Confusing Golf Rule #10: Anchored Putters and Long Putters

You may have read (and read and read) about the USGA – R&A decision to ban anchored putting effective in 2016.   Until then, Keegan Bradley & Webb Simpson & Adam Scott can continue to use their putters.  (By the way, give the long putter users a break.  They aren’t cheating.  They aren’t doing anything illegal.  They are just kicking the butts of other golfers.  Stop your whining!)  Let’s get to the bottom of this issue though.

The USGA Rule 14 covers “Striking the Ball”, and while there is a rule that says that a player may not have physical assistance in striking the ball it has not been interpreted to include anchoring.  There is also a rule regarding the maximum length of a club (48 inches) but it specifically excludes putters, therefore allowing long putters to exist.  Finally, golf club manufacturers have been sending long putters designed for anchoring to the USGA for approval for years.  Anchored putting has been around in some form since 1924, nearly a century!

The USGA is proposing adding a section to Rule 14 that will ban “anchoring” and defines it as anytime the club,  a gripping hand or forearm is in contact with any other part of the body while making the stroke.

The rule as proposed does not ban long putters or belly putters, but it does ban holding them against your body or having a gripping hand against your body, although I’m not really sure how one would use a long putter without anchoring.  Maybe someone will figure this out, but the reality is that someone somewhere is already developing a club or a technique to make putting easier.  And that’s the nature of golf clubs and golf instruction — the goal of any new club technology is to make the ball go straighter or farther, and the goal of instruction is to make a swing in an ideal and repeatable manner.

Although the PGA Tour toyed with the idea of ignoring the USGA, it finally decided that the Tour will adhere to the ban on anchored putting effective January 1, 2016, the day the USGA and R&A Rule goes into effect.   The two-plus year span between this decision and the effective date will give players who use an anchored strokes plenty of time to practice with the new putter.  Until that time, though, anchored putting will be legal.

USGA Rule 14-2

Proposal

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