GLEN NAGER: Good morning, everyone. As you know, last November
after an extensive review, we proposed Rule 14-1b to prohibit anchoring the
club and making a stroke. Having now heard and considered many very thoughtful
comments both for and against the Rule, the governing boards of the USGA and
the R&A have now adopted that Rule effective January 1, 2016.
This Rule has broad support
across the international golf community, but because some may still disagree
with this decision, as chair of the USGA’s governing board, I wanted to ensure
that our reasoning is understood by all.
Rule 14-1b protects one of the
most important challenges in the game of golf: the free swing of the entire
club. The traditional stroke involves swinging the club with both the club and
the gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and
control the movement of the entire club. Anchoring is different. Intentionally
securing one end of the club against the body and creating a point of physical
attachment around which the club is swung is a substantial departure from the
traditional free swing.
Rule 14-1b eliminates the
potential advantages that anchoring creates, such as making the stroke simpler
and more repeatable, restricting the movement and the rotation of the hands,
the arms and the clubface, creating a fixed pivot point, and creating extra
support and stability that may diminish the effects of nerves and pressure,
that anchoring provides these potential advantages is confirmed by those who
play, teach and observe the game.
Players say they anchor for
these reasons. Instructors advocate the stroke for these reasons. And those who
oppose anchoring point to these potential advantages as the basis for their
Indeed, some of the commenters
on Rule 14-1b object to it precisely because they think that without anchoring,
some golfers might play less well and thus play less frequently.
Now, a few commenters asked
that we had not shown statistically that anchored putting is a superior stroke,
but it’s important to understand that the playing Rules of Golf are not based
on statistical studies; they’re based upon judgments that define the game and
its intended challenges.
One of those challenges is to
control the entire club and the swing, and anchoring alters that challenge.
Moreover, the issue here is not
whether anchoring provides a statistical demonstrable advantage to the average
golfer, or on every stroke or in every circumstance. What matters here is
whether by diminishing obstacles inherent in the traditional stroke, anchoring
may advantage some players at some times. Statistics are not necessary to
resolve that issue.
A few other commenters
suggested that anchoring must not be advantageous because relatively few use
it, but that suggestion ignores the fact that many, many golfers believe that
anchoring is not a proper way to play the game and don’t anchor for that
Also the trend over the last
two decades is toward remarkably increased use of anchoring, a trend that’s particularly
worrisome, given that beginners and juniors are now being taught anchored
The bottom line is that
anchoring has generated serious division within the game and among players
about whether those who anchor play the same game and face the same challenges.
Such divisiveness is corrosive to a game that’s based on sportsmanship. Rule
14-1b will serve the game by removing the cause of this division.
Now, a few commenters argued
that it is unfair for us to now adopt Rule 14-1b on the view that the playing
Rules have allowed too many to anchor for too long. We respectfully disagree.
The notion that a Rules change
must be made soon after an issue is identified or else be considered forever
foreclosed, regardless of negative effects on the game, is contrary to the
history and the needs of the game. Many Rules revisions have occurred only long
after an issue was first identified, such as the changes related to croquet
style putting, the 14-club maximum and the stymie.
More recently the issue has
been ongoing about issues such as slow play, use of video evidence, scorecard
penalties and other controversial Rules issues.
The passage of time cannot bar
us from addressing these issues if the game is to thrive, for it often takes
time to refine the issues, assess potential solutions and build a consensus needed
Players at all levels know that
the Rules are subject to change at least every four years and they adapt
Furthermore, the burdens of
this new Rule are much less than some have suggested. Recent surveys indicate
that even with the recent upsurge in anchoring, anchoring is currently used by
only 2 to 4 percent of all golfers in the United States and Europe, and even
fewer by players in other parts of the world.
Rule 14-1b leaves these
relative few with many options for playing the ball. It does not ban any
equipment. A player can use the same long putter or the same belly putter, take
the same stance, grip the club in the same way and make the same pendulum style
stroke. He or she need only move his or her hands slightly off of the body.
The Rule also leaves available
a vast number of other grips, styles and methods.
Putting without anchoring has
been used at some point by virtually all who play the game, and many players
have used both methods in practice and/or in play, switching from one method to
another with limited transition time. With more than two and a half years
before this Rule takes effect, the small percentage of golfers who are affected
by this Rule have plenty of time and plenty of means to adapt.
Of course the Rule does
eliminate the potential advantages of anchoring, and we have heard, and we
genuinely empathize with those who will need to adjust. But the understandable
objection of these relative few cannot prevent adoption of a Rule that will
serve the best interests of the entire game going forward.
Indeed, rather than being too
late, now is a necessary time to act, before even larger numbers begin to
anchor and before anchoring takes firm root globally.
Let me also comment on the
objection that’s been made that Rule 14-1b might negatively affect
participation in the game. The fact is that the game is growing worldwide, and
anchoring is hardly used where much of this growth is occurring. Moreover it’s
been documented that the major causes of recent reduced participation in the
United States and Europe where national economies have been weak are the
expense of the game, the time that it takes to play the game, and the
perception that the game has not always been made fun and accessible for
juniors and the like. No meaningful data, and let me repeat, no meaningful
data, supports the notion that anchoring plays any material role in driving
Indeed, the recent upsurge has
occurred mainly because golfers believe that anchoring helps them to play
better, not because it’s their only resort.
The USGA and the R&A care
deeply about participation in the game. That’s why we’re leading numerous
initiatives about the health of the game, on expense of the game and pace of
play among others. But the USGA and the R&A must also protect and preserve
the game and its challenges for all players worldwide for the long term, and
that is the point of Rule 14-1b.
For this reason we’ve been
unable to suggest the proposal that Rule 14-1b be applied only to elite
players, through either permanent or temporary bifurcation of the Rules or an
optional condition of competition. The method of stroke is fundamental to the
game and integral to the game’s appeal so that we can all play on the same
course with the same equipment under the same Rules.
To adopt a Rule or a condition
of competition that enabled non elite amateurs perhaps 30 to 40 times a round
to gain the potential advantages of anchoring while prohibiting professionals
and elite amateurs from doing so would effectively create two different games
and undermine the integrity, the traditions and the global appeal of this game.
We understand that some golfers
are expressing concern with this change, but the proper solution is not to
allow alteration of the challenges of the game or to pull the game apart. The
proper solution is to work together to help these golfers overcome their
Let me conclude by underscoring
that we respect very much that some golfers and some golf organizations have
raised questions about this rule. For the reasons I’ve offered and for reasons
that are stated in greater detail in a document posted on our website today, we
are convinced that there are compelling answers to these questions. We hope
that the few who have expressed concerns about this Rule know that they have
been heard and can appreciate our reasons for concluding that this Rule is in
the best interest of the game, even if they would have concluded differently.
We ask that all join with us
now in moving forward for the good of the game.
Thank you very much.
Q: A two-part question, the second related to the first. Mike, do you
yet know whether the PGA TOUR will follow suit with this and adopt the Rule?
MIKE DAVIS: First of all, we’ve had ongoing discussions with
Commissioner Finchem and others at the PGA TOUR about it, and they, like we
asked them to do, gave comments on the proposed Rule. But at this point it
would simply be conjecture on our part and would really be inappropriate on our
part to go to the next level, would they follow the Rule. I would say that’s
our answer on that.
Q: If the new Rule against anchoring causes bifurcation where the PGA
TOUR goes its own way, will this stand you’ve made be worth that consequence?
MIKE DAVIS: I think as Glen said in his opening remarks, I think
this was about protecting the fundamentals of what we believe the game has
always been and that we do believe this has been a divisive issue that needed
to be cleared up. It’s an issue of controversy that’s gone on for decades now. It
would be conjecture to say if that ever happened. But we feel good about where
things are right now. We’ve talked to the different organizations, and one of
the things that came out beyond just this anchoring thing is that worldwide
there was a broad consensus that the world wanted one set of Rules and the
world wants the R&A and the USGA to govern those Rules.
Q: Glen, Mike, in the last year or so, have you visited golf club
manufacturers or talked with them on the phone in consideration of their perspective?
MIKE DAVIS: Yes, we have talked to a number of them. As you’re well
aware, this is not an equipment Rule, this is a playing Rule that defines and
clarifies what a stroke is meant to be, but yes, we’ve absolutely heard from
various manufacturers. We deal with upwards of 1,000 different manufacturers
that submit different products to us for approval, and I would say through this
process we actually heard from very few.
I think they view it as I won’t
say it would be unfair to categorize it as a non-issue, but with the
manufacturers we’ve heard quite a few that say they support the R&A and the
USGA and their governance of the Rules. We’re going to follow this. We’ve had a
few other manufacturers not question the principle of this change but wonder is
this the right time to do it or will this negatively affect participation. But
yes, we have talked to them.
But since this was a playing
Rule, this was really open for notice and comment to the entire golf world.
Q: Glen covered this a little bit in his opening remarks, but what
would you say to the recreational player, the $2 Nassau guy who may have gone
to anchoring to escape the yips, to alleviate a physical problem or simply to
enjoy the game more?
GLEN NAGER: Well, I’m a recreational golfer so I certainly
understand the anxiety that a recreational golfer feels with all of the
challenges in the game, whether it be playing out of a bunker or hitting a chip
shot or whether it be putting.
This Rule leaves all of us
plenty of options for playing the game and enjoying the game. That golfer who
you’re referring to can and will have time to transition and plenty of means to
transition to play under this Rule and to continue to enjoy the game.
Q: You make the point that this is not an equipment Rule, but can you
foresee a scenario where in time for the 2016 revisions you would make a ruling
to preserve the traditions of the game that would apply to equipment?
MIKE DAVIS: We looked at this. It’s interesting, if you go the
whole way back to the late ‘80s, the USGA and the R&A looked at the length
of putter, when really it was the 1980s when you start to see we started to see
long putters become more commonplace.
And the USGA and R&A
concluded back then that on balance, it just wasn’t appropriate. It wasn’t the
right thing for the game of golf to restrict the length of a putter. We stand
by that today. And for some that would question why don’t you just limit the
length of the putter or deal with it that way, it’s really the anchoring that
has bothered us. We want to protect the tradition of holding the club in two
hands and swinging it freely away from the body, and if you do it by length of
putter, you’re going to negatively affect some people that we didn’t want to
negatively affect. There’s people that want to stand tall because of back
issues, there’s people that want to use a longer putter because they want to
spread their hands out. Maybe that helps with some of the nerve problems that
were brought up. Ultimately if we went to a shorter putter you could have some
shorter people that have, let’s say, larger midsections that could still
anchor, versus you’d have some taller, thinner people that would have to bend
way over. So we’ve never thought this was an equipment issue, we were always
bothered by the anchoring.
Q: Mike, why is it important that the PGA TOUR be on board with this?
MIKE DAVIS: When we write and interpret the Rules of Golf, we do it
for millions of golfers worldwide, 50, 60 million golfers, whatever that number
happens to be. As you well know, the PGA TOUR is a very small group, a few
hundred players, but they have a big impact on the game. As we like to say,
when white belts appeared on the PGA TOUR, guess what: They appeared in
I think it’s really important
that the PGA TOUR and all the professional tours, the LPGA and so on, continue
to follow one set of Rules.
We have, as I think you well
know, have gotten very positive feedback from the tours around the world saying
that they like one set of Rules, they like the R&A and USGA governing
those, so if there was some type of schism we don’t think that would be good
for golf, and we are doing what we think is right for the long term benefit of
the game for all golfers, and we just can’t write them for one group of small
Q: Have you talked about the possibility of disputes in the future,
either in competition or in the everyday posting of scores?
MARK NEWELL: It’s one of the things that we talked about in the
Rules of Golf committee process in developing this Rule. We’re comfortable that
the way the Rule is drafted that it will be clear. It relies on the integrity
of the player. The basic prohibition is that one cannot intentionally anchor
the club, either directly or by using an anchor point. Many of the Rules of
Golf rely on integrity, including judgments about the intent of the player.
Although there could be
close-to-the-line questions, we think those will be few and far between. We
think we’ve provided guidance already and can continue to provide education to
players, and we don’t think there will be a significant likelihood of disputes
Q: Some of the documents in reading over it, you talk about the
decision about this Rule being definitional as opposed to sort of based on
statistics, and certainly in the past, most notably with the groove Rule,
statistics were a big part of the decision making process. Can you talk about
why in this case the definitional approach was appropriate, and looking
forward, how would that type of thinking apply in the case of future rulings?
MARK NEWELL: The grooves Rule was an equipment Rule. The Rule we’ve
adopted here is a playing Rule, and what we’ve emphasized, and you can see this
in the report that we’ve published on our website, is that the playing Rules of
Golf are based on judgments about the essential nature and challenge of the
game and related judgments about whether alternative acts or practices may
reduce the challenge of the game.
Equipment Rules sometimes are
based on technical analysis about the effect of particular new types of
equipment or particular specifications of the clubs. The playing Rules are
based on judgments about what the game is and how it should be played.
Q: There’s a school of thought that if the PGA TOUR, PGA of America,
potentially even Augusta National, all were to allow anchoring to continue that
your role as the rule making authority would become obsolete. What do you say
GLEN NAGER: Let me address that. We can’t speculate about what
others are going to do, we can only try to do the right thing for the game,
which is what we’re trying to do now.
Two, we’ve been writing the
Rules of Golf and setting the gold standard in the Rules of Golf for over 100
years, and all of the other organizations that you’ve referred to have chosen
to play by our Rules because they know they’re the gold standard.
The comment process brought
that out in a particularly compelling and frankly flattering way, that the
world golf community said we want one set of Rules and we want them provided to
us by those who have experience at doing it, those who are independent and
those who are unbiased, and that’s what the USGA is and that’s what the R&A
is, and that’s why we hope that these organizations will continue their past
behavior of playing by a single set of Rules for the good of the game, a game
that’s growing globally, will be going to the Olympics and needs one set of
Rules to thrive.
Q: In the event of any legal challenges, why do you believe the USGA is
on solid footing?
GLEN NAGER: Let me start by saying that we’re going to do whatever
we have to do for the good of the game because that’s our mission. Our mission
is not to avoid legal challenges. Our mission is to determine the appropriate
Rules for the game that make the game strong for the long term.
We believe that that’s what
golfers want, that’s what golf organizations want, and we believe that the
incredible passion that was demonstrated in the comment period shows how
passionate people are about the game, that they don’t want to tear the game
apart. The people don’t want litigation, they wanted to be heard and we heard
In the event that any
litigation is brought, we’ll respond to whatever the claims are, but I can
assure you this, as you mentioned a reference to Mark’s professional training
and experience and my professional training and experience, we have looked at
this from the legal perspective, as well, as we feel confident of our position.