Playing field will be more even
To be a golfer of world-class ability who struggles to hole putts must be among the most agonizingly frustrating deals in sports. The hard part is accomplished, while the easy part remains elusive. For most of us, putting seems simple compared to hitting long drives or getting iron shots to stop on greens.
But putting is truly an intricate exercise. It requires not only the ability to read greens and learn pace but to keep the club very still as it is taken back and then propelled through the impact area. Therein lay the skill and difficulty in hitting good putts. And that is why anchoring a putter, which clearly makes this task easier, if not fool-proof, is rightly being banned by golf's governing bodies.
In recent years, more and more of the game's best have resorted to belly putters or long putters in order to help them on the greens. While not a cure, they clearly make a difference. Why use them otherwise? Aside from looking bad, it is not a putting stroke in a traditional sense.
"I have never felt it was a stroke of golf," said eight-time major champion Tom Watson. "There are definite advantages with [a long putter] because you take it back and basically the pendulum and weight of the putter take it through the impact area."
Watson knows a thing or two about putting. On his way to eight major championships, he was one of the game's great, bold putters. Then his stroke became shaky and he never won a major after the age of 33. Arnold Palmer had similar woes, failing to win a major past 34. Overcoming those struggles is among the game's great challenges. Those who are able to do so with a conventional putter are, in effect, penalized when a player gets to fall back on an anchored crutch.
And then there are all the young players today using anchored putters, those who are not even old enough to struggle with a regular model. Three of the last five major champions, two of whom are in their 20s, clearly find benefit in a belly putter.
Critics of the ban are correct when they say that anchored putters do not make the hole a canyon, with balls dropping from everywhere. There is skill and practice required to learn such a stroke. You still have to figure out how the putt will break and how hard to hit it.
Still, with part of the club all but attached to the body, it can't help but be easier. The steadiness needed in a two-handed stroke is no longer necessary, certainly not to the same degree. Hence, the ban on anchoring.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
How does this grow the game?
Some of us are angry that players have found an easier way of making putts by anchoring the butt end of their putters to their body. If you've got the yips and a bad case of the nerves like I do, the tactic is a pure delight.
I know. It works. I can swing the putter on a pendulum with an unprecedented level of adequacy for me.
I'm gloating at the proficiency of the technique, but I just want to make more putts. Our anger and disgust at those that dare to anchor is misplaced. Yipping is the real villain. Smart golfers want to eradicate that malady at all costs. It's a plague too important to simply bequeath any solution to putting gurus and mental coaches.
The guys who anchor on the PGA Tour -- Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els, Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson, among others -- share the golfing public's concern with this public menace of yips to the game.
As golfers, we all want to hit quality shots and shoot lower scores. We want to make more putts. We want to enjoy the game and use every advantage under the Rules of Golf. Golf equipment manufacturers routinely test the limits to give us that edge that will inspire club sales and more rounds played.
Anchoring is just a part of that far-reaching ethic of game improvement that drives the multi-billion dollar golf industry. More than anything, golf is a game of tinkerers, aficionados obsessed with solving the riddle of the swing and the putting stroke. Anchoring caught hold on the PGA Tour because word spread that some of the guys were having success with it, and then others started to fiddle with it during practice.
With a ban, Simpson, Bradley and Scott will likely continue to be top players with adjustments to new putting styles. But it's a ruling that sends the wrong message in a sport trying to lure more players to the game.
No matter where you fall on the anchoring controversy, it's hard to argue against its merits as an effective putting technique. It might not be the most stylish way to knock down a 30-footer, but if it helps spread the good news about the game, we should be all for it.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at email@example.com.