Body Anchored Putter: USGA and R&A Putter Ban in Effect


Those who follow the doings of the golf equipment industry with interest are aware that on May 21, 2013 the USGA and the R&A officially announced their decision to ban the anchoring of putters to the body during the execution of the putting stroke.  The decision was made despite publicly stated opposition to the ban by the PGA of America and the PGA Tour.  The decision to ban body anchored putting was also made in the absence of any facts which prove the use of a body anchored putter automatically enables a golfer to make more putts or replace the skill required to play the game.

Body anchored putters have been in play for more than 30 years.  Up until 2011 you could count the number of tournaments on one hand that were won by playing professionals using such putters.  Of the 700 or so tournaments played on the PGA Tour between the appearance of body anchored putting and 2011, fewer than 1% were won by pros using a body anchored putter.   If one wants to say using a particular type of putter automatically results in better putting, the previous statistic could be used to say that the pros who used body anchored putters were at a distinct disadvantage.  After all, over 99% of all the tournaments won between the introduction of body anchored putting and 2011 were won by pros using a conventional putter.

But in 2011 and 2012, 11 tournaments were won by pros using a body anchored putter.  Did this all of a sudden prove that the use of a body anchored putter brought an automatic improvement in putting?  Perhaps the USGA thought so.  On the other hand, the reason for the sudden increase in wins by pros using the Belly or Broomstick style putters is more likely explained by the fact that a much greater number of more pros chose to use this type of a putter so the percentage of their wins simply increased because of more players in each tournament using a body anchored putter.

Even as the number of tour players using a body anchored putter increased, far more tournaments have been won by pros using a conventional putter.  So after 30 years of use of these putters, why did the USGA all of a sudden decide they needed to define that the putting stroke has to be executed with the grip end of the putter free from the torso of the body?  After all, the game has been played for 500 yrs without any need to define how one should swing a club.  Could it be that among the small number of individuals who decide what the rules of the game will be, a majority simply felt the body anchored putters “look bad” and represent in their opinion a break from one of the traditions of the game?

Rules that relate either directly or indirectly to golf clubs need to be made on the basis of whether the equipment automatically replaces the skill required to play the game for all golfers.  Golf balls most definitely can be made so they can be hit significantly farther so we do need to have restrictions in place for the ball.  Driver faces could be made so they allow each golfer to automatically achieve a 3-4% increase in distance, so putting a limit on the COR of the face is a justifiable act.

But a body anchored putter in no way allows every golfer to make more putts.  It is simply a different type of putter.  Just like there are golfers who hit the ball better with a 44” driver vs one of 46”, or golfers who gain more on center hit consistency from a D4 swingweight than D1, or a golfer who hits the ball better with this shaft vs that one, or any other use of different FIT clubs, there are simply some golfers who feel they putt better with a body anchored putter while there are many more who do not. 

At the risk of being labeled an anti-traditionalist, with my 40+ yrs of experience in golf equipment research and design, the recent USGA decision to ban the anchoring of the putter to the body is a capricious and arbitrary decision made on the basis of emotion rather than science and statistics.  Thanks USGA, you now have another poor decision to add to your previous rulings to change scorelines, and to restrict the size and length of golf clubs which will do nothing to help the game and will prevent a certain number of golfers from enjoying the game as much as they did before the restriction.