Belly Ache!

What to make of the anchored putting-style ban

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Although the ban doesn't impact any conforming equipment, manufacturers have already noticed a downturn in belly and long putter sales. "We would rather have seen this rule be dealt with when long and belly putters first showed up on the Tours around the world," says Cleveland Golf's Sheldon. But, of course, that would have been years ago. Years. Before anyone had invented metalwoods, Surlyn-covered golf balls and hybrids.

So, a number of obvious questions remain. Like, why now? To hear Mike Davis tell it on ESPN in November, "Swinging [the club] freely is ultimately what golf's about... There were just too many golfers going to this stroke that we don't believe should be part of the game."

The other question being, is anchoring the putter cheating (or, at least, not part of the game)? PGA Tour pro Robert Garrigus doesn't think it's cheating. "[Anchoring is] never an advantage," he recently told ESPN. Adam Scott concurred in an email to Fox Sports. "There is no proof that putting with an anchored-style putter is easier, better or stops nerves. It is a different method that some people find more comfortable and others don't. There are no facts to say that you WILL make more putts putting with an anchored putter."

Still, Golf Tips Senior Instruction Editors Jeff Ritter and Rick Sessinghaus have both seen big improvements in students who anchor. "Having the putter anchored to the body minimizes certain faults from occurring," says Sessinghaus. "Setups tend to be better, and the golfer is consistently over the ball the same way every time because the putter is anchored in the same place." Adds Ritter, "Anchoring makes producing a pendulum-style motion easier for most players." Still, both men stress that it's not a stroke for everyone. "The first time someone tries a belly putter, it feels cumbersome and difficult to use on longer putts," says Ritter.

As for manufacturers, they have grudgingly accepted the proposed ban. Now they're tasked with marketing putters that are easy to swing, good for your back and help steady your nerves. Sheldon recommends Cleveland's 39-inch Almost Belly model. "It has a heavier head, which increases the MOI of the putter, and this helps with limiting the amount of rotation on off-center hits."

Anchoring makes producing a pendulum-style motion easier for most players.
—Jeff Ritter
And if you've been anchoring your putter and worry that returning to a regular stroke will bring back the yips, both Ritter and Sessinghaus have some advice.

"I would first try a method like Matt Kuchar," says Sessinghaus. "He places the grip along his left forearm and makes a one-piece motion, always keeping the putter's grip in contact with his forearm." As the yips can be both physical and psychological, Ritter suggests developing a different motor program: "This means being willing to continually change gripping styles, putters and practice routines. Changing frequently breaks the repetitive motor pattern, giving people with the yips a chance to find their way again."

The other option for noncompeting golfers is simply to ignore the ban. After all, as everyone knows, weekend warriors don't always play by the rules. Who knows? With this new proposal, some high-powered equipment manufacturers have stated that they'd like to see a bifurcation of the rules. These days, it seems like anything can happen, whether it makes sense or not.

You can learn more about the proposed rule change by visiting the USGA website at usga.org.



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