Despite debate, new rule a done deal
Argue if you must.
Take one side or the other: Will the US Golf Association and R&A stick firmly with their decision to ban anchoring? Or will the ruling bodies change their minds in the face of criticism from professionals and amateurs who feel the rule is badly conceived?
Although this great debate probably will continue relentlessly during the next three months, it is reasonable to assume the outcome already has been decided. Rule 14-1b, prohibiting the anchoring of any golf club against the body, likely will be approved as written in the spring of 2013. It would then become part of the Rules of Golf on Jan. 1, 2016.
Right now it is called a “proposed rule,” but don’t let this terminology fool you. I would bet my house it’s a done deal. The USGA and R&A have spent months crafting this rule. The scope of the rule is well-defined, and the language is precise.
How did I arrive at the conclusion that it’s all over except the shouting? Simple. I just studied the history of the USGA and R&A. Then I played back in my mind all recent conversations with officials of the two organizations.
It is important to underscore the seriousness with which anchoring is discussed. The ruling bodies feel they are protecting the historical foundations of the game. They see themselves as guardians of the golf stroke. Anchoring, from their perspective, creates a motion that is not a full and free stroke.
Having decisively stated their position in the face of criticism and various contrary opinions, the USGA and R&A are unlikely to hear any position they have not previously heard. Following the announcement of the proposed rule, a period of comment and communication becomes part of the rulesmaking process.
But don’t expect any additional insights into anchoring, pro or con. A few heavyweights, such as the PGA of America, might challenge the reason behind the rule. The rulesmakers might feel more pressure from other organizations, but at the end of the day there are only two groups who formulate the Rules of Golf.
And both of them, the USGA and R&A, already have spoken. History tells us the ruling bodies rarely change their minds before a rule is adopted. Change occurs primarily after a rule goes into effect and is continually contested.
It took 21 years — between 1947 and 1968 — for the USGA to standardize the out-of-bounds penalty as stroke and distance. During that time period, the USGA’s OB penalty waffled from distance only, to stroke and distance, to stroke only (by local rule, as specified by the USGA).
In 1968, the USGA joined the R&A in declaring stroke and distance as the universal penalty for out of bounds.
So perhaps anchoring addicts can force a change if the entire anti-anchoring process goes haywire in 2016.
Meanwhile, the news isn’t all bad for creative putters. The claw grip is still OK. So is the cross-handed grip. Sidesaddle putting should get a boost from the new rule. The Matt Kuchar method of resting the grip against the forearm has been given the green light. So has the old Bernhard Langer method of clamping the grip against the forearm with the opposing hand.
Of course, belly putters and long putters can be used if there is no anchoring against the body. The issue here will be stability, or the lack thereof, but golfers have proved to be an ingenious bunch over the centuries. So we should expect almost anything as long as there is no anchoring involved.
But, please, don’t expect the USGA and R&A to change their minds.