Sunday, January 17, 2016

First Look at an Anchoring Ruling on Tour

     A little more than two years ago we first heard about anchoring and the proposed new Rule. Then several months ago, when the USGA announced the 2016 changes to the Rules of Golf, anchoring again was in the spotlight as one of the four major changes to the 2016 edition.  For the first two weeks on the PGA Tour this year, however, we’ve been hearing more about the absence of anchoring and had yet to run into any actual issues with the Rule itself.
     Until Zac Blair used a fairway wood to play a chip from the fringe on the 71st hole of the Sony Open in Hawaii and television footage caught the handle of the club clearly catching his torso at the end of the stroke. PGA Tour officials questioned Blair, and no penalty was issued because he did not intentionally anchor the club for the stroke.
     This is a great opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about the new Rule now that we’ve seen one of the potential gray areas arise in competition.

Misconception #1: The anchoring ban is specific to putters.
Truth #1:  Rule 14-1b applies to all clubs and all strokes.  The new Rule does not permit players to anchor with other clubs, however, it does not prohibit players from using long or belly putters without anchoring.

Misconception #2: If the grip touches the torso during any part of the stroke, the player is in breach of the Rule.
Truth #2: Rule 14-1b prohibits intentionally anchoring the club, either directly or through the use of an “anchor point.”  If the player’s club inadvertently comes into contact with the body, the player is not in breach of Rule 14-1b (see Decision 14-1b/6).

Misconception #3: As long as the club does not touch the body, the player is not anchoring.
Truth #3:  Rule 14-1b prohibits both direct anchoring and anchoring through the use of an “anchor point.” Note 2 to Rule 14-1b explains that, “An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.”  This means that a player may not anchor his forearm against his body with the intent of steadying the grip of the club and thereby creating a pseudo-pendulum. Even though the club itself is not anchored against the body, the use of the “anchor point” violates the new Rule and would come with a penalty.

Misconception #4: Because anchoring is a prohibited stroke, a player who does so is disqualified.
Truth #4: The penalty for a breach of Rule 14-1b is loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play for each anchored stroke.  To apply the penalty, count the anchored stroke itself and add an additional two penalty strokes.

At the Sony Open, the fact that Blair did not intentionally hold the grip against his torso meant that he was not in violation of the Rule, even though the grip clearly did come into contact with his body during the stroke. We will probably see more situations like this throughout the year; the key point to remember is that anchoring is an intent-based Rule. Without intent, there is no breach.

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