Taking the golf world by surprise this past November, the USGA proposed a controversial decision to prohibit anchored strokes starting in 2016. While it may surprise the recreational college golfer, many tour pros have anchored putters over the past 30 years, and thus USGA’s decision “makes sense” in that various other forms of putting—including Sam Snead’s croquet-style in the 60’s—have been banned by the USGA over time. Will the decision affect college golf? The recent major successes of belly-putter using Keegan Bradley, Web Simpson, and Ernie Els makes us wonder if anchoring the putter against one’s body provides an unfair advantage. Anchored putting should never have been legal; however, because it has become a part of the game, the rippling effects of the ban may do more harm than good. Will it affect college golf?
Why would they ban anchored putting anyways? If anchoring provided a legitimate advantage, then why do none of the top 20 putters according to "The PGA Tour's Most Reliable Putting Statistic") on tour do so? USGA, the executive director of the USGA, explained “The player's challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge.” The reason why many of the top putters don’t anchor is because golfers don’t begin their careers with long putters. For most, a switch to the belly putter is prompted by the yips, an inexplicable loss of motor skills often exacerbated by pressure in tournament play. The mental cause of a yip can be mitigated by by gaining comfort and security in resting the top of the putter grip against one’s body. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the best putters don’t anchor because they likely struggled with “regular” putting; and there lies the reason why they switched to an unconventional putting technique in the first place.
As a golf entrepreneur, I support initiatives to grow the game. Take the PGA’s Tee it Forward program which encourages golfers to play a course at a length aligned with their average driving distance. The PGA and USGA teamed up on this initiative to make the game more easy and fun for the recreational golfer. Unfortunately, the number of golfers in the United States has declined over the last 10 years. A big reason why people quit or are intimated to learn the game is because golf takes a lot of skill, time, and money to get good. Golfers have spent millions of dollars on “unconventional putters” to help improve their games. If anchored putting is banned, golf companies (even roaring Taylor Made) will take a hit to the bottom line as entire product lines within the putting category will get cancelled. For these reasons:
1) Golf needs to be more fun and easy
2) The golf industry is shrinking, why make it smaller?
3) It’s been “legal” over 30 years!
I disagree with the ban. However, I do understand the arguments for the ban, but agree with the PGA's stance against it—golf needs all the help it can get. And while I may putt left hand low, whichever way the decision goes, I won’t be anchoring my Scotty!
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**Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11