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Phil Mickelson sports a belly putter

Phil Mickelson sports a belly putter

Rubenstein: Anchors away, my friends Add to ...

The golf world is waiting for the USGA and the R&A to pronounce the belly putter illegal, or, to put a finer point on it, to decree anchoring a putter against one’s belly illegal. At least that’s what pundits expect to transpire. Now-famous poll analyst, statistician, and forecaster Nate Silver has not told planet golf what he thinks.

Of course, this is not a matter of polls of the golfing polity, but of putts. And if you don’t think anchoring the putter against your belly makes for a stroke of golf, and Tom Watson, for one, says it isn’t, well, then, you must say nay to anchoring.

That’s where I must land, then. I should say I think that’s where I must land. I don’t believe anchoring the putter against one’s tummy does generate a stroke of golf, by which I mean a swing using two arms. But does anchoring the shaft against one’s forearm generate a stroke of golf? Hmmm. Mostly, I feel indifferent as to whether the golfing authorities ban anchoring.

Meanwhile, I do wish the powers-that-be, who haven’t shown much power or decisiveness over the years, had taken action against the hot golf ball that explodes off the thin-faced drivers that have come along. I wish they’d taken action so that so many classic courses wouldn’t have been rendered all but obsolete. But that’s another story. Excuse my lamentation, please.

Anyway, the other day a most thoughtful reader put it very well. I will quote the gentleman at some length because his view is splendid in its logic.

“Now there have been numerous commentators and players who have weighted in on whether the ban is justifiable or not,” the reader writes. “Some say yes, some no, and statistics appear not to prove convincing one way or another. However I think a rather basic approach and an obvious answer to one question could lead to some pause for thought regarding anchoring the putter – and that is does a third point of contact with the putter prove advantageous? The answer intrinsically would have to be ‘yes’. After all, three points of contact with something is bound to be better than two the same way that two points of contact are bound to better than one.”

That is logical thinking, is it not? But I digress, or, rather, interrupt.

“There is not a professional golfer in the world who putts with one hand and they certainly won’t be advised by their instructors to start for the simple reason that two hands provide more control, more stability and greater accuracy and consistency than one,” my correspondent continues. “Following that logic one would have to assume that three points of contact with the club would be better than two for the same reasons – in fact if it didn’t then there would be no reason for players suffering with putting issues to go to the anchored style. It’s really only been in the last couple of years that we have seen wide spread use of anchored putters and I think that if left long enough we would eventually see this type of putting become more and more prevalent and maybe even dominant in five to 10 years or less, particularly if as more golfers employ the style a statistical linkage could be made to anchoring and improved putting.”

Here is another reader’s view. This fellow considers what the discussion, such as it is, is doing to the game itself.

“That which is missing is the damage to the game this issue has caused and will cause. The governing bodies have been negligent by neither disallowing, defining the parameters for the putter, nor legislating allowable techniques for the putting stroke. It is not as if the long putter and anchoring techniques snuck in the back door. The public discussion started decades ago and has continued with variations of intensity. The practice was visible on worldwide television.”

For a first-rate review of this subject that is traumatizing golfers, I refer you to Adam Schupak’s comprehensive piece in Golfweek.

Finally, I would like the reader I first quoted here to get the final word – well, final in this piece.

“Unfortunately there are going to be winners and losers with the decision to ban. Pros and amateurs alike will feel the effects and let’s hope the USGA and R&A learn a lesson here that they can carry forward and that is in their best interests and the best interests of the game itself. [They need] to be pro-active rather than re-active when it comes to addressing rules and equipment evolution, because going forward change will be the only thing constant when it comes to equipment and the ways golfers employ it.”

Amen. What a fiasco.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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