Bellyaching about Belly Putters

Anchoring PutterI don’t think most of my friends will be much interested in the recent USGA ban on anchored, or belly putters, but I find the topic quite interesting for a number of reasons. First a little explanation for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about.

Normally when swinging at a golf ball a player puts both hands down the shaft of the club and swings freely around his or her body. By anchoring a putter the golfer holds the end of the club against his or her chest or belly and swings it in pendulum fashion with the other hand. This has the effect of using the body to stabilize the club. Unless you move your torso, at least part of the swing is going to remain steady.

This sort of putting first started to gain fashion about twenty years ago and I know all about. Twenty years ago I worked at a golf course as an assistant pro. I wasn’t a particularly good player but the best part of my game was putting. I fooled around with anchored putters and absolutely loved them. They help ensure the club face is “square” or at a ninety-degree angle to the face of the ball when contact is made.

At this time the USGA allowed the practice and has continued to do so until now. The USGA decides the rule of golf in the United States while the Royal and Ancient Golf Club makes them for the rest of the world. Yes, the R&A, it’s a real thing you non-golfers.

There is tumult in the golf world about the USGA decision that effective Jan 1, 2016 anchoring will become illegal. Some players have been putting this way for many years and now it is suddenly against the rules. A number of professional golfers are angry about it but that pales in comparison to the PGA’s opinion. Why, you might ask? I’ll tell you why.

It’s an interesting situation. In most professional sports the rules making body is one and the same as the professional league. If baseball says corking your bat is illegal then it’s Major League Baseball making the rules for its game. If the National Football League says lowering your head to hit an opponent is illegal then it’s the NFL making the rule for the sport it runs. It’s not the same in golf!

The USGA makes the rules but the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) runs most of the tournaments. PGA players argue that anchoring the putter offers no statistical advantage and they are right … for professional players who practice putting hours upon hours every day. They get the putter face square to the ball virtually every time. When they miss a putt it’s because they misread the green or didn’t swing at the right speed. For your average golfer the anchoring, if done properly, is undoubtedly helpful.

The PGA makes their money from members. By that I mean average golfers. Many average golfers love anchoring. Many average golfers play gambling games with their friends while enjoying a round of golf. Many average golfers are older and the act of bending over a putt is not easy for them. Anchoring is very helpful in this regard when a longer putter is anchored against the chest. Many average golfers are rather upset that their friends are going to call them for a rules violation if they anchor their putter as they’ve been doing for twenty years.

The PGA could easily tell the USGA that they are going to ignore that rule for their members and their tournaments. Is it starting to sound interesting yet?

Now, obviously, the USGA can make whatever rule they want but just as obviously the PGA can choose to ignore it.

What will happen? I don’t know but I aim to keep watching. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give my opinion on the subject.

I support the USGA’s decision as it’s their right to ban anchored putters, or square-grooves, or certain dimple patterns on a golf ball. I think the rules of the USGA should be followed by the PGA and by the players of the game, even at a casual level. However, I think that if a group of players wants to “give” a putt of less than the length of the grip on the putter, that’s fine as long as they all agree. Winter rules, Mulligan, all of these things are against the official rules of golf but if a foursome agrees to them then what’s the problem? I say let anchored putting fall into the same category. If the group says it’s OK, it’s OK.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (follow Jon Gray as he tries to find the legendary sword)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

2 thoughts on “Bellyaching about Belly Putters

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