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Home Ruling bodies explain what's changed in golf

Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director, explained why now and why the ruling bodies are proceeding with the proposed rule on anchoring. “Essentially it boils down to two things; that in the last 18 to 24 months, we have seen a significant increase at all levels of the game of people using anchored strokes,” he began. “I'll start out with the PGA TOUR. For years, we saw two, three, four percent of players at PGA TOUR events using anchored strokes. Mostly with the long putters back in the 80s and 90s. And all of a sudden, we get to 2006 through 2010, and then it jumped to an average of six percent. Then all of a sudden, 2011, so last year, it almost doubled, and it goes to 11 percent. This year, it's jumped to 15 percent.  And in some events, have even over 20, 25 percent of the players in the field using anchored strokes.” Who said golf isn’t growing? 

“This, like so many things with the elite game, has transferred to the elite amateur game, the elite junior game,” Davis continued.  “We have been seeing some cases fairly recently where players are starting to anchor chip shots. Maybe they are taking a hybrid club and sticking the club in their belly,” he pointed out. “So we are seeing increases at elite amateur events, elite junior events, and that, too, has translated to the recreational game. In the last couple years, we have seen a definite increase in the sales of long putters, belly putters, and while there's no way for the R&A and USGA to know worldwide of the 60 million players that play, how many players use anchored strokes, we can certainly deduct from that trends do follow the professional tours and we do think and we see it ourselves anecdotally, with recreational golf.

“The other big reason is that people seem to fall into kind of a last resort thing, because they just couldn't putt conventionally. Maybe it was a nerve problem; they couldn't bend over. But most golfers who anchored fell into that category,” he continued. “We also had some golfers who maybe they were older and just said, I can't lean over, it hurts my back, I can't practice with something shorter. And what's changed in the last couple years, is that we now are seeing a growing advocacy of players who are using it. But also, instructors saying that this is a more efficient way to make a stroke. It alleviates certain inherent challenges. It stabilizes the club and gives extra support and stability. I think the difference now is we are seeing golfers who no longer see this as a stroke of last resort.  They see it gravitating and ultimately that is why we are making this proposed rules change.”

Davis’ counterpart, Peter Dawson chief executive of the R&A, was questioned specifically about performance through anchoring. “In actual fact, I think we have to make it very clear that this proposed rule change is not directly performance related,” stated Dawson. “It would be extremely difficult to gain any meaningful performance data, because there is no control experiment as to how a particular player might have putted had he been using a conventional stroke as opposed to an anchored one on a particular day. In terms of comparing players that are using anchored strokes with players who are using conventional strokes, there is no compelling data to say one is better than the other. It's an individual thing for individual players. The reason for proceeding with this rules change is not performance related. It is about defining what is a golf stroke.”

Davis added, “We feel strongly it is in the best interests of the game moving forward, and we certainly would acknowledge that some golfers will be not happy with this. But we would hope everybody understands that the R&A and the USGA are doing what it feels or what we feel is in the best interests of the game moving forward.”