Anchors away: Treasure Valley golfers discuss impending anchored putting ban

Local competitive golfers must scramble to learn new putting method once anchoring is banned in '16.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJune 13, 2013 

Nampa golfer Eric Peterson, one of the state's better amateurs, struggled to make 3-foot putts five years ago.

Like many golfers around the country, he sought salvation from an anchored putting stroke.

And it worked.

Two and a half years from now, he'll have to ditch the anchored stroke — banned by the USGA and R&A, the keepers of golf's rulebook, beginning Jan. 1, 2016. He can only hope the dreaded yips do not return.

"If I'm not able to adjust and get back to making those (short putts) consistently, I do see myself at the very least playing quite a bit less and probably not playing any tournament golf," said Petersen, who represented Idaho in the recent PNGA Cup. "I'd just play the occasional round with my kids or with my friends."

The controversial rule change was proposed in November and finalized in May despite criticism from the PGA of America, which worries it will harm the game's popularity, and the PGA Tour, which has not indicated whether it will implement the ban.

Anchored putting - pinning the top of the putter grip against the belly, sternum or chin to limit movement in the stroke - has been part of the game for decades. It has become much more common recently, though, and four of the past six major championships have been won with the anchored style.

Boise State men's golf coach Kevin Burton, who was an early adopter of anchoring during his tour career, estimates 20 percent of college golfers putt that way.

"They're going to have to relearn how to putt," he said.

Burton has anchored for about 12 years, dating to his last full season on tour - the 2001 Tour. He rotates between a belly putter, a sternum putter and occasionally a traditional putter.

"If something goes cold, I switch," he said.

He plans to use the anchored style as long as he can but thinks there's an advantage to the stroke.

"I actually kind of agree with what (Tiger Woods') quote is, that the putting stroke should be more of a swing of the club," Burton said. "Now by anchoring, you're changing the whole dynamics of how you're swinging to hit a golf ball. If it goes through and would be banned (on tour), I'd completely understand."

The delayed implementation of the ban could create additional problems for the golfers facing a switch back to traditional putters. Josh Gliege of Eagle High played with a belly putter during the 2012 season, when talk of a ban intensified.

He won the Idaho Golf Association junior championship, yet decided to return to traditional putting this season.

"I was tired of being called a cheater for using it once they came out and said they were going to outlaw them and decided I better switch before I get too comfortable with it," said Gliege, a 15-year-old who just completed his freshman season at Eagle High.

Gliege tried the belly putter because of the buzz about the success others experienced.

But he says the long putters and short putters require the same level of skill and work ethic.

"I don't think it was the club that was helping me at all," he said. "Whatever you're using, it's just practice. … It took a lot of hours."

Longtime Idaho club pro Stoney Brown, who works at The Valley Club in Hailey, agrees with Gliege. He figures there are better legal ways to putt than the long putter.

And Brown knows about experimentation - he has used long putters, without anchoring, since the mid-1980s. He has putted side saddle, too.

"It takes a lot of practice to be good with an anchored putter or a long putter or a belly putter," Brown said. "That's why most guys don't do it - because it's not as good of a method.

"Here's my opinion: (The rulesmakers) don't like the way it looks."

Anchoring likely will be in the spotlight until the ban takes effect. The first major since the ban was finalized is this week's U.S. Open - run by the same organization that instituted the change in America (the USGA) and with a defending champion (Webb Simpson) who anchors.

Count Peterson among those who plan to anchor until they can't - extending this controversy for another 31 months.

He took a short putter with him on a trip to St. George, Utah, last winter and didn't even finish a round before grabbing his long putter.

"It's how I enjoy the game more," he said.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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