Barring something dramatic, such as a legal challenge or a change of heart from golf’s governing bodies, anybody who plays the sport starting in 2016, from beginners to PGA Tour professionals, won’t be permitted to use an anchored stroke.
That was guaranteed on Monday, when the PGA Tour’s policy board voted to accept the anchor ban approved in May by the US Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The PGA of America followed suit Monday, announcing that it also will abide by the new rule, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2016.
Both the PGA Tour and PGA of America had been among the most vocal critics when the anchor proposal was announced last November, hoping that their opposition would potentially sway the ultimate decision by the USGA and R&A. When that failed and the proposal was approved, it was up to the tour and the PGA of America to either accept or reject the measure.
They chose to accept, although both did offer a suggestion to the USGA and R&A: That the implementation of the new rule be delayed for amateurs until a much later date, instead of 2016.
The policy board “recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour,” said Tim Finchem, the tour’s commissioner. “The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion.”
Said Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, which had taken the position that a ban on anchoring wasn’t in the best interest of growing the game, since many recreational golfers have taken to using the longer putters: “While we agree to implement Rule 14-1b, we continue to feel strongly that the amateur player needs a longer period of adjustment to this rule.”
Use of an anchored putting stroke has become popular — and successful — on the PGA Tour in recent years, with four of the past seven major championships being won by players with either long putters or belly putters. It’s become a divisive issue, with some golfers (including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer) speaking out against the anchored stroke, saying no swing in golf should be made while the club is anchored to the body.
Those who anchor have maintained that it provides no statistical advantage over the standard-sized putter, pointing out that the vast majority of players don’t anchor.
Nine players — Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson, and new Masters champion Adam Scott, plus six who haven’t publicly come forward — have retained Boston attorney Harry Manion, with Cooley Manion Jones. The players wanted to wait for the policy board’s decision before making their next move, which could include litigation.
“The decision was not unexpected. My nine clients expected it, we all felt it was going to go this way,” Manion said Monday by phone from Chicago. “We’re pleased that the tour decided not to accelerate the rule’s applicability.
“What I’m going to do is get with each of my clients, and it’s pretty much an individual decision what they do next. It could be all nine decide just to accept the decision, it could be somebody might want to do something. I think acting collectively is over. Each golfer now has to decide what he wants to do, in light of the fact that the tour has acted.”
The tour’s policy board met Monday in West Virginia in advance of this week’s Greenbrier Classic. The PGA of America reached agreement on accepting the ban last week.