Second Thoughts: The USGA is Flat Wrong. Anchor-Putting isn’t Cheating –It’s a Needed Tonic for the Amateur Game.
I admit we’ve had our differences (you’ve labeled seven of my putter designs as nonconforming), but those are in the past. I know your executive director, Mike Davis, and his R&A counterpart, Peter Dawson, very well and consider them friends. I like these gentlemen, and realize that the task of preserving and protecting the game is a difficult one. I admire their efforts.
The reason for this letter is to ask you to reconsider, or at least reword, your proposal to ban the anchoring of belly and long putters for all golfers. As part of the justification for this ban, you expressed your desire to keep the rules the same for all golfers so that everyone plays the “same” game. Relative to this point, I offer the following:
- You banned the box grooved wedges for pros and elite amateurs in 2011, but allowed the rest of us to use them until at least 2024.
- Your professional and elite-amateur competitions are held on courses that stretch 7,000 yards and longer, yet you encourage amateurs to “tee it forward” and play from the “up” tees.
- You approve the balls that generate extra distance when sufficiently compressed, even though Tour-level swings are the only ones capable of such compression.
- You legislate that pros must walk, yet most modern daily fee courses are “carts only”.
- You allow high-C.O.R. drivers that enable pros to hit balls prodigious distances, but their “spring-like” effects don’t benefit players with slower swing speeds (i.e. most amateurs).
- Green speeds on typical municipal and country club courses run around 8 to 10 feet. The green speed you reported from the U.S. Open at Olympic Club last June was 13 feet.
These differences (and there are many more) emphasize that we really don’t all play the same game, or play the game in the same way. And this is as it should be, because the game is already tough enough for amateurs.
Imagine the drop in amateur participation and enjoyment if you made all golfers play the same game as professionals – by that I mean on super-long courses, from the back tees and into narrow fairways lined with high rough, pitching balls to super-fast greens and impossible hole locations while using wedges with low-spin grooves. Oh, and force them to walk, too!
Let me get to the point: If you’re going to make a new ruling that restricts anchoring for elite players, use words that allow the majority of golfers to continue enjoying the game as they do now. Many amateurs are using belly and long putters, and they’re not hurting anything. Don’t label it illegal or cheating and ban it from golf. Slot it into the same category as carts, range finders, slow greens and short courses – not legal for U.S. Opens, but perfectly okay for recreational and club play. That’ll fit well with your core philosophy – that there really are two games.
We need to grow the game, not shrink it. We need to make it more enjoyable, not more difficult. By my calculation, you’ll drive up to a million players from the game – and make it less enjoyable for a million more – if you stick with a universal anchoring ban. I base this number on the amateurs I’ve taught in my schools who have found a second golfing life with an anchored stroke. These are good people – good golfers – and having them involved is important to this wonderful game.
Sincerely submitted for your consideration,
Golf Magazine’s Technical and Short Game Consultant