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Ban anchoring, but aren't there other things we could have done?

By Shane Bacon | Blogger
Keegan Bradley was the first person to win a major championship with an anchored putter. (Getty Images)

On an early morning in November, when golf news is normally "which coat will I wear today," the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club proposed a ban that will all but kill our idea of 21st century putting.

The rule, 14-1b, simply "would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player's body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club," thus killing off the idea of an anchored motion with the golf club starting on Jan. 1, 2016.

The rule has extreme consequences now, just like any monumental change does in our usual walks of life. But is it really that big of a deal in the long run?

For now, professionals will be affected. Guys like Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott will have to find new ways to putt, just like they did when they introduced anchoring to their everyday golf games. But it isn't those who will have to figure this out. The real hit will come with junior golfers who have always used this style to try to gain an advantage. It will also beat up players on the Champions Tour who have used this style of putting as a career mulligan in a sense, helping them get the ball in the hole when their hands and feel left them.

But was it the right call? Yes, and no.

The anchoring of the golf club on your body is an advantage, plain and simple. If it wasn't, guys wouldn't do it. There are players out there like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy who simply have more confidence on greens than other professional golfers and use a conventional stroke because they've always been able to get the ball in the hole. Then there are guys like Phil Mickelson who have gone both conventional and belly to see which one they prefer. Finally, you have that group of the Keegans and Webbs who have used this style for as long as they can remember and will have to re-remember how to putt regularly.

But the idea that this will really kill the regular golfers' enjoyment of the game seems, to use some golf lingo, a bit over-clubbed.

Honest question -- when was the last time you were in a foursome where two guys used belly putters? Or an Adam Scott-style, which anchors the long-putter to his stomach? Professionals tinker more with things like this than any amateur ever would, mainly because they have the time and commitment to do so. The day that anchoring becomes illegal will be the same day most amateurs reach into their garages and pull out that short putter they used to love and go back to the putting green to see if the magic is still there. Also, belly putters might change the game for some, but it isn't some magical elixir for the amateur golfer to become some hero on the greens (Spoiler alert: most still aren't good putters).

Pros who have a tough time with the short putter will be way more affected than those of us at home who pay to play the game.

The part of all this that seems short-sighted is the fact that the USGA and R&A recently have focused their attention on the wrong things. First, it was the grooves. Now, it's the putter. Nowhere in any of that are we looking at a few things that could actually bring the game back to where it was; the golf ball and the metal-wood.

Golf balls are too hot. They are, simple as that. News hit this week that St. Andrews was going to get torn up and redone -- spawning an onslaught of criticism both in print and in social media -- just so the golf course could hold pros when they head back to the Old Course in 2015. If the governing bodies spent more time focusing their attention on the things that actually dominate a professional event and less time on something that could be a problem in the future (and sure, anchoring numbers would continue to rise, but 100 percent of people are using a hot ball), it might help to "conserve the integrity of the game."

Slot-faced technology and the continued length of the golf ball seem like bigger issues right now than something like an anchored putter. But for now, we are addressing something that probably should have been addressed.

Things change slowly in the game of golf. Our rule book is massive, and we still have penalties that make no sense. But if the idea is to give everyone a fair playing field, the anchoring issue simply addresses that. When 2016 finally hits, players who used this technique will have to find another way to get the ball in the hole. And amateurs who have belly putters will either continue to use them at no penalty to their enjoyment of the game or switch to something else. That's the game. If freezing weather and 40 mph winds don't keep us off the golf course, this rule change sure won't.

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