February 2013

February 2013: Tips from a Golf Pro

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

CHANGING THE RULES OF GOLF

Recently the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A), golf’s governing bodies, proposed Rule 14-1b as an amendment to the Rules of Golf. Rule 14-1b states: In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”

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. 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.

What does this mean to you, the everyday golfer? The use of anchoring your putter will no longer be allowed during a round if you are going to use that round to establish a USGA handicap. However, should you not wish to establish a USGA handicap, you are free to use any type of putting style you like. This might pose a problem to your club’s handicap chairperson, as some clubs want all scores turned in.

If it doesn’t, putt any way you wish. If it does, consider using the following when talking to your handicap committee.

Why make a rule on anchoring now? This is a very good question and one that has yet to been answered to the satisfaction of the golfing public. Anchoring a putter has been around for more than 30 years, but the USGA had never taken a stand on the topic. In fact, it was not until recently when three of the last five major champions won using the anchor method that steps were taken to outlaw this style. But was this action necessary? In my opinion the simple answer is no. There has never been one shred of evidence showing that anchoring a putter allows a golfer to have an advantage when putting. Traditionalists are quick to point out that anchoring the putter is cheating yet never present any evidence to back up their claim. In fact, history and the evidence support the opposite.

According to the PGA Tour’s Total Putts Gained stat, during the anchoring era (2008-Present), only two PGA Tour members have cracked the Top 20 in Total Putts Gained, Scott McCarron (17th in 2010 & 9th in 2011) and Carl Petterson (14th in 2008 & 2nd in 2010). Although Scott and Carl are very good golfers with long PGA Tour careers and multiple wins each, most would not consider them top tier players on the PGA Tour. Wouldn’t you think if anchoring your putter was a more effective way of putting, touring pros around the world would use it since their livelihood depends on their ability win golf tournaments? After all, you cannot win a golf tournament if you are not making putts.

I believe the effect of this new rule will be far greater than what was originally thought. It will be felt by the masses more so than by PGA Tour pros. Percentage wise there are many more golfers of average handicap using extra-long putters than there are touring pros using them. This rule will hurt the golfing public more than anyone else, because it takes away something that helped you to enjoy the game more. A large majority of golfers who employ the extra-long putters and anchor them are those who have trouble bending for extended periods of time and have found that using a long putter and anchoring it is a way to practice more and enjoy the game to a greater degree. Eliminating that will detract from the game, and in a game that is losing more people per year than it is bringing in, that could pose a problem.

Organizations often say what they think will be attractive to the public at large. Does the USGA say they are making a rule change to promote their own interests? No, they say it is to protect the traditions of the game.

Who really gains from this rule? Does the game gain by losing more golfers? Does the golfer gain by having to relearn a skill he or she has practiced for years? These are questions that can only be answered over time. I just hope it is not after the game has lost more people due to a rule that takes away more than it gives.

To learn more about Rule 14-1b, and other topics in golf, be sure to attend the 2013 Hilton Head Island PGA Teaching Forum. The Forum is open to the public and we look forward to seeing you there. For more information visit the Forum’s website at hiltonheadislandpgateachingforum.weebly.com/. If you are looking to improve your golf game, contact Pete Popovich at the Golf Performance Academy-HHI at (843)338-6737, pete@golfacademyhiltonhead, or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.

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