R&A and USGA deem anchoring illegal – in 2016

Anchors away!

Surprise, surprise. The R&A and USGA have finally (and unexpectedly) made a decision on anchoring, which deem the stroke illegal from January 1, 2016.

Here is the statement made by both of golf’s ruling bodies earlier this morning:

“The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf’s governing bodies, today announced proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that would prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke.

The proposed Rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by The R&A and the USGA, would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player’s body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.

The proposed new Rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke. The proposed Rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer’s ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style.

The proposed Rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf. This timetable would also provide an extended period in which golfers may, if necessary, adapt their method of stroke to the requirements of the Rule.”

The statement makes it clear that they are now outlawing belly and long putters, but it will make them much more difficult to use.

Rule 14-1b will be written as:

14-1b Anchoring the ClubIn making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”Note 1:  The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.Note 2:  An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

It is somewhat unexpected that the USGA and R&A have made such a drastic change to the rules of golf given their complete disregard to arguably more important problems with the game of golf: slow play and modern technology for example. However the ruling is probably more in line with the glacial rate of change in golf, applying a rule to be implemented in three years.

Keegan Bradley has only ever used a belly putter and won the 2011 US PGA Championship anchoring it to his torso. He remains resolute in the use of his current putter and won’t be using the short putter for a while.

“I haven’t tried it,” said Bradley. “I mean I’ve grabbed my buddies’ just for fun, but I’m not doing any sort of practice with the short putter. … [The change] is not for another three years, but I’ll use my style of putting until then.”

There are rumours that some of the professionals who apply their profession using the anchoring stroke will file a lawsuit against golf’s ruling bodies in the near future. But it remains to be seen whether a few golfers will carry this threat though and David Dusek at Golf.com reports that the suit is likely to be unsuccessful anyway.

The question now remains, what will all the professionals and amateurs who use long and belly putters choose to do over the next three years? Will they switch back to the short putter immediately or stick to the longer ones right to the death?

There are 12 majors and 12 WGC events between now and 2016, you have to wonder what the reaction will be if another player wins a major using a stroke that will be deemed illegal in years to come.

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