Monday 22 December 2014

Time to take your medicine and go back to the short stick

Published 30/01/2013 | 05:00

Phil Mickelson attempts a putt with a belly putter

ANCHORS AWAY is the clarion call of the R&A and the USGA in relation to the long putter, but how much will their proposed ruling affect 'ordinary' golfers?

In search of answers, Florida-based Golf Datatech LLC asked the opinions of 1,766 randomly selected players drawn from the consumer research company's exclusive 'serious golfer' database.

These 'serious' enthusiasts play an around 68 rounds a year and have an average handicap of 14.3.

Their findings relate to America, but they offer an interesting insight into the issue.

The evidence indicates that golfers are split almost 50-50 on various aspects of the debate.

John Krzynowek of Golf Datatech said: "This is such an explosive topic in golf that we felt the industry needed a benchmark for evaluating the opinion of the game's most avid players.

"On a practical level, the proposed ruling on anchoring putters has minimal impact on most amateur golfers, as only 5pc use a long putter, and the majority of serious golfers don't believe long putters aid in the putting process.

"Overall, however, the debate about long putters has far more to do with a few elite professional players and less to do with the game as played by the average golfer."

The key findings of the study were:

• Among the respondents who had an opinion on whether or not anchoring the putter makes it easier to putt, 45pc feel that it does and 55pc believe that it does not.

• 60pc of respondents believe that the governing bodies should ban the anchoring of clubs to the body, while 40pc believe they should not.

• 62pc of respondents do not believe the anchoring ban will cause some amateur golfers to enjoy the game less.

• If the proposed rule is enforced in 2016, 31pc of current long-putter users will continue to anchor their putter, while 31pc will not anchor against their body and 38pc will switch to a conventional putter.

As for that 31pc who seem intent on ignoring the authorities and a rule change, you have to wonder what they're thinking.

anger

I can understand the anger of those who love their long putters, but it beats me how any long-putter user could turn up, even for a friendly four-ball, and tell his playing partners he was going to defy the rules and continue to anchor the putter to his body.

The rumblings about long putters and their place in the game grew louder when Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a Major using a belly putter at the 2011 US PGA.

He was followed in the 'long stick brigade' by Webb Simpson (US Open 2012), and Ernie Els (2012 British Open).

Their success, plus Adam Scott's WGC Bridgestone Invitational win in 2011, highlighted the debate about the long putter.

Last November, the R&A and the USGA announced a proposed ruling that would not prohibit the clubs as such, but instead ban anchoring the long putters to the body.

By doing it this way, it would appear they could avoid expensive law suits from club manufacturers.

If the governing bodies go ahead with the plan to introduce the rule, golfers will be permitted to use their long putters after January 1, 2016, but they cannot hold them against their chest or belly as they make the stroke.

You may well ask, what's the point? What use is it to grip an unwieldy, long implement that is designed to be connected to a golfer's body if you are obliged to use it as you would a normal-sized putter?

Better to take your medicine and go back to the short stick.

We await developments in this area, but everyone knows putting foibles and fumbles can be soul-destroying.

I have met fellow handicap players who swear that they would have given up the game because of their putting problems if it hadn't been for the long putter and the ability to anchor it to their stomach or chest.

These long putters have been around since the mid-1980s. It's very late in the day to be taking action on the way golfers use them, but the R&A and USGA seem convinced that change is needed.

This is the governing bodies' proposal:

"The proposed Rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by the R&A and the USGA, 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.

"The proposed new rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke.

"The proposed rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer's ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style."

Irish Independent

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