STROKES ALLOWED AND DISALLOWED BY PROPOSED RULE 14-1B
How does the proposed Rule define anchoring and what golf strokes would it prohibit?
The proposed Rule would prohibit both (1) direct anchoring of the club and (2) indirect anchoring of the club by use of an “anchor point” that is established by the player intentionally holding a forearm against his or her body. What is the reason for this distinction?
EFFECT ON USE OF BELLY-LENGTH AND LONG PUTTERS
Would proposed Rule 14-1b impose any restrictions specific to belly-length and long putters?
REASONS FOR PROPOSING RULE 14-1b
What is the basis for the conclusion that anchoring the club while making a stroke should not be allowed?
REASONS FOR THE DECISION TO TAKE ACTION AT THIS TIME
Have the governing bodies previously considered taking action to address anchoring?
What is your response to those who say that it is too late to make a change because anchored putting strokes have been used at least to some extent for the past 25 years and therefore have become part of the game?
EFFECT ON THE GAME IF RULE 14-1b IS ADOPTED
Would the proposed Rule affect the ability of amputees or others with serious physical disabilities to play the game?
EFFECTIVE DATE AND PROCESS
Why do you propose to wait until 2016 for Rule 14-1b to take effect?
REASON FOR APPLYING THE RULE TO ALL PLAYERS
Did you consider adopting a no-anchoring Rule for professionals and elite players but allowing the recreational player to continue to use anchored strokes?
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES
Some people have asked why the governing bodies are addressing the subject of anchoring rather than the topic of driving distance. What is your position on that?
A: The Rule would prohibit anchoring the club while making a stroke. The underlying principle is that anchoring the club is contrary to the fundamental concept that a golf stroke should involve the player freely swinging the entire club at the ball.
The proposed Rule defines this concept as follows: “In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point.’” Note 1 of the proposed Rule defines the meaning of “directly” anchored and Note 2 defines the meaning of “anchor point.”
This prohibition would apply to all strokes made while anchoring the club, including the two particular anchored strokes that have been seen with increasing frequency: (1) putting with a belly-length putter with the end of the shaft stuck into the player’s midsection, and (2) putting with a chest-length putter with the club or the player’s gripping hand held against the chest, chin or similar body part.
A: No. The proposed Rule would apply to strokes made with any club, regardless of its length or type, and from any location from which the player plays the ball. Although today anchoring is seen almost entirely in the putting game, players use anchored putters from both on and off the putting green.
Moreover, players sometimes anchor other clubs. For example, players have been seen to anchor a fairway wood or hybrid club to the belly when playing a low-running chip shot from off the green. We do not know how far such practices have been or might be extended into the chipping, pitching or full-swing game, but Rule 14-1 is being used for the proposed prohibition because the reasons for disallowing anchoring the club would apply equally to all strokes made with any club from any location.
Q: The proposed Rule would prohibit both (1) direct anchoring of the club and (2) indirect anchoring of the club by use of an “anchor point” that is established by the player intentionally holding a forearm against his or her body. What is the reason for this distinction?
A: The main purpose of the proposed Rule is to prohibit direct anchoring of the club, where the club or a hand gripping the club is intentionally held against the player’s body. (See Note 1 of the proposed Rule.) For example, under the Rule the player may not hold a putter, or a hand gripping that putter, against his or her chest while the stroke is made.
But the proposed Rule also would not allow the player simply to move that gripping hand off the chest while continuing to hold that hand’s forearm against the body, because the club would still be effectively anchored in making the stroke. That is the narrow purpose of the additional prohibition on indirectly anchoring the club by using an anchor point. (See Note 2 of the proposed Rule.)
A: The basic concept is that an “anchor point” exists when two things are both true: (1) the player intentionally holds a forearm against the body; and (2) he or she grips the club so that the gripping hands are separated and work independently from one another – that is, the top hand (belonging to the forearm being held against the body) effectively secures the club in place as if attached to the body, while the bottom hand is held down the shaft to swing the lower portion of the club around the stable point of attachment. Additional explanatory guidance will be made available for players and officials.
A: A complete ban on intentional forearm contact with the body would be too broad. There are common methods of swinging the club in which the club and gripping hands are free of the player’s body, while one or both forearms are in contact with the body. For example, some players hold the club in a traditional manner with the hands in front of the body, while resting a forearm and elbow against one side or tucking in both forearms against the sides. Such strokes are not considered to be anchored strokes, because the entire club can be swung freely by the player.
Therefore, the proposed Rule would not prohibit all intentional forearm contact with the body while making a stroke. It would prohibit only those strokes that are deemed to involve “anchoring the club.” Making a stroke with a forearm intentionally held against the body would be prohibited as an indirect means of anchoring the club only in the narrow situation in which the player uses an “anchor point” as defined in the Rule. Players otherwise would remain free to use their individual styles and methods of making a stroke, including forearm contact with the body.
A: The proposed Rule prohibits only intentional anchoring of the club, whether directly or indirectly. If the club or a gripping hand or forearm comes in contact with the body during the stroke but the player has not intentionally held it against the body, there would be no breach of the Rule.
A: For each stroke made in breach of Rule 14-1b, there would be a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and loss of hole in match play, as with any other breach of Rule 14-1.
A: That type of contact is considered a part of gripping the club rather than a form of “anchoring.” The club necessarily touches the player’s hands when it is gripped, and of course that is not what is meant by anchoring. In various gripping styles, the club or a gripping hand also may touch the player’s wrist or other part of the forearm during a stroke – for example, when the player grips the club below the top of the shaft, or when the player’s hands are reversed (e.g., left hand below right for a right-handed player) and separated. Such contact is merely a consequence of the method of gripping and it does not prevent the player from freely swinging the entire club. Therefore, Note 1 in proposed Rule 14-1b specifies that intentionally holding the club or a gripping hand in contact with the hands or forearms while making a stroke does not constitute anchoring the club.
A: No. Intentional contact among the club, hands and forearms would be permitted because it is a consequence of various methods of gripping the club and enables players to use a wide variety of personal styles while still freely swinging the club. However, if a stroke is made with the club or a gripping hand intentionally held against the upper arm or any other part of the body, the club would be deemed to be anchored and the player would be in breach of the Rule.
A: For all purposes in the proposed Rule, the wrist is deemed to be part of the player’s forearm.
A: No. This is not an equipment Rule. All currently conforming golf clubs would remain approved for play. The proposed Rule addresses only how a stroke may be played and it would apply to all clubs. A player would remain free to use a belly-length or long putter, or any other club, in any manner that does not breach the prohibition on anchoring the club or any other Rule.
A: There are several reasons. First, our review focused on concerns about how a golf stroke should be made and whether anchoring the club is consistent with the concept of a free swing that we have identified as an essential characteristic of the stroke. Those concerns are not limited to the use of longer putters. There is no more reason to allow anchoring with standard-length putters or woods, irons or hybrids than there is to allow it with longer putters.
Second, implementing a Rule that limits the length of a putter would have any number of potential complexities. For example, such a Rule might have differing and inconsistent effects on players of different heights.
Finally, use of a longer putter is viewed by some golfers as helping them to cope with back problems or other physical issues, by enabling them to stand in a more upright position while putting. We did not believe that it was necessary or desirable to take this option away from such players.
Proposed Rule 14-1b narrowly targets only the use of anchored strokes, while otherwise leaving players free to use all currently conforming equipment and to use all of their various individual styles and methods of gripping and swinging the club, so long as they keep the club and hands gripping the club off of the body and do not use a forearm to establish an anchor point.
A: Yes. We do not know how many players who have used those putters in an anchored style would continue to use them in a non-anchored style in conformance with the new Rule. But players at all levels of the game have used both belly-length and long putters without anchoring.
For example, this was prominently illustrated when Angel Cabrera used a non-anchored belly putter in winning the 2009 Masters. Various other professional players have recently used belly-length putters in this manner, as have players at other levels of the game.
Likewise, under the proposed Rule players would continue to be able to use long putters in a non-anchored fashion. This would enable them to continue to choose the option of putting while standing upright, whether they wish to do so for physical reasons (e.g., to alleviate back problems) or simply because they prefer a more upright stance or otherwise prefer to putt with a club of that length.
A: We believe that the essential nature of the traditional golf stroke involves the player freely swinging the club with both the club and the gripping hands being held away from the body. The player’s challenge is to direct and control the movement of the entire club in making the stroke. Anchoring the club removes the player’s need to do so by providing extra support and stability for the stroke, as if one end of the club were physically attached to the body. Our conclusion is that it would be in the best interests of the game for the Rules of Golf to reinforce the free-swinging nature of the stroke and to prohibit the practice of anchoring the club.
A: Our focus is on the essential character of the golf stroke. We believe that freely swinging the entire club is integral to making golf an enjoyable game of skill and challenge. Our judgment is that anchoring the club is inconsistent with the fundamental nature of the swing and, at least for some players or in some conditions or situations, may alter the challenge of making a stroke because of the restriction of the end of the club and the extra support and stability provided for the swing. Certainly it appears to us that the recent large increase in use of anchored putters has been a result of players believing that anchoring the club may be a superior method or that it may help them cope with the effect of nerves and pressure. We believe that it is best for the competitive dynamic of the game going forward for all players to be asked to make a free swing by keeping the club and gripping hands off of the body and by avoiding the use of a forearm to establish an anchor point.
A: Our decision to propose the Rule change is based on preserving the fundamental character of the golf stroke rather than on empirical data concerning putting performance. The only such data of which we are aware are recent data from the PGA Tour that track Tour players’ putting performance in relation to length of putter used, but those data from Tour events are limited and inconclusive. Otherwise, we are aware of no data regarding the effect of anchoring on putting outcomes for all the many other types of players throughout all levels of the game.
More important, changes like this to playing Rules are not based on empirical studies. In writing the Rules that define how golf is to be played, the governing bodies assess current practices and recent developments in the context of history and traditions and make a judgment about the game’s fundamental nature and long-term best interests.
In adopting other Rules defining how a stroke must be played – such as the prohibitions on spooning, scraping or pushing (current Rule 14-1, which would be re-labeled as Rule 14-1a under the proposal), using a croquet-style stroke on the putting green (Rule 16-1e), or accepting physical assistance or protection from the elements (Rule 14-2a) – the governing bodies did not conduct empirical studies of the effect of the methods in question. Rather, they made their best judgment concerning the types of strokes that should be permitted in golf. While some actions are subject to penalty under the Rules because they may provide undue advantage to a player, many other actions are subject to penalty because they are deemed to be inconsistent with the definition of golf and the way in which the game is to be played.
In this case, we have concluded that a free swing of the entire club is part of the essential character of the game and central to its inherent challenge, and that anchoring the club may alter that challenge by using the body to provide extra support and stability for the stroke and enabling the player to swing only a portion of the club. Also, whether any actual benefit to a particular player may be significant or minor or whether it may be experienced by many or few of those who adopt anchored putting, the very use of this stroke has generated doubt and uncertainty among the participants themselves about whether players are facing equivalent challenges and playing the same game. The competitive nature of the game will best be served if these dynamics are eliminated.
A: We have not reached a conclusion that anchoring the club is a demonstrably easier or superior method of stroke for all golfers or in all conditions or situations, but only that the nature of that stroke differs from the traditional free swing and may alter the challenge inherent in that swing. Certainly we know that many players and instructors who use or advocate anchoring say that they believe that it may help to overcome some of the common obstacles to a successful putting stroke.
Furthermore, one of the reasons for proposing the Rule now is that the use of strokes made while anchoring the club has suddenly increased far beyond prior levels and has begun to enter the mainstream of the game.
We cannot predict the future, but we are concerned that, if allowed, such strokes might someday come to rival or even supplant the traditional non-anchored putting stroke or might be further extended into use with other clubs. We believe that such developments would not be in the best interests of the game.
A: The USGA and The R&A have monitored and discussed the topic of both longer putters and anchoring a number of times over the years.
In response to concerns arising in the 1980s about the emerging use of the long putter, in 1989 The R&A and the USGA considered but decided not to adopt an equipment Rule to limit the permissible length of a putter. The basic issue addressed was not the use of an anchored stroke, but whether long putters should be allowed at all. A key basis for the decision was that long putters were viewed as helping those with physical problems (e.g., back problems) who otherwise might have difficulty playing the game. Moreover, the view at the time was that long putters were used almost entirely by a small number of golfers with serious putting difficulties and there was little concern that this putting method would enter the mainstream.
The issue was also discussed a few years ago when concerns were deepened because of the more recent emergence of anchored putting with a belly putter. But there was no clear consensus about how best to address this issue through a Rule change (e.g., whether to use an equipment Rule or a playing Rule), and given the minor level of usage of such strokes, there was a continuing perception that there was no significant long-term threat to the traditional and established way of playing the game.
A: Our proposal comes in response to the recent upsurge in the use of anchored putting strokes at all levels of the game, combined with growing advocacy by players and instructors that anchoring the club may alleviate some of the inherent challenges of traditional putting and therefore may be a preferred way to play the game. In contrast to the past when anchored putting was uncommon, recent and potential future developments have brought the use of anchoring to the point where it may threaten to rival or supplant traditional non-anchored putting strokes and to alter the essential character and challenge of the game. These developments led to intense public discussion about whether this style of stroke belongs in the game and prompted us to recognize the need to resolve this issue.
A: The empirical data that we have seen relate primarily to usage of longer putters on the professional tours. Those data show a sharp uptick in 2011 and 2012 as compared to prior years, with the level of usage on the PGA Tour, for example, increasing from the 6% level that was typical for a number of years to 11% in 2011 and 15% in 2012, with usage exceeding the 20% level at multiple events in both years. A similar change has been evident on the European Tour over the last two years, with an average usage figure in 2012 of 13.5%. We are not aware of any substantial empirical data on the increased use of anchored putters at other levels of the game, but we have seen strong indications of that trend, including our own observations from both adult and junior amateur tournaments and generally with regard to recreational play and increased advocacy of such methods of stroke by instructors.
Q: What is your response to those who say that it is too late to make a change because anchored putting strokes have been used at least to some extent for the past 25 years and therefore have become part of the game?
A: Our mission is to revise the Rules of Golf only when there is a need to respond to changed circumstances and when it becomes clear what the specific nature of that revision should be. In the past, an underlying factor in the balance of considerations on this issue was that use of the anchored longer putter was at a very low level and not anticipated to move into the mainstream of the game. Those circumstances have now greatly changed. With the recent upsurge in the use of anchored strokes at all levels of the game, we have concluded that a Rules change is necessary to preserve the inherent nature and challenge of the golf stroke, and that this can be accomplished while enabling players to continue to use their longer putters and their individual playing styles.
If a change in the Rules of Golf is needed to protect and enhance the long-term character and interests of the game, the fact that it may require alteration of existing playing practices cannot prevent us from doing what is necessary and responsible. The governing bodies review and revise the Rules of Golf every four years precisely so that the Rules can be adapted as appropriate in response to developments within the game. By definition, changes to the playing Rules may affect how a golfer plays the game, and the need to adapt to those evolving Rules is inherent in the game.
We understand that there are those who believe that long putters should have been banned long ago and others who believe that anchoring should have been banned as soon as the belly putter emerged 10-12 years ago – just as there are those who believe that no action was or is needed in either respect. Even though used infrequently until very recently, the anchored stroke with longer putters has been an ongoing and highly controversial issue with many differing viewpoints. The fact that no action was taken on anchoring at an earlier time did not reflect a determination or assurance that no future Rule would be considered.
Assessing and modifying the Rules of Golf necessarily involves considerations of both past and future. In this context, we are identifying the essential nature of a golf stroke throughout the centuries since the game began: the player uses the hands and arms to make a free swing of the club at the ball. The fact that anchoring began to emerge toward the end of the last century does not mean that it has become a part of the traditions of the game.
A: No. The USGA and The R&A are keenly focused on making the game accessible for players with such disabilities, as reflected in our Rules for Golfers with Disabilities. Prior to January 1, 2016, we expect to look at possible revisions to that document to ensure that this proposed Rule would not affect the ability of disabled golfers to play the game. We welcome comments and suggestions in that regard.
A: Absolutely not. It has been entirely within the Rules for players to anchor the club while making a stroke. There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements. We think that it is highly unfortunate that anyone has seen fit to suggest anything to the contrary.
The Rules of Golf are continuously revised and updated, meaning that players often have succeeded with equipment or practices that were prohibited by subsequent Rules changes. Prominent examples of this include Bob Jones winning the Grand Slam in 1930 using a concave-faced wedge that was ruled non-conforming the following year and Sam Snead winning the 1967 Senior PGA Championship with a “croquet” putting style that subsequently was disallowed. These great champions are rightly celebrated as legends of the game, without any suggestion that such later Rule changes lessened their accomplishments.
The same is absolutely true of any player who has played using an anchored stroke, whether at the elite levels of the game or otherwise. Rule changes address the future and not the past. Up until now and until any Rule prohibiting anchoring would take effect, golfers who used or continue to use an anchored stroke will have played entirely by the Rules of Golf.
A: As an initial matter, we do not agree that the game is in decline. Although golf participation rates have been down in places where the game is long-established, such as the United States and Western Europe because of deep recessions and slow recoveries, the game is growing in other countries and regions around the world.
The R&A and USGA are highly focused on enhancing the long-term health of the game by addressing potential obstacles to participation, such as the belief that the game is too expensive or takes too long to play. Such important considerations of cost and personal choices about use of time are key issues about participation, not whether or not golfers are allowed to anchor their putters.
We do not share the view that some have expressed that the health or growth of the game depends on allowing anchored golf strokes. Our best judgment is that the recent sharp increase in the use of anchoring has occurred because a growing number of golfers of all ability levels have adopted the stroke in the belief that it may help them to play better, not because they view it as their only alternative to quitting the game.
We very much hope that no one would decline to play the game because of the prohibition on anchoring the club, and we do not believe that this proposed Rule would significantly affect overall participation levels. Moreover, we monitor and update the Rules of Golf to protect the essential character of the game for all players in the future, not to do whatever it takes to permit the use of every technique that an individual player might prefer to use. Our conclusion is that the long-term health and appeal of the game would be enhanced by this proposed Rule that reinforces the core elements and inherent challenge of the golf swing.
A: The R&A and USGA are sometimes urged that golfers would have more fun and that more people would play golf if only equipment restrictions were loosened, the Rules were relaxed or the game were otherwise made easier to play. We disagree. The challenges and essential elements of the game are an integral part of its appeal to players and potential players alike. Our mission in writing the Rules of Golf is not to make the game easier to play, but rather to preserve and strengthen the elements that have made golf a special game for centuries and will enable it to thrive long into the future.
We know that there are a great many individual styles of putting and they can continue to be used in a non-anchored fashion under the proposed Rule, including the use of longer putters. The proposed Rule focuses solely on anchoring the club, while leaving players with a wide variety of methods of stroke to make using their unique personal styles. We believe that this change would reinforce the importance of a free swing and preserve both the challenge and the fun of playing the game.
A: Yes. Putting without anchoring the club has been a common practice for centuries and has been used, at one time or another, by virtually everyone who has ever played the game. The new Rule would not ask any player to do something unusual or uniquely difficult in playing the ball and it would enable all players to play as they choose from within a common framework. We do not believe that the change from an anchored stroke to a non-anchored stroke would require a relearning of the fundamentals of striking the ball.
Indeed, many players have used both methods, in practice and in play, and have moved back and forth. Players who spent decades using non-anchored standard-length putters have subsequently switched to anchored putting, and players can move in the other direction as well. Because the Rule would not take effect until January 1, 2016, players also would have a long time to adapt, if necessary.
EFFECTIVE DATE AND PROCESS
A: The proposed January 1, 2016 effective date follows from our usual practice of implementing changes to the Rules of Golf at the beginning of each four-year review cycle. The last revision of the Rules was implemented on January 1, 2012, and therefore the next regular revision date will be January 1, 2016.
A: There are two reasons. First, the anchoring issue has been widely debated across the golf community for quite some time, and particularly since last year. After our announcement in early 2012 that the issue was under review, we received repeated inquiries from the media and others, and in response we indicated that we expected to be able to announce the resolution of that review before the end of 2012. Therefore, we wanted to announce the proposed Rule when we were in a position to do so. We also look forward to further communications with and input from the golfing community in the period before the issue is taken up for final approval in early 2013.
Second, by announcing the proposal now and planning to make a final decision in early 2013, we hope to allow golfers to know the outcome on the anchoring issue well in advance of the anticipated effective date of any Rules change. If Rule 14-1b is adopted in early 2013 with an effective date of January 1, 2016, all golfers would have a long transitional period in which they may adapt their method of stroke, if necessary, to conform to the new Rule.
A: Proposed Rule 14-1b follows an extensive review by The R&A and the USGA that was initiated in response to the recent observed increase in the use of anchored putting strokes by players at all levels of the game. In examining the issue, we focused on the fundamental elements of the golf stroke and assessed whether anchoring the club is consistent with the game’s history and traditions and with the appropriate way to define how a stroke should be played going forward.
We also carefully listened to the many views expressed on all sides of the issue from across the golf community. Throughout the past year, and indeed for many years, we have heard opinions about anchoring from various stakeholders in the game, including professional golfers and tours, elite amateurs, golf associations and organizations, equipment manufacturers, golf instructors and recreational golfers from around the world.
In the time leading up to final action on the proposal, we intend to engage in a further dialogue by explaining the proposed Rule’s rationale and application and by accepting questions and comments from members of the golf community.
REASON FOR APPLYING THE RULE TO ALL PLAYERS
A: No. The USGA and The R&A are committed to the principle that a single set of Rules for all players of the game, irrespective of ability, is one of golf's enduring strengths. We regard the prospect of having permanent separate Rules for elite competition as undesirable. A single set of Rules adds structure to the game as well as enjoyment to the experience. For even casual golfers, to know that they are playing by the Rules ties them closer to the game, its traditions and the best golfers in the world.
This proposed Rule addresses one of the central aspects of the game. The Rules of Golf define a specific type of game in which the stroke is fundamental, as provided in Rule 1: “The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules.” Defining how a stroke may be played is at the core of the game. To create a Rule that would allow one set of players, perhaps 30-40 times a round, to make strokes in a certain way while prohibiting another set of players from doing so would be to start well down the road toward creating two different games. This proposed Rule is a prime example of the importance of continuing to govern golf as a single game with a single set of Rules.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES
A: We do not believe that there is any linkage between those topics. Distance and anchoring are both important issues, and dealing with one is independent of dealing with the other. We continue to take the question of distance very seriously. Since issuing their Joint Statement of Principles in 2002, The R&A and the USGA have continued to monitor the distance issue as part of our ongoing and regular process of joint meetings on equipment standards, we have pursued reduced-distance ball studies, and we intend to conduct further studies as well. We will be prepared to take action on distance if we conclude that action is justified.
But that debate has nothing to do with the question of anchoring. We have concluded that action is needed on this issue and therefore we are now proposing this change to Rule 14-1.