Jeff Seavey, an assistant pro at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, has used a long putter with an anchored stroke since 2003. Seavey used it when he played in the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship (2003) on the PGA Tour before it became part of the Fed Ex playoffs.
By 2016, Seavey likely will have to find another way to putt.
On Tuesday, the United States Golf Association, the governing body of golf in this country, banned the anchored stroke. It was a ruling that was expected since the USGA proposed it six months ago. The ruling will go into effect in 2016.
In addition of being the rules arbiter, the USGA conducts 13 national championships, including the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs. It runs the handicapping system.
The ruling in conjunction with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews says Rule 14-1b defines a putting stroke as “freely swinging the entire club.”
Said the USGA president, Glen Nager, “We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game.”
Many question that because the long putter, anchored by the chest or midsection, added enjoyment for thousands, particularly seniors. Most golfers who adopted anchored putting did so because they were poor putters using the conventional method. They often had the yips, which happens when a golfer continually misses short putts because of sudden hand movements.
An anchored stroke takes the hands out of the stroke and theoretically cures the yips.
Seavey went to the long putter because he found that using it anchored was a better method for him. The same with Shawn Warren, an assistant pro at Nonesuch River and a top player in New England.
“This is not going to make a huge difference for me,” said Seavey. “I can still putt with the short putter. Last fall when I heard the proposed ruling, I played nine holes with a short putter and was 2 under. The next time I used a short putter I was on the final hole and asked one of my playing partners if I could use his putter. I rolled an 8-footer dead center.
“What irks me with this ruling is that the USGA talks about growing the game and this will have the opposite effect. The long putter has been around for 40 years. There are players who have based their entire careers on it.”
Seavey has won two of the last three State of Maine Championships and qualified for five of the last eight PGA National Club Pro Championships.
“The USGA is banning anchoring the putter because a few guys at the top don’t like the looks of it,” he said. “If it’s such a great technique, why isn’t everyone using it? It’s doesn’t work for all. It’s not a better way, it’s just a different way. You still have to have the ability to match up the line and the speed to make a putt. What style you use doesn’t matter. It’s a skill, not a tool.”
Many believe the USGA, feeling compelled to rule, should have done so a lot sooner.
The buildup to the issue has people taking sides and now that a ruling has been made, divisiveness likely will continue.
The PGA Tour and PGA of America are against the change. There’s a chance the PGA Tour will continue to allow anchored putting, along with the PGA of America, whose thousands of club professionals are members.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said about the ruling: “There was no overriding reason to go down that road.”
“We knew this was coming,” said Randy Hodsdon, director of tournament rules and competition for the Maine State Golf Association. “The $64 question is going to be will the PGA Tour break ranks and play by their own rules? “
Hodsdon echoes the PGA Tour commissioner’s sentiments: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Nothing is broken. There are other bigger fish to fry.”
Hodsdon feels the ruling was European driven.
“When Ernie Els won the British Open, that was the straw the broke the camel’s back,”
Adding fuel have been other recent major wins by anchored putters. Keegan Bradley was the first to win a major in the 2011 PGA Championship. That was followed by Webb Simpson’s victory at the 2012 U.S. Open, Els’ win at the British and Adam Scott’s victory in the Masters.
The best putters on the PGA Tour still putt conventionally, but the recent wins in majors shined more attention on anchored putting. Hodsdon and Waterville Country Club head pro Don Roberts don’t think the USGA ruling will have an effect on the recreational player. The ones who use long putters will still use them.
“We have 450 golfing members and maybe five of them use long putters,” said Roberts. “They play with their buddies. They’re not playing in USGA events. The USGA is just enforcing a rule that hasn’t been enforced.”
Warren said it will be interesting to see what the PGA Tour does.
He feels the Tour won’t wait long to act.
TEE TO GREEN: Ryan Gay, a three-time Maine Amateur champion, was fourth in the Big East championship last month. Playing his senior season at St. John’s in New York, Gay, of Pittston, was named to the All-Big East first team. He transferred from the University of New Mexico last year. Gay will play in the Maine Amateur at Augusta, his home course. He plans to turn pro after that with his first pro tournament being the Greater Bangor Open in July. At the end of August, he will try to Monday-qualify for the final swing of Canadian Tour events, and next winter hopes to play on the PGA Latin-American Tour.
In the recent MSGA weekly tournament at Fox Ridge in Auburn, players had their choice of playing from two set of tees, one which measured at 5,500 yards and the other at 6,100 yards. The MSGA has received information from its player representatives that many players were having difficulty playing the way courses are set up for weekly tournaments. The MSGA is looking for feedback from the players with the new setup to see if they want to continue the two-tee option. It’s part of golf’s Play It Forward initiative.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: