Richard Zokol responds: Anchoring ban protects integrity of the game

I received a phone call Sunday from my friend, Richard Zokol, a winner on the PGA Tour and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member. Zoke and I disagree about the anchoring ban, and rather than leaving a lengthy comment, he asked if he could do a guest blog.

Here it is:


By Richard Zokol

An excerpt from Gregg Schubert, President of the PGA of Canada, letter to the USGA:

 “…to date, there is no statistical data supporting the ban in terms of providing a competitive edge.  This debate should not be left to conjecture or opinion, but to the truth of science based on statistical validation.”

Did the PGA of Canada not get the memo?  Besides Schubert’s basis which misses the primary issue the PGA of Canada missed their tee-time by 2-weeks.  The PGA of Canada had 3 months to comment before the deadline.  I hope this wasn’t the PGA of Canada’s official statement, if it was, it should be ruled a DQ.

Primary Issue:  The proposed ban is not an issue of growing the game nor is it an issue of determining whether or not the anchored stroke bestows a competitive advantage by its user.  The issue is about protecting the integrity of the game of golf at the game’s essence… the golf stroke!  Is the anchored stroke a golf stroke or is it not?  That is the only question at issue and it supersedes all other offshoot issues.  The USGA and R&A are not debating. They are deciding.  The consequences on whether the anchored stroke provides a competitive advantage or the significance of growing the game are immaterial to the issue.

Secondary Issues: Growing the game at any cost is a slippery slope, one that will always be a threat to the game. The lines between the rules of golf, equipment technology and growing the game should never cross. It also should be clearly understood that the PGA Tour, PGA’s of America/Canada/Timbuktu or the game’s equipment manufactures all have a self serving interest directly relating to this important decisions.  So it’s not a shock which way they want to go.

Shouldn’t the President of the PGA of America/Canada/Timbuktu fight just as hard for their members who support the ban on the anchors stroke?  To state that “our pros don’t support the anchored rule change” sounds like those leaders are not in touch nor are they representing the majority of their membership body.  Sixty three and a half percent of the 25% of 3,800 members who participated, voted against the ban (that’s 603 members out of 3,800) sounds more like the vocal minority.  I know many members of the PGA of Canada who don’t want much to do with the political views of their association that do support the proposed ban, so they refrain from participation.  Isn’t the silent majority speaking loud enough?

The USGA and R&A seriously screw-up when they did not banning the anchored stroke 25-years ago, but that does not mean the method is above reproach or should continued if the focused concern brings the issue into question today.

The Definitions of a Stroke 

A “stroke’’ is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.

Anyone can decipher what basic physics demonstrates with the anchored stroke.  A fixed pivot point of the anchored stroke does not allow for any movement (forward or backward) at the very top of the club while fixed. By definition the anchored stroke is not congruent in movement, motion in space & time, as all the other strokes in the game of golf.

Most golfers don’t play by the rules of golf anyway, so unless you’re playing championship golf, use the anchored stroke if you want and enjoy how YOU want to play golf.


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Jeff Lancaster

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29 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Excellent post – you hit the nail on the head. 99% of the debate on anchoring is superfluous to the primary issue that you cite – is this a stroke of golf.

    Who cares if anchoring helps those that have the yips? That is not relevant to the debate.

  • “A fixed pivot point of the anchored stroke does not allow for any movement (forward or backward) at the very top of the club while fixed. ”

    I thought the proposed rule change would still alllow for a player to use a long putter, but simply not permit anchoring against the body. Accordingly, one could use a virtual pivot (i.e., not held against against the body, though mimicking the same action), but still not advancing the grip end of the club forward. No?

  • Richard,

    I appreciate your last two lines.

    I have no issue with banning them from “the club championship” if that is what people want to do … I don’t personally care. I would play with a short stick and will do in any low level competition.

    BTW I do believe Tim Clark will win his case in court if they go forward and I think the PGA Tour has recognized this outcome with their decision.

  • IMHO they should go ahead with the ban and throw another “bone” to golfers, the PGAs and equipment manufacturers. Let’s increase the club limit from 14 to 16 or even 20.

    I believe the original limit was a Labour issue as it was felt to be a physical burden for caddies, usually young boys at the time, to be carrying such a heavy bag with 20+ clubs.

  • Hi Jeff,
    The rule change, if passed, would allow for what you referred to, a “virtual pivot.” You could try to keep the virtual pivot point from not swinging, but keeping it absolutely still (not swinging) would not be a certainty as is when it’s fixed…it would be a skill unto itself.

    The pivot point that you described would be freestanding or floating would allow the top of the club to swing… fixing or posting the pivot point does not.

  • Hi Ian,
    Exactly … I stopped playing by the rules of golf the last PGA Tour event I played in 2005. Every single round of golf I played after that did not include playing by the rules of golf.


  • Failing to recognize or consider all the concerns and consequences that go along with a particular decision is the true failure off all decision making processes…they are not “offshoots,” but direct results of the decision being made. Any consequence of any decision is never “immaterial.” What you should have said is you don’t care for the other consequences or they are immaterial to you…and…all that means is that you are incapable of making an informed decision based on the best interests of all parties involved.

    To say nothing matters other than whether it is a golf stroke or not is underestimating the brevity of the situation. It’s a narrow minded decision process and the same type of reasoning that keeps the USGA and R&A from being effective ruling bodies.

  • Very well expressed Richard…I happen to agree. Most people, not just conservatives{!}, would prefer less regulation than more.The governing bodies surely don’t look to make more rules but simply to act an interpreter. Statistically perhaps we’ll never know but undeniably the profile of the “stroke or no stroke”question got heightened by the 2012 major results.
    If growing the game is the overriding motivation for a decision on this matter surely we would see a strong full public program from the PGA and the Tour on the primary drivers….cost,time to play,difficulty of courses which rank way ahead of anchoring.
    I share Arnold’s overriding concern about the universality and integrity of golf.
    I have had the yips as a competitive club player.I chose deliberately not to anchor as an alternative and have always viewed it as being on the edge rules wise.Unfortunately this debate has sharpened my view that this is not a stroke which means I am tempted to view it as cheating , a much more divisive thought.
    If the PGA and the TOUR want to have the influence on such matters they must examine their own governance and the content and timeliness of their public positions which must be seen as contributing to a greater good.

  • Hi Dick

    While I think your comment to Ian was a bit of tongue in cheek, I got quite a kick out of it.

    But if you were serious, just which rules of golf do you not adhere to. I just can’t bring myself to believe that you would not play by the rules, that is unless you have been playing with an anchored putter (which I do not know)

  • Wake me up from this boring (zzzzzzzzzz) conversation when the season begin.

    And, BTW, I’m a 4 handicap and I play by the rules…Not sure what game you have been playing Zokol, but if you haven’t, I don’t want to play a nassau with you!!

  • Peter,

    If you toss an extra ball down to try a chip or approach shot to see how the ball reacts around the green to learn from it. If you hit an extra drive to see if you can carry a hazard after playing the original ball. If you don’t return to the tee on a lost ball. If you pick up a putt before it enters the cup.

    You are not playing by the rules…

    I’m guilty on all counts …

  • Peter,
    Ian summed it up very nicely.

    When you play championship golf on a regular basis you learn to pick up on rules infractions. In any round you’ve played, if you did not adhere to what Ian described above, you are in breach of the rules of golf.

    Peter, are you stating you became a 4-handicap having holed-out every putt and made every ball-drop properly within the rules of golf in the same scrutiny as championship golf?

    If you cannot say yes to those questions, you have not played by the rules.

    Using an anchored putter is playing by the rules, I have tried it but did not get very far with it.

    What I am saying is black or white. Either you play by the rules or you don’t. The biggest breach of the rules is not holing-out. Outside tournament golf, if I have a putt hanging on the lip, I rake it away like the next guy… that is not playing by the rules.

    In all my years as a golfer, other than playing in competition, I have never seen amateur players play within the proper rules.

  • “We do not need a contraption in the game.” stated Arnold Palmer on March 20, 2013, referring to anchored method of putting.

  • As a club player in non tournament settings, many golfers have side bets with their buddies and non holed out putts are given in the context of match play. Granted many play stroke based games and putts are given which technically is against the rules.

    Other than the above, I would suggest most money games are played within the rules. Penalty strokes, provisional plays played etc.

    However, I believe that most amateur drops related to penalty strokes are done incorrectly, though not intentionally. Players are simply not sufficiently intimate with the rules of golf to know the proper rules related to drops.

    For casual rounds both in private and public settings, I would agree that few if any rounds are played within the rules of golf.

  • I play money games with my buddies and everything is holed out – ZERO gimmies. Every ball-drop is scrutinized and done within the rules.

    We never tip the ball. As Tom Watson says – the game is played outdoors so play it as it lies!!

    Therefore, I stand by my original comment – I don’t want to play a nassau with you, Richard, if you think I’m giving you that 2 foot putt.

    Whatever game you’re playing, it’s NOT within the rules!!

  • If you want to protect the integrity of the game, there needs to be integrity in the process.. Quite frankly the fact that this comes at this particular time makes me question the integrity of the ruling bodies, not the rules.

    If they want to protect the integrity of the game by making sure things meet definitions, perhaps they might want to spend some time focusing on the definition of a ‘ball’ and the definition of a ‘club’.. At the championship level, the advances in shaft and ball technology have ruined the ‘integrity’ of the game a lot more than a few guys putting funny.

  • levine

    Ridiculous commentary from you.

    The R&A/USGA have been doing great work for THE GAME for centuries – The USGA 1894 and the R&A 1754.

    I’m comfortable leaving the decisions to them and not the PGA Tour or the PGA of America or to anyone else. These groups ONLY have THEIR interests at heart…….not THE GAMES’S

  • But isn’t it in the best interest of the PGA of America — or any PGA for that matter — for the game to be healthy? The healthier the game, the more jobs there are for pros. So aren’t the interests of the PGA of America aligned with the interests of the sport?

  • We need one set of Golf Rules, the R&A and USGA have proposed banning the anchored “stroke” but asked for input, otherwise it would already be enforced and both bodies would be crippled with lawsuits.
    It’s too late to make the proposed 2016 rule stick, I’ll predict the USGA and R&A will back off, the PGA and CPGA are correct! So is Arnie, one set of rules make golf golf.

  • The game of golf is healthy but the golf industry is not. Poor health in the industry is not good (except for the consumer) but it was brought on by overindulgence that fed inflated real estate prices until it exploded. The industry as a whole wants to get it back to the good old days. Like most corrections, that’s not going to happen and things need to change.

    What is in the interests of the golf industry (the PGA’s, manufactures, etc.) does not mean those same interests are good for the game. I don’t think if the anchored stroke remains legal it will turn the industry’s health around. I do think the anchored stroke compromises the integrity of the game.

    When the interests of the industry surpass the principles of the game the tail starts to wag the dog. The purpose of the game is not to provide jobs for pros… if a pro can earn a living in the game, fantasic and the dog does wags of the tail.

    Gary, so are you only agreeing with Arnie on half of his statement and not the other? Arnie agrees with one set of rules with the “long putter” not having a place in the game.

  • Zokol,

    I respect your opinion, but frankly, completely disagree.

    You somehow see a disconnect between the game and the people involved with the game as if the game is a self sustaining entity. I’m not sure whether you are simply choosing to ignore the fact that the best interest of the game lies in the people who play, work, enjoy, travel for etc. the game and not the game itself. The game is just a game, the people make it what it is. It’s like saying the only thing that matters in Monopoly is the board and rule card…I’m pretty sure you’d say that’s ridiculous…or maybe not. Maybe you’d rather be playing monopoly alone.

    You state the purpose of the game is “…not to provide jobs for pros,” but you don’t actually state what the purpose of the game is. I’d like to hear your take on what you believe the “purpose” of the game is because at this moment, I actually think you are confused in your own definition.

    Golf IMO, was created so PEOPLE could enjoy themselves. It was most definitely not created for the sake of simply having a game…that was certainly not the purpose, nor was it created to memorialize what is in your opinion the essence of the game…the golf stroke. Golf is a pass time, exercise, time outdoors, leisure, entertainment, enjoyment, fun. It is also used for competition and sport.

    In this light, your entire commentary would be completely contrary to the purpose of the game and only referencing a very narrow point of view…competition and tournament play. But alas, competition and tournament play are not the founding “purpose” of the game…they are a result of the game. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall any history books saying Golf was created as a method to satisfy our want to compete with one another. A lot of us seem to forget that the vast majority of rules do not actually govern the game, but competition…and…competition does not make the game. Golf is about the people and catering to the people who play it is exactly what the game calls us to do.

    I could go on and talk about your assertion that the essence of the game is the golf stroke, but I’ll just say I disagree completely…again. That would be like saying the essence of a nail is the action of hammering it, of medicine how we administer it, or, being in Canada, of hockey the action of shooting or passing the puck. They are not the essence of anything…they are just the way we do those things.

    The principles, integrity, and reputation of the game are only respected when decisions are made with everyone in mind. They are elitist and discouraging when not. To say the interests of the industry are surpassing the principles of the game are completely false. Last I checked, anchored putters aren’t exactly number one sellers and when it comes to the pros, tour or club, they matter more to the game than the anchored putter debate ever will in any way, shape, or form.

    The people make the game, the game does not make itself.

  • Thompson – Can’t believe what you said – “The healthier the game, the more jobs there are for pros.” Not sure what ‘pros’ you are referencing – Tour pros, or general golf pros but it doesn’t matter.

    I think everyone has to get their head out of the sand a bit.

    The GAME is about the people playing the game…Club members, public players, etc. It’s not only about the .000002% that actually play the game or work as professionals.

    The Game is about ME and and people like me – my buddies and millions more who love the game…..we practice for hours….watch it on TV…read magazines, websites (even blogs like this).

    The real GAME is reflected in the people that spend time browsing in box store golf retailers in the middle of winter – buying another golf shirt or two you don’t really need…picking up the latest putters and seeing if that’s the answer…wondering if the new drivers that come out twice year (at big $$$’s), are actually longer (or is it just because they lenghthened it by 1/2 inch)…

    The GAME is about those who go to a heated outdoor range at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning in February to loosen up and see if you can remember the 48 swing ‘keys’ you were working on last Summer/Fall

    That’s the real GAME and that is what the R&A/USGA are protecting.

  • Pete: My remark was this — something you apparently didn’t comprehend: the healthier the game, the more players there will be and therefore the more pros employed in the game. I’m referring to the PGA — Professional Golfers’ association. I think I was pretty clear, but that’s before you went rambling on about hitting balls at heated outdoor ranges.

  • Frank,
    I don’t understand how you come to assume that I am implying “the game is a self sustained entity.” You are misunderstanding what I am saying. From my perspective, I am separating the game and the industry of the game because firstly they are two different entities. Secondly, too often many people easily talk about these two distinctly different entities as if they are the same, like how I perceived RT did.

    We are not dissimilar in our thoughts. If I were to take a first stab at the game’s purpose, it would be something to the effect of: to serve the people who play the game for a multitude of reasons that may include, social interaction, personal challenging, introspection of self and others, competition, physical and mental exercise, friendship, thought challenging, and just a simple walk in the park, or anything else people want it to be. Or it could be just achieving that feeling one gets in return when you meet the challenge of flushing a perfect 2-iron (not a hybrid) high in the air and make it land softly by the hole when it matters.

    The majority of people do not need to play by the rules of golf to enjoy the benefits of the game. People should use the anchored stroke if they want. It doesn’t matter unless you play in tournament golf.

    Unfortunately, people in the industry have contributed to the obesity in the game that has managed to make the game unaffordable and out of touch to the majority of the people in North America. People in the industry make the game great, and they also hurting the game by their actions. That knife cuts both ways.

    The golf stroke is a critically important and an essential characteristic of the game. It is not the only one, there are others, like “playing the ball as it lies”, “counting all your strokes”, etc. They are the games Charter, the rules that govern people’s management of the game.

    This issue is widely divisive. There is no way everyone in the game could come to consensus. We must be careful that those who have influence in the game’s decisions don’t have ulterior motives relating to the issue. People who make the decisions do have everyone in mind even though you may not think so. They’ve been do it for a long time and are in the position of not having a monetary gain in this decision.

    • Zokol, this post clarified some of your previous comments for me…thanks.

      Above all, my only concern is seeing the game flourish. I think almost everyone can agree with that.

  • The game of golf survived just fine with two different sets of rules. The R&A allowed a smaller golf ball that the USGA had banned. The ball was banned from British Opens starting in 1974 and eventually banned by the R&A in 1990. And the game managed to survive.

    This stroke that supposedly is detrimental for the game has been in tournament golf since the 1930’s. The integrity of the game is not at stake due to anchoring. The integrity of the game is at stake for trying to ban a group of golfers because you don’t like the way they look on the putting greens.

  • Richard, Arnie this weekend said the most important thing to Him is for one set of rules, for pros and amateurs. I agree, that’s why I am guessing the USGA will not ban the anchored putting “stroke”. I have been against the anchor since it started, but the USGA did not ban it. Too Late!

    OT: unlike the NRA who represent the gun manufacturers, the USGA does not represent the remaining golf manufacturers, not too sure who they represent. Certainly not the Senior players or the average public golfer.

  • Gary,

    Last weekend Arnie did say the most important thing to him is for one set of rules, but that was only half of the King’s declaration. The other half of his statement was, golf doesn’t need a “contraption” like the anchored putting stroke and the sport’s success requires everyone to play by the same rules.

    That’s the divisiveness… some think the right thing to do is not change because it’s too late while others think it’s never too late to do the right thing.

    Back in the early ‘90s I was fortunate enough to have lunch in Vancouver with Frank Thomas who had just retired as the USGA’s Technical Director. I asked Franks why the USGA didn’t ban the “Long-Putter” soon after it came out. Thomas said the then current US Senior Open Champion, Orville Moody, used the broom-handle style (anchored to his chest) and the USGA didn’t want to rule against one of their champions.

    That obviously flies in the face of what the USGA is doing today with Webb Simpson being the current US Open champ.

    My prediction is the USGA and R&A will ratify the proposal. The PGA Tour will not oppose their decision. This action will result in that the USGA and the R&A will move a step closer to re-establishing the ground they lost in governing the game when they settled on the courthouse steps in the Ping lawsuit over 20-years ago.

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