Updated: February 27, 2013, 4:50 PM ET

Anchor ban won't impact growth of golf

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The official comment period on anchoring ends Thursday, but the debate promises to continue as the PGA Tour has moved east with the start of four consecutive events in Florida beginning with the Honda Classic.

There is no shortage of opinions, no easy answers.

Those who say using an anchored stroke is an advantage are countered by those who argue that if it's an advantage, why doesn't everyone do it?

Those who say it is not a proper golf stroke ask why it has been allowed for more than 30 years.

But those who claim it is going to hurt the game's growth? Sorry, you lose me there.

Golf has many problems when it comes to keeping players or acquiring new ones. The time it takes to play, the cost, the ability to practice, even to consistently get the ball airborne -- all of them hurt the game's growth.

But putting? Unless you are a pro driven to frustration by the inability to get the ball in the hole -- or perhaps a high-level amateur who competes frequently -- it is hard to believe a golfer would quit playing completely.

If so, how truly devoted to the game is that player?

Most of us who play the game recreationally lament our inability to putt, but we tend to rationalize it. Didn't read it correctly. Hit it too hard. Didn't see that spike mark.

Sure, we experiment with putters. Mallets, blades, all manner of inserts. We change stances, grips, pre-shot routines. But if we can't use an anchored putter, we are just going to give up, walk away from the game?

Yet that is a big part of the spin being portrayed by the anchor proponents. The PGA of America announced a study of its 27,000 members -- of which only 16 percent responded -- when the anchoring ban was first announced, saying more than 60 percent did not want an anchoring ban.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem referenced the state of the game when stating that the tour would like to see the United States Golf Association and R&A drop its proposed ban. That attitude has clearly trickled down to the players, many of whom are against anchoring.

"I'm for all people enjoying the game and trying to make the game as easy as possible and bringing people to the game, and if that means that they should allow belly putters or anchor putters to make it easier for the general public, then that's a good thing," said Rory McIlroy, who when the ban was announced Nov. 28 clearly stated he was in favor of it. "But then they talk about bifurcation and whether you should have one set of rules for us and one set of rules for the amateurs. It's a bit of a mess."

McIlroy is not alone. Several players have commented on the health of the game as among their concerns about an anchoring ban.

But who anchors when they start playing golf? And why would a rule against it stop anyone from playing?

The American Junior Golf Association tracked the number of players in its events who used an anchored stroke from June 18 to Oct. 30. Only 111 of 5,761 players (1.9 percent) used an anchored stroke. Yet the USGA is concerned that even that many are anchoring at such a young age.

"The R&A and USGA are highly focused on enhancing the long-term health of the game by addressing potential obstacles of participation, such as the belief that the game is too expensive or takes too long to play," according to FAQs on the USGA website concerning the proposed anchoring ban. "Such important considerations of cost and personal choices about use of time are key issues about participation, not whether or not golfers are allowed to anchor their putters.

"We do not share the view that some have expressed that the health or growth of the game depends on allowing anchored strokes. Our best judgment is that the recent sharp increase in the use of anchoring has occurred because a growing number of golfers of all ability levels have adopted the stroke in the belief that it may help them play better, not because they view it as their only alternative to quitting the game."

Golf has bigger issues than anchoring, certainly, and this issue is at the forefront for the immediate future. For or against, it makes little sense to tie the argument to the game's growth or lack thereof.

A new sponsor

Rory McIlroy is cashing in on his success as the world's No. 1 golfer. The highly touted Nike deal came together prior to his first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi. At the Honda Classic, McIlroy was part of an announcement Tuesday in which he will endorse Bose, an audio equipment company.

McIlroy good-naturedly took some ribbing about "getting used to" his new electronic equipment. The big story line so far as it relates to Nike is McIlroy's ability to adjust to 14 new clubs and a golf ball. That transition has been a bit slow, as McIlroy missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and was bounced after just one round of last week's WGC-Match Play Championship.

Unlike Nike, however, McIlroy is not having to get used to the Bose goods. According to McIlroy, he has been a longtime lover of the various products. Now he'll get paid to use what he's already been using.