Rude: Anchoring ban? Might as well ban fun in golf

Michael Allen

Reader poll

Should anchoring your club be banned?

  • Yes, I would favor a ban on anchoring a golf club 51%
  • No, I would not favor a ban on anchoring a golf club 45%
  • Doesn't matter, I will use an anchored club anyway 3%

2586 total votes.

Your correspondent’s research shows that all top 18 players in last week’s PGA Tour putting rankings regularly use a conventional putter. Not a belly nor a broomstick to be found on that top shelf. Yet golf’s powers that be are expected to ban the anchoring of such longer implements.

Perhaps then, the czars have it backward.

If there is a competitive advantage in stroking the standard flat stick, then outlaw its use and load up the trash bins and eBay lists.

There is another reason to endorse such a notion. If long and belly putters supposedly are so great and practitioners of conventional versions are so stupid that they don’t switch, then take away their toys as punishment.

Frankly, I’m shocked they’re even considering a change. When, after all, was the last time you were afraid of an opponent who walked up carrying a long putter? For years it has been a symbol of deficiency.

Yet golf’s two governing bodies apparently feel anchored putters violate the spirit of the game. The contrary view, subscribed to here, is that said weapons make playing more enjoyable for the masses – in a game that continually loses participants because of difficulty, cost and time.

Golf, which has sprained a whole rib cage trying to grow, is in no position to make the game less fun for the millions who play and countless candidates who might. It’s already hard enough. If that’s the idea, we might as well go back to persimmon woods and balata balls.

Enjoyment equals more rounds, more golfers, more growth, more benefit to everyone. Enjoyment means thinking you might make more putts, not fewer.

“(Anchored putters) make the game more enjoyable for a lot of people,” said Michael Allen, a three-time Champions Tour winner who has used all three kinds of putters, mostly the long, for the past couple of years. “It’s no fun to go out and play if you can’t putt.

“We want the game to grow. Without growth, no one has a job.”

Allen suggests if there is a ban, it should apply to only the professional level – even though there is no statistical evidence that anchored putters equate to more money earned. That might not sit well with those who view bifurcation – separate equipment rules for touring pros and everyday amateurs – as a four-letter word. But it surely beats the alternative of restricting all the world’s recreational golfers.

Baseball’s version of recreational sport – softball – uses aluminum bats and larger balls. It’s different, and it’s OK.

Anti-anchoring seemed to gain momentum when three of four major winners during a 2011-12 stretch used belly or long putters.

If that indeed was a catalyst, then a rules change would be made with a few hundred touring pros in mind instead of the 26 million-plus identified as U.S. golfers. And it’s really not even a few hundred pros, for only 15 percent of PGA Tour players used anchored putters this year, according to the Darrell Survey.

Point is, making rules for the .000000001 of the golf population at the expense of everyone else is not only ill-advised, it’s irresponsible. Stuff this in the file labeled, “Tail wags dog.”

If the czars must act at all, then make anchoring a condition of professional competition, like the one-ball rule, and leave everyone else alone. That, of course, would have a negative impact on several professionals who have anchored for years. It probably also would require that Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer come off Champions Tour billboards – unless anchoring is allowed above age 50, not a crazy thought.

“People ask me what I’ll do if the rules are changed and I can’t use my long putter any more,” 2011 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Louis Lee said. “Here’s my answer: I probably would go buy a bass boat.”

Score one for Bass Pro Shops over golf pro shops.

If anchoring were such an advantage, wouldn’t everyone switch, as with metalwoods and graphite shafts? If sensible bans are what we’re after, shouldn’t we instead prohibit slow play, 180-yard 9-irons, $500 green fees, $200,000 initiation fees, plaid pants and signs that read “Cart path only” and “No chipping”? If we’re changing, how about making sand-filled divots ground under repair and allowing rangefinders for sake of pace?

But belly and long putters? Really?

“I definitely hope they don’t change the rule because I have a keen interest in getting the game to grow,” putter manufacturer Bob Bettinardi said. “The game is hard enough as it is. I don’t think it’s a way to cheat. It works for some and not for others. It’s helping the game. Why make the game harder? It should be made easier. Any industry wants more participants.”

(Senior writer Jeff Rude, an 8-handicap, recently stroked a ball into a bunker with his belly putter. Unintentionally.)

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