The anchoring ban announcement: video and full transcript

In case you missed it, here is the official video announcement by USGA President Glen Nager on the decision to ban anchoring as of January 1, 2016.

And below is the full transcript of Nager’s announcement. I add it because he concisely addresses nearly every argument against the ban I’ve heard. They obviously put a lot of thought into  this.

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, potential advantages such as making the stroke simpler and more repeatable, restricting the movement and the rotation of the hands, the arms and the club face, 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 opposition. 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 reason.

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 strokes.

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 role 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 for change.

Players at all levels know that the rules are subject to change at least every four years and they adapt accordingly.

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 participation rates.
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 concerns.

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.


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