 67-66-67-67 resulted in the Greensboro, North Carolina resident finishing in a tie for 5th place for the week. It’s no surprise that Smalley likes Sea Island given the amount of golf he’s played in the area and his knack for playing well on shorter courses.

The Duke graduate is beginning to round into form, finishing 30th last week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship fueled by a final round 65 (-6). Smalley has done his best work on easier courses and the course should provide plenty of birdie opportunities for the 25-year-old.

Kevin Kisner +25000 (DraftKings):

Kevin Kisner has been playing incredibly poorly by his standards since his win at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2021, however Camilo Villegas’ win last week showed us how quickly things can change.

Kisner has shown some minimal signs of improvement during the fall season, finishing 62nd and 51st in his two starts at the Fortinet Championship and the Sanderson Farms Championship. More importantly, Kisner gained 1.8 strokes on approach at the Country Club of Jackson, which was his best approach performance since November of 2022. Going back to the Villegas example, while he was in the midst of a twelve-start stretch where he didn’t finish better than 54th, the Colombian gained 4.0 strokes on approach in a missed cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship in a missed cut. Clearly, he found something and went on to finish 2nd and 1st in his next two starts.

If there’s a course that Kisner may be able to find “it” on, it’s Sea Island. Kisner is a former Georgia Bulldog who’s won here in 2015, lost in a playoff in 2020 and has two additional top-7 finishes since his win. At long odds, “Kiz” is worth a sprinkle on one of his favorite tracks.

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