Thoughts on Putter Anchoring
Dave Tutelman - March 3, 2013
The hottest topic in golf equipment right now is
the proposed ban
on anchoring the putter -- essentially a ban on long putters. I haven't
done any detailed studies on this, but obviously have some opinions on
whether it makes a difference. I feel it does give an advantage, and
here are the reasons for that opinion.
The USGA and R&A have announced a proposed ban on anchoring a
putter against the body. This effectively bans long putters and belly
putters, at least if they are used as they have been until now. The
comment period has another month to go, and there are certainly
objections to the proposed change. (The PGA Tour announced its
opposition a week ago.) So the ban may or may not happen.
The most cogent arguments I have heard so far are:
I believe that anchoring does provide
I'd like to say I've done the detailed physics or have conclusive
empirical data, but I can't. The "analysis" is massively informal, not
rigorous at all. The data is anecdotal and largely personal. But I'm
still entitled to an opinion, and this one is pretty strongly held.
- IN FAVOR OF THE BAN:
Anchoring the putter against the body gives an advantage. The evidence
is that three of the last five majors were won by players using
anchored putters, even though the number of players using them was a
considerable minority. (Shortly after I wrote this, Adam Scott won the
Masters. Now four for the last six. And Scott did it by making two long
putts, on the final hole and in the playoff. Definitely food for
- OPPOSED TO THE BAN: This
equipment has been in use and not opposed by the Rules for decades;
I've heard forty years, but haven't verified that number. Why change
I think anchoring does indeed help a golfer maintain
Not necessarily a better putting stroke, but a more consistent and
repeatable stroke. A stroke that does not break down as easily under
Over the past few years, I have found that any breakdown of the wrists
breakdown, a deliberate hit at the ball) compromises the line of the
putt. As the
wrists allow the clubhead to pass the hands, the putter face closes and
you pull the putt. Conscious effort to retard the putter head sometimes
results in a push. So whatever you can do to avoid wrist breakdown is
likely to make more of your putts go where you aim them.
The opposite of a wristy putting stroke is a stroke controlled by the
large muscles of the body. Something that
is driven by just a shoulder rock, for instance, with no arm or wrist
effort. There are quite a few ways to achieve this. Some are equipment
related, and some are not. The new rule against anchoring deals with
one of the equipment-related methods. Let's go down a short list of
Avoiding Wrist Breakdown
By anchoring the butt of the putter against the body (most commonly,
belly or chest), you eliminate any possibility of wrist breakdown.
Game, set, and match! But about to become illegal, unless the
USGA and the R&A change their minds.
Matt Kuchar is the
poster child for this one. The putter extends up the
forearm, as shown on the left. As long as you putt keeping the
extension against the forearm,
the wrist does not break down. But you can
swing this with wrist
breakdown; you can inadvertently allow the extension to leave the
forearm. It is not automatic.
I know about this
approach from personal experience; I built myself one in 2002. Yeah,
that long ago. It wasn't as extreme as Kuchar's; mine went only a few
above the wrist. It works, but you have to have at least some swing
discipline to make it work. It isn't automatic like body anchoring.
It is possible to make it
and I bet we see some of it over the coming few years if the anchoring
ban is sustained. One of Bernhard Langer's many attacks on the yips was
a grip that extended partway up his forearm. He used his right hand to
hold the extension against the forearm. The grip is demonstrated to the
right by Martin Hall. With this grip, the left wrist cannot
break down, because the extension cannot leave the forearm.
Yes, I know this is a branded term from Boccieri
That's OK with me, because I use it here both generically and applied
to Steve Boccieri's invention. In the early 2000s, Steve pioneered a
design that involved a very heavy head (over 400g, some well over
400g), combined with a high balance point. Of course, a heavy head and
high balance point requires very aggressive counterweighting -- often
over 200g under the grip. I have one of Steve's Heavy Putters (one of the few
unmodified OEM clubs I own), which weighs about two pounds.
This design promotes a big-muscle, wrist-free stroke. In particular, any
attempt to use the hands to power the putt are doomed to failure; the
head has too much mass. In that sense, it is a training aid as well as
an in-play putter; you learn not to depend on the wrists, because they
do so little for the stroke.
I had the opportunity to try one of Steve's early prototypes in about
2004. I liked it so much that most of the putters I have built for myself since
then use his principle: head weight 400g and up, and add a
counterweight at the butt
for my favorite balance point.
Cross-Handed Grip (Left-Hand Low)
The usually-touted advantage of putting cross handed is that it keeps
the shoulders level. But look at the picture at the left. It looks
remarkable similar to the Bernhard Langer grip. The right hand does not
actually hold the left forearm, but it does press the top of the putter
grip against the left forearm.
Not everybody who putts cross-handed does it this way. But, if you do,
you are effectively adding forearm anchoring to the shoulder leveling.
And that will stabilize the left wrist against breakdown.
Just Do It
While Rory McIlroy was winning the US Open in 2011, TV announcer Johnny
Miller kept raving about how well Rory was keeping a firm left wrist
all the way through his putting stroke. As I said at the top of this
discussion, the firm left wrist is the holy grail that all of these
techniques aim for. The rest of the 2011 golf season, my putting
thought was, "Firm left wrist like Rory," and my results were more
In September of 2012, I acquired a serious case of the yips. It came on
very suddenly; no problem at all, then total yipping later the same
week. And I couldn't shake it for a month and a half. Here are some of
the things I tried, some with success and others not:
- I tried a
friend's broomstick putter.
That helped quite a bit. But by then, there were noises about a
possible ban. I didn't want to become dependent on something that might
become illegal (no drug jokes, please), so I didn't rush out and build
- I tried a claw
The principle of the claw is that it takes the right hand out of
directing the stroke; it just provides a push. Since some testing
convinced me I
had a "dominant hand yip", I felt that the claw should have been a promising way to
go. It provided some help, but it felt uncomfortable.
- I tried a modified claw,
combined with bringing out my extreme Boccieri Heavy Putter. The claw grip
modification that worked for me was allowing the shaft to split my
right index and third fingers. (Picture below) My right palm pushed the
though the stroke, without actually gripping anything. This worked
- Back to basics.
After about a month of success with the Heavy Putter and modified claw,
I went back to my normal grip, with a few caveats:
That has worked well for me. I have been yip-free for four months now.
(I suspect the terminology is right for a recovering yipaholic.) I can
use less extreme putters now; I am back to my 400-gram-head three-ball
putter. I occasionally play a round with my 2002 forearm-anchored
putter, but mostly as a training aid.
- The firm left wrist again became my putting key.
- The right hand didn't really grip the club, it just
pushed the left hand through.
- I used a standard overlap grip (right over left) instead of
the reverse overlap I had used for putting. That allowed the left hand
to control the grip, and the right hand to just push the whole assembly
The moral of the story is that left wrist breakdown or right hand
domination ruins consistent putting. Anchoring the butt of the club to
the body is an automatic way to avoid one of the two deadly putting
sins: left wrist breakdown. It is indeed automatic; wrist breakdown
cannot happen with body anchoring.
There are other ways to avoid wrist breakdown. If the body anchoring
ban goes into effect, some golfers will have to resort to other methods
to tame wrist breakdown. It will become more an issue of technique and
less an issue of, "My equipment has completely removed one thing to
mean I favor the ban?
Well, I do, but not as overwhelmingly as the analysis above implies.
The advantage is indeed a strong argument, but so is the history of the
lack of a ban. I see the logic to the counter-argument: the USGA
had plenty of opportunity for a ban in decades past, so why do it now?
My response is: until now, golf at the highest level was not
affected by body-anchored putting -- because players at the highest
level had not been using it. Personally, I think it is a mistake
for the USGA to make Rules motivated only by the touring pros, and let
those Rules govern all of golf. But that seems to be the approach the
USGA and R&A have taken for several decades. I don't view that
as "protecting the game" -- which belongs to all of us. But it is
apparently how the governing bodies do their work. (For further
evidence, see other recent Rules on driver length and face grooves.)
In that context, now is the right time to impose the ban.
This article was suggested (actually requested) by Will Hsu on behalf
of his blog at Mulligang
Golf. He had a debate going on in his blog about whether anchoring
is advantageous, and wanted my opinion. Here it is, Will.
Last modified -- Apr 15, 2013