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”.