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Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Take on the Proposed Rule Change

Wednesday I listened to all the back-and-forth about the USGA and R&A's proposed new anchored stroke ruling. It's been very interesting, and I'm sure we haven't heard the end of it. After all, the two ruling bodies announced it Wednesday in order to get three months of reactions to the actual proposal, as opposed to the rumors we've been hearing. I think I have an different perspective on this, one which I heard touched on only by Brandel Chamblee (very well, I might add) and that I want all of you to think about as this goes forward.

And let me remind you that I personally don't have a problem with long or belly putters. Despite what many people say, I don't think they make putting easier and I believe that, all else being equal, a player who knows how to use a short putter will beat a player who knows how to use a long putter more times than not. If you want to use a putter that I believe limits your potential, you're just giving me an advantage. So I have no reason to want anchored putting outlawed.

Having said that, let me tell you why this proposed ruling isn't as bad as everybody seems to think.

one-page PDFFirst, let me give you a couple of important links. The first one is a USGA news release about the proposed ruling. The second one, shown in miniature here, is a downloadable one-page PDF that shows some of the allowable grips under this proposed ruling. (I keep saying "proposed ruling" because I'm afraid we forget that it hasn't been finalized yet.) The second link shows you the PDF online as well as giving you a link to download a copy -- just check the upper and lower left corners of the page.

One thing to be noted is that this affects more than putting. This affects any stroke you might make, which in most cases includes short game strokes. You can't anchor a driver like a belly putter when you're chipping, for example.

While much has been made of the fact that belly and long putters will still be legal equipment -- quite useful when taking drops from hazards! -- equally important is just how many different grips are still allowed.

The key to understanding the rule is essentially ELBOWS. In many cases, your elbows are the dividing line between legal and illegal grips. While the club itself is not allowed to touch your body, it's allowed to touch your forearms. You'll see that Matt Kuchar's grip is still allowed, as well as the old "hold the handle against your forearm" grip once used by Bernhard Langer with a short putter. But the club, your hands, and your forearms cannot be anchored against your chest or in your armpits or under your chin.

Here's why I think that players are going to be pleasantly surprised when they finally get past the initial shock. Let me tell you a short story.

Many of you have read my book Ruthless Putting and know that a large portion of the book is devoted to understanding yips and several approaches to beating them. Back in 2008-2009 when I was writing it, I actually wrote a chapter that never made it into the book, a chapter on what I called "Body Putting." As part of my research I developed several putting strokes that either minimized or removed the small "twitchy" muscles -- in some cases, the larger muscles as well -- while still allowing you to hit solid putts with reasonable feel. But at the last minute I decided not to include it in the book. At the time I felt it would just confuse players.

At the time I couldn't have predicted the explosion in long putter use nor this proposed ruling.

I mention this because, when I looked at the PDF, I found that the grips I used in the strokes I created are still legal under the proposed ruling! In fact, I got some new ideas just looking at the variety of examples they included in the PDF.

As far as I can see, despite all the gloom and doom talk, the USGA and R&A have written the rule in such a way that it still allows players to get the benefits of belly putters but without anchoring... and I believe many of these ways are not just better than anchoring, but will give far superior results.

So, as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe proudly proclaimed in large friendly letters inscribed on its cover, DON'T PANIC. This may not turn out to be the bad situation everybody expected after all.

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