USGA Proposes Change to the Rules of Golf: Anchoring the Club

If you haven’t heard already, last week the USGA made a major announcement pertaining to anchoring clubs. According to the USGA, the proposal “would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player’s body or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.” If that sounds like a mouthful, here is the link for a full review of the proposal.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as the ban is not on equipment, but rather the stroke in which any club (and not just putters) is anchored against the body.  Let me say that again, players will still be able to use belly and long putters as long as they are not anchored to the body.  The USGA printed a guide with pictures of what would be permitted and what would not.  Here is a link to that guide as well.

The rule would not be implemented until January 1, 2016 giving players an ample amount of time to change.  To put that in perspective, you will likely endure 11,293 political ads on TV before the rule is implemented, if it in fact does.  Remember, this is still a proposal isn’t it?  You might question if a player could still use their belly or long putter unanchored and still be as effective.  If not, the rule change could ultimately doom the existence of this type of equipment that has been deemed conforming and able to be played across all levels of golf for decades now?  Well, the answers to those questions are yet to be determined.

What I am mainly concerned about is this.  The so-called advantage to anchored putters is to help those steady the player’s hands.  The same could be said about larger putter grips or counterweighted golf equipment – should there be a proposal to ban those concepts too?  Some would say anchoring the club against the body helps cure the “yips”, which by all definition is a nervous affliction where the player lacks the fine motor skills to control the putter.  As such, could the “yips” be considered a physical and/or mental disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was signed into law to prevent discrimination against those with certain afflictions.  The act does not directly address the use of say an anchored putter on the golf course, but was written (much like the Rules of Golf) to have broad powers that could be interpreted by those in authority.  If you ban anchoring the club against the body, what’s next?  Golf carts for the disabled, caddies for the sightless or even a golf glove (or the use of two) for those with extremely sweaty hands (hyperhidrosis)?

The proposed ban is occurring not because there is evidence to support that anchoring the club against the body lowers the stroke count.  The concern is the increased number of golfers (still much less than 20%) who are adopting this style of stroke rather than the centuries old traditional putting stroke. The “claw” grip or Matt Kuchar’s technique isn’t exactly traditional and yet they will be permitted.  But look back in time.  Steel shafts changed the way player swung the club compared to the hickory-shafted clubs.  When I started playing golf about 30 years ago, golfer’s played primarily with wooden woods with steel shaft and blade style irons.  The fact is times change, products evolve and so does the swing as well as the instruction.  Yet at the end of the day, golf in its simplest form is striking the back of the ball with the front of the face into a hole that measures 4.25” in diameter and low score wins.  Anchored clubs simply don’t alter that.

“For the good of the game®” is the motto of the USGA.  In a sport where participation is dwindling, I would hope their efforts would be to encourage play rather than having certain players quit out of frustration as they no longer can putt because of a disability, such as the “yips”.



  1. Broder Schwensen says:

    so true. Common-sense sadly lost another battle to ideology.
    Broder / Germany

  2. Stephen Haley says:

    Why does the link above show that anchoring forearms against the body is allowed with the short putter but not with the long or belly putter? Looks like a discrimination case to me? When I use my long putter (I have 3 herniated discs from 81, and my right knee is bone to bone in the medial compartment) My forearm is not touching my body but my base of my palm is against my right arm/arm pit. Am I in violation? Don’t give a rats a** if I am since I’m just a ‘for fun’ player, but would like to know. They’ll ruin the game to a point that they will one day have little interest left in watching the sport on TV by the regular viewing audience, IMHO.

  3. The USGA’s decisions on clubface COR, Driver size, wedge grooves, and now the putting stroke have done little to “preserve the game.” Two tiers of golfers have been created: professionals and the members of elite clubs around Far Hills, NJ; and the recreational golfer. One seniors group with whom I play never counts the number of clubs in a bag, and I have seen everything from two-sided chippers with putter grips to 50-inch drivers. The USGA is never mentioned and the group grows larger every week. Manufacturers are missing out by conforming to USGA equipment. Those who play for fun just want to have clubs that help their games.

  4. Kris Bailey says:

    Jeff, I am very much an amateur golfer having just returned to the game after only having played off and on, very occasionally in college around 20 years ago. It’s been interesting following how this has transpired from my perspective as back then when I played occasionally, and paid the little attention I paid to professional golf at the time, I never even heard of the concept of using an anchored putter. Earlier this year when I returned to the game, the first time I saw an anchored putter my immediate mental reaction was “oh, that must be for older, shaky guys that just don’t have the ability to hold a putter steady anymore” (no offense to anyone reading this, that was just my initial thought as a 39 year old getting back into this game). When, after a few months, I started paying attention to professional golf again, I was amazed to see younger players using them. And then, the guy that was probably most responsible for getting me back into the game, a guy with a low, single digit handicap, that shoots in the low 70’s often, and plays tournaments regularly (and is 10 years younger than me by the way!!), started toying with switching to a belly putter. That threw me for a loop and I started to ask “why”.

    I, for one, have a very traditional approach to golf. I think the limitations the equipment hands you add to the challenge of the game. I, for example, don’t want overly offset clubs to compensate for a slice. I want to learn to correct my slice. When I built my set of clubs, I opted for the XK Pro clubs (which I love by the way), instead of one of the higher lofted or more offset options. And I would like to move to a set of blades (or at least “semi-blades” with mild game improvement features) in the not too distant future. If I rely on a crutch like overly offset, overly large, overly lofted clubs, then how can I ever expect to progress to that point? I feel the same with a putter. I, of course, had the option to build a long putter, but I chose to not even look into it because I felt, once again, that I’d be relying on a crutch. Heck, I wouldn’t even consider a mallet putter (they just look too crazy to me). And I’m by no means a “traditional” type of guy. I have long hair, earrings, lots of silver jewelry, and my golf bag is bedecked with multiple skulls, trinkets, and an Alice Cooper headcover. I have no problem doing something different from the norm, but I also have a great respect for the traditions of something as old as golf. Now, I realize a lot of recreational players may not see it that way, and only play the game because it’s fun, or it’s a social outing. And if that is what someone wants out of it then I say, “let them eat cake”! Let them use self correcting golf balls, hugely offset clubs, springy faced drivers, high lofted irons, and even anchored putters (any one or all of the above if they’d like!). But I think when you look at the argument for banning the anchoring of a club (remember, the rule is about anchoring a club . . . any club . . . not just a putter), the argument is for maintaining the integrity of the game at a certain level of competitive play that the average, recreational player never competes in. Yes, a great many recreational players will feel that they need to conform as well in the spirit of playing as closely to the official rules as possible (I fall into that category), but that doesn’t mean that the use of anchored putters has to disappear across the board for any and all players.

    I also agree, somewhat at least, with some parts of the “bifurcation” argument. I see no reason why a recreational player, with an established handicap that was attained while using an anchored putter, shouldn’t be able to play right along side of a pro tour player at a pro-am and have a great time and a fair game. That’s one of the great things about golf. With the handicap system the rules allow for such a diversity of players to play with each other on a more or less equal playing ground. But if there is any bifurcation, I think it should be reserved for the lowest levels, or possibly, maybe players over a certain age.

    I also think one of the best argument I’ve heard for this rule change is the “free swinging” argument I’ve heard several times in the last week. A golf stroke, in my humble opinion, should be defined by a free swinging motion. Tiger Woods, just a couple of days ago stated (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here) that both ends of the club should move in a golf stroke, and I like that way of putting it. The anchored putter doesn’t allow for this “free swinging” motion to happen, and therefore, in this lowly recreational golfer’s opinion, detracts from the game at the higher levels of play.

    When it comes right down to it, the guys on tour are there to entertain us, the viewing audience, promote the game, and drive advertising (for equipment and other endorsement companies). The guys on the lower tours are there to keep the guys above them on their toes and keep them playing at a higher level (and often to replace the guys that don’t perform well enough to keep their card). The guys below that keep those guys on their toes, and so on and so forth all the way down to your casual, amateur tournament player. They’re all essentially playing the same game in the same system, and I feel like the system ideally should adopt a rule across the board or not at all. And I think the “system” should adopt a rule against anchoring any club, or I guarantee, at some point in the future, someone will figure out an effective way to anchor other clubs to their advantage. The yips can be taken care of and counteracted with other grips and methods that are still perfectly allowable. Long putters are still perfectly allowable for those with back issues or who want to use them in other ways to help with the yips. And I think your argument about the remote possibilities of disallowing oversized grips, etc, or the arguments about other adjustments for “disabled” players are somewhat unfounded (once again, this rule isn’t about equipment, just the way in which the equipment is used). The fact is that in any other sport professional athletes are not generally allowed any mechanical advantage. In order to perform at the high level that professional play requires, players can have very little physical limitation (unless they can find it within themselves to overcome that limitation), and have to perform without mechanical advantage. And that’s what anchoring the putter provides. A mechanical advantage in the form of a fixed fulcrum point to overcome a physical limitation (or often just a perceived limitation). Not to be callous, but I don’t and would never expect to be a professional athlete, where the best of the best of the best compete, primarily for the entertainment of the masses, unless I have the physical gifts to do it, or can find it within myself to overcome any physical limitations I have to do it. Golf is still first and foremost a game for entertainment. Golf does a great many good things, and gives many people a great deal of fulfillment. But still, for the most of us, it’s just a form of recreation. I love it, and I love all the technical advances (“legal” and “illegal”) from the standpoint of pure enjoyment. But I want to watch players on TV accomplishing things I just can’t manage to do, or things I can dream about possibly getting good enough to do. And I, for one at least, would be happy to not see any anchored putters on tour anymore. Just my $0.02!

    Thanks – Kris

  5. Gary says:

    All equipment has been regulated in one form or another EXCEPT the golf ball!

  6. Fila golf says:

    As Gary already mentioned all equipment had been regulated except the golf ball, Gary, keep it to yourself- or the ball will be square

  7. […] really need an independent or outside agency to conduct these ratings to be credible. Does the USGA (or R&A) want to get involved?  I seriously doubt it. The tradition of golf has always been […]

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