OUR EXPERTS EXPLAIN
Rule 14-1b in Action
February 17, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J.
By Jamie Wallace, USGA
Since Rule 14-1b went into effect on Jan. 1 prohibiting anchored strokes on the golf course, there have only been a few questions raised at the professional level as to whether there was a breach of this Rule. Two recent situations have provided excellent, real-world illustrations of this Rule. The first was Zac Blair at the Sony Open in mid-January and the second was Bernhard Langer at the Champions Tour’s Chubb Classic this past weekend.
Rule 14-1b prohibits two actions during a stroke: 1) directly anchoring the club or a gripping hand against the body and 2) indirectly anchoring the club through the use of an anchor point created by holding a forearm in contact with any part of the body. For both actions, there is only a breach of this Rule if the player had the intention of either directly anchoring or creating an anchor point. Unintentionally brushing a hand or club against the body or clothing during a stroke does not constitute a breach of Rule 14-1b.
In the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, Blair was in contention as he came to the par-3 17th hole. His tee shot ended up just off the green and he elected to use a fairway wood for his second shot. The video appears to show the grip end of the club coming into contact with Blair’s torso at the end of the stroke. However, this was not a breach of the Rules as Blair had no intention of anchoring the club for his stroke, providing a great example of inadvertent contact. This situation also highlights the important point that Rule 14-1b applies to strokes made from anywhere on the course with any club, not simply a long or mid-length putter.
Langer won the Chubb Classic in dominant fashion, marking his first victory since the prohibition of the anchored stroke took effect. Langer’s chosen method of putting is an excellent example of the many different strokes that can be employed while still using a long putter and conforming with the Rules of Golf. Langer has long used a broomstick putter and anchored it to this chest with his left hand. Over this past weekend, he used a slightly modified version of this stroke in which he simply moved his left hand, putter grip and forearms away from his body so that the stroke was free-flowing and not anchored. Interestingly, Langer actually anchors the club during practice swings and just prior to making his stroke, which is perfectly fine. The Rule is only breached when the club is anchored during the stroke itself.
It is important to keep in mind that Rule 14-1b does not limit the use of equipment; it simply limits the type of stroke that can be used. Additionally, this Rule is intent-based, meaning that unintentionally anchoring the club, as Blair did, is not a breach of the Rule. Langer’s chosen putting stroke is an excellent illustration of the fact that the prohibition on anchored strokes is actually fairly narrow in its restrictions and leaves numerous options available to golfers.
Jamie Wallace is a manager of Rules education and digital content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.