Anchored Putting Officially Banned; Comments On The Ruling

The USGA and R&A have officially banned the controversial (but by no means new) practice of anchored putting. You can see the official explanation on the putting ban here.

A few interesting lines from the document:

Since announcing the proposal, The R&a and the Usga have received comments and heard opinions in a variety of ways. approximately 450 persons from 17 countries (including more than 100 persons living in the United states) used The R&A’s formal feedback mechanism, primarily by submitting comments through The R&a’s website; the majority of these comments were from Great Britain and Ireland. approximately 2200 persons used the USGA’s formal feedback mechanism, primarily by submitting comments through the USGA’s website. others provided their thoughts through letters and emails to, or meetings and phone calls with, representatives of The R&A and/or the USGA.

I find it hard to believe that only 450 worldwide and another 2,200 in the US expressed their comments. But perhaps that’s because so many were making comments on social media, on blogs and in old school golf media. Those were evidently not considered.

Another:

One concern raised in some comments opposing the proposed Rule was the absence of statistical evidence that anchored putting is a superior method of stroke.Their premise was that,without such“scientific evidence”,the governing bodies cannot conclude that this technique of making a stroke may alter golf’s essential challenge and provide an advantage to the player using it and therefore cannot hope to benefit the game by eliminating the anchoring technique.Although we understand that people often look for statistical data when engaged in a factual and policy debate, we believe that these assertions are misplaced in the present context and reflect a misunderstanding of the rationale for the Rule and the principles on which the Rules of golf are based.

In other words, facts be damned.

The USGA and R&A do not believe that banning the anchor putting will have an effect on the 99.9% who play golf for recreational, rather than competitive purposes:

We do not share the view that the health or growth of the game will be adversely affected by disallowing anchored golf strokes. our best judgment is that the recent increases in use of anchoring have occurred mainly because some golfers of all ability levels believe that it may help them to play better, not because frustration has made it their only resort. We recognise that some golfers are expressing great concern over the need to make a transition because they prefer anchored putting and fear that they may struggle to play as well without it. but there is a difference between possibly not playing as well and playing less or not at all; and there is a difference between expressions of possible future intent made well in advance of the Rule’s effective date and actual behaviours that will only later occur as players adapt to the Rule. We very much hope that no one would play less because of the prohibition on anchoring the club and we believe that golfers’ love of the game will continue to bring them to the course. Taking all of this into consideration, we have no reason to believe that this Rule would have any significant effect on participation levels.

Data, however, is useful when it supports your premise:

We disagree with the underlying premise that more people would play golf if only equipment and playing Rules were relaxed to enable golfers to hit longer, straighter shots, to make more putts, and/or to post lower scores. The need for skill and the challenge of the game are what define golf;they are in fact what have caused so many people to love and play the gamefor the past 600 years. This enthusiastic embrace of the game as a stout test of skill and challenge prevails as strongly today as ever: in a recent study in the United States, commissioned by the National Golf Foundation, passionate recreational golfers – that is, the U.S. golfers who play most of the rounds and who spend most of the money in golf – indicated that the challenge ofthe game is among the top reasons, if not the top reason, why they are so passionate about golf. In addition, research among non-golfers, as well as lapsed golfers, indicates that the top three reasons that people in the U.s. do not take up golf, or quit the game, are reasons of expense,time, and the perception that golf is exclusionary and unwelcoming – not the difficulty of playing the game.

Bifurcation is not an option.

We also disagree with those who suggested that,while a unified set of Rules is generally desirable,there would be no harm in allowing bifurcation solely on the single issue of anchoring.Defining the parameters of how to prepare for and make a permissible stroke is at the core of the game and is reflected in many different Rules.To create a Rule that enabled one set of players (non-elite amateurs), perhaps 30-40 times a round, to make strokes in a manner that is deemed to provide a potential advantage, while prohibiting another set of players (professionals/elite amateurs) from doing so, would be to start well down the road of creating two different games.This Rule is a central example of the impor tance of defining golf as a single game with a single set of Rules.

I think this ignores the fact that bifurcation already exists. If golf’s ruling powers were to visit regular public courses with regular public players, they would see that quite clearly. My playing partners often ask me what the rule is in a situation. Often, when I explain it, the reaction is “that’s dumb.” I am certain they go back to their “homerules” once I am out of the picture.

And finally, what I think is at the crux of the issue:

The R&A and the USGA have made the judgment that anchoring creates an unacceptable risk of changing the nature and reducing the challenge of making a golf stroke.The game will benefit over the long term by revising the Rules of Golf to clarify the essential nature of a permissible golf stroke and to ensure that all players are confronting the same basic challenge when they play the game. Rule 14-1b also will prevent any further development of possible new or improved forms of anchored stroke that deviate from the free swing, as well as prevent the further extension of anchoring into non-putting parts of the game, which has already been seen to occur with chip shots from off the green.

There is some hope, however:

We are pursuing Rules simplification and Rules education to make the game more accessible

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