Though members of the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club have been crafting language to ban the anchored putting stroke - including, apparently, discussing it aloud at this week's U.S. Amateur in Colorado - it should not be considered a done deal.
Any ban of the anchored stroke needs to be written carefully and correctly the first time. What has to be specified?
- The definition of anchoring: What is an anchored stroke? Is it affixing the putter to a body part and pivoting the putter around that part? Does it include the hands and arms?
- Where would anchoring be banned?: On the chest? The chin? The leg? The stomach? Up the arm?
- Could a putter be anchored to clothing?: It may not be OK to anchor against the body, but what about a shirt? A wind jacket? A sweater?
- The time frame for implementation: Does it start immediately in 2013? Will there be a tiered implementation like with the grooves rules, still ongoing?
- Bifurcation: Will amateurs be impacted at all? When?
If the governing bodies come together around a common language to ban the anchored stroke, it then has to consider the possibility of legal action taken by equipment manufacturers. They did not take it to the courts when the grooves rule was implemented, but they could consider it for the anchored stroke. Their collective, hypothetical case may be somewhat limited because the equipment itself would not be banned, merely one way it could be used.
The USGA also has to consider history. Two Wednesdays from now will mark the 23-year anniversary of the body declaring long putters legal. Their wording in the release set a precedent for the language describing a ban of the anchored stroke.
"The United States Golf Association's Equipment Standards Committee considered a proposal limiting the length of a putter, but decided that long putters are not detrimental to the game," the release said. "In fact, they may enable some people to play who may not otherwise be able to do so."
Then-USGA Executive Director David Fay was quoted as saying, "Putting is a very individual art form. To inhibit a golfer's individual style would take some of the fun out of the game and that's not why we make the rules."
In other words, finding the words to ban the anchored stroke will not be easy.
Long-putter user Tim Clark surmised the problem well on Wednesday at the Wyndham Championship.
"I don't know what decision they're going to make," he said, "but I see it going to be a much tougher decision than it seems to be, I think."