The Royal and Ancient (R&A), United States Golf Association (USGA), and the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) have approved Rule 14-1b to prohibit anchored putting effective January 1, 2016.
Touring pros experienced with the technique include recent major winners Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson, and Adam Scott at the 2013 Masters.Rule 14-1b will not affect the use of the long putter as equipment in the standard, freely swinging, unattached-to-the-trunk-of-
The rationale and evidence for the use and ban of the technique is murky from a performance perspective. According to the USGA, “anchoring is currently used by only 2 to 4 percent of all golfers in the United States and Europe.”
There is no compelling evidence that anchored putting convincingly improves performance. The equipment cost is comparable to standard.
If there is no definitive evidence for performance improvement and participation rate is so small, then why the ban? The feet are flat on the ground, with a traditional ball placement and pendulum stroke.
Pace of play appears unaffected, nor is the style against the rules using a pushing, spooning, scraping, or croquet-style type of movement. There are literally thousands of putting styles within the rules.
If there is no overall evidence for increase in performance, and the stroke is within the current rules and pace of play is unaffected and so few are participating, then why the rule change? The potential reasons are numerous and in some cases, speculative and unclear.
Golf traditions and rules are historically challenged with new styles and equipment. A 40-page response by the USGA for the ban on anchored putting focuses on golf traditions and the free swinging nature of the grip end of the club.
Previously, golf history had no rule that the grip end of the club must be separate from the body when making a stroke. Challenges to golf tradition have existed for centuries and have included golf tees, steel shafts instead of hickory, golf shaft length, and golf carts versus walking. Challenges sometimes result in new traditions with changes in rules, styles, while encouraging improvements in technology in order to enjoy the game while making it profitable for the golf business.
For example, the introduction of golf carts is viewed by many as a challenge to golf tradition. Golf carts provide ease of access, enjoyment, less physical wear and tear on the body, and add revenue.
Innovations in golf equipment and ball-striking styles are an appealing constant of the game and the evolving golf tradition. Experimentation with equipment and styles within the rules attracts and maintains participation, increases the financial profit of the golf business, and enhances the enjoyment of golf throughout the lifespan.
Dr. Wirt Edwards is the Academy’s Chair of Sports Exercise Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.