Anchoring, slow play and handicaps
ne of the peculiarities of golf, and which contributes to its reputation as a somewhat eccentric pursuit, is that the game’s ruling bodies will go to a great deal of trouble to ban a small minority of golfers from anchoring the long putter, but take few steps to eliminate the two scourges faced by the game today – handicap manipulation and slow play.
Anchoring a putter will be outlawed from January 1, 2016, and this applies to all golfers, not just tour professionals. The long putter and its shorter sibling, the belly putter, can continue to be used, but without any anchoring point.
I am sure we will continue to see long putters being used in club golf, but these golfers will face much closer scrutiny from fellow competitors. Old habits die hard in golf, and the occasional lapse into anchoring could occur and create unnecessary unpleasantness.
Former USGA technical director Frank Thomas, a leading expert on putting, has been opposed to Rule 14-1b since it was first approved by the R&A and USGA. He says there is no evidence that “anchoring has detrimentally affected the game.” The former South African makes the good point on his website Frankly Golf that this is the first time that the Rules of Golf have dictated how to hold an implement.
I’ve never used a long putter myself, and also never thought that those golfers who employed one were “cheating” in any way. I’ve always believed that the long putter has been beneficial to golf in keeping in the game many golfers who suffered from the yips. If it wasn’t part of the game, we wouldn’t have seen Adam Scott win the Masters, a major this fine player so thoroughly deserved.
If anchoring the long putter has seemingly made scoring that much easier for
Otop golfers like Scott, Bernhard Langer and Tim Clark, among its most notable proponents, why hasn’t the R&A and USGA thought about banning the 64-degree wedge, large-headed 460cc drivers, and golf balls that fly further than ever. They have also contributed to a significant improvement in scoring by elite players.
And, while we’re at it, let’s penalise golfers for not being able to play 18 holes in less than four hours. Slow play is cited as one of the main reasons golfers are being turned off the game. It begins with the professionals, and it was refreshing to hear the European Tour’s new CEO Keith Pelley proclaiming that “slow play drives me mad.” He has vowed to make his circuit the “leaders” in dealing with the issue at all levels. Slow players on tour could very well be named and shamed.
Unfortunately, slow play and handicap manipulation require more direct enforcement from golfing officialdom and golf clubs if it is to be curbed. It is tolerated by too many. Here in South Africa, “fixing” one’s handicap has become as much a part of the game as our reliance on “placing.” It’s all very well wanting an extra shot or two, but how do you explain the Kempton Park golfer who recently scored 43 and 46 individual points off an 18-handicap in the 36hole grand final of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup Amateur Series? It was encouraging to see him being lambasted on social media. I don’t know what his fellow competitors thought of this performance – although the cynic in me bets that next time they won’t be bringing a knife to a gunfight.