The Long Goodbye…

February 1, 2016 / Media, News

Golf International Jan/Feb 2016

The Long Goodbye…

After years of consultation and study, the R&A and USGA announced the ban on the ‘anchoring’ style of putting would come into effect on January 1 2016. Leading biomechanics and putting guru Dr Paul Hurrion shares his thoughts on the evidence and the reasoning behind the decision

By Dr Paul Hurrion
Photography Mark Newcombe & Getty Images

Since the introduction of the long putter more than thirty years ago, it has been debated on what seems like an annual basis whether this style of putter or putting should be deemed legal. This debate intensified with the success of long putters in recent major championships and with the imminent ban by the R&A and USGA on 1st January 2016 of anchoring the club. Does anchoring the putter gaining an unfair advantage? How does this relate to the spirit of the game of golf? (I am not talking about using the long putter for a 2 club length drop!) – Australia’s Adam Scott being the most high-profile of players to wield one of the longest of models, which he did to such devastating effect at Augusta in 2012 en route to his Masters victory.


It seems the biggest effects of the rule change may be felt throughout the USA, in particular the current crop of American amateur golfers aspiring for a career in the professional ranks who have grown up solely with the long / belly putter and know no different. During the recent US Amateur Championship, over 60% of the field had an anchoring style (Belly or Long) putter. I think the effect will not be as drastic here in the UK, or even in Europe, Africa, Australia or Asia as only a handful of players have adopted the anchoring style. Why this style is so heavily biased towards the USA, I don’t fully know, but a top 50 World Ranked USA Tour player who will remain anonymous, suggests, tongue in cheek, that “we sure like to take the easy option in this country…”.

Taking a more serious approach, the debate centres on the fairness of giving the putting stroke an anchor point.  It is widely speculated that anchoring the putter to the player gives an advantage, the basic concept being that this fixed pivot point enables the player to execute a better pendulum style putting stroke. My research undertaken through Quintic clearly shows that a stable pendulum stroke with a single pivot point is the simplest, most efficient and consistent method of returning the putter from address to impact. My analysis of many professional golfers (regardless of the putter they normally use) demonstrated that anchoring the longer putters made it easier for them to maintain the pivot point during the stroke. Longer (anchored) putters clearly showed an advantage in technique, notably in ensuring the putter will return to the same position at impact as it was at address, so increasing the ability to reproduce the same ball launch conditions for each putt struck!


With a standard “short” putter, the putting strokes of golfers exploit a number of methods and styles – straight back and through, in-to-square- to-in and rotation on the backswing followed by a straight path toward the target on the through-swing. A commonality in these variations is that many coaches and players are trying to achieve a pendulum style action. For the golfer to ensure the pivot point returns to its original position at address with a SHORT putter, a golfer must have the correct shoulder, elbow and wrist stability / movements and remain calm with their upper and lower body during the stroke. With an anchored putter, this pivot point simply will be the ‘butt’ end of the putter (assuming the body is stable). BUT with a shorter putter, the effective pivot point will be positioned somewhere on the upper trunk. When a golfer manipulates the putter with wrist break and /or elbow movement then a double or even triple pendulum effect is created and the additional pivots at wrists and elbows cause the pivot point to shift. The majority of putting actions suffer this type of scenario and both mathematically and physically are complicated further by any lateral motion of pivot points, notably when the lower body moves. The more independent movements during the stroke, the more unlikely the golfer will be to replicate the original address position,  as this alters the desired face and dynamic loft angles…  and when replication is not perfect the ball will not roll consistently and will not start out on the target line calculated at address.  It is not uncommon (even for European Tour Professionals) to be aiming outside the hole, even with a straight putt, as their address and impact positions are SO DIFFERENT. This lack of uniformity between address and impact demands extraordinary hand eye co-ordination from the golfer to maintain consistency.


My analysis shows clearly that anchoring the putter increases the ability to do the following:

  • Replicate at impact the face and loft angles of the putter face created at address, even if the path of the putter is not perfectly square
  • Improve consistency of the speed of the putter head through impact – the key component of good distance control particularly on longer putts
  • Control the speed of the putter head by the length of the backswing and through-swing (not reliant on independent wrist action)
  • Help to create an equal length backswing and through-swing arc, thus eliminating unwanted acceleration through impact and the inherent tendency for further hand-eye manipulations

Quintic’s putting robot (as shown below) highlights the location of the ‘fixed’ pivot point when using a short putter. In fact with the robot, it doesn’t matter what length of putter is used, the action is still perfect!


The rotation of the robot remains anchored around one fixed pivot whilst the frame mimics the shoulders, arms and wrists. When the technique is shown on the robot, as you would expect, the intersecting line projected from the putter shaft is unchanged in relation to the shoulder line throughout – a perfect pendulum. However, a major consequence of a moving pivot / anchor point becomes a variation of the ball’s launch angle. This changes the dynamic loft and alters the launch angle (along with backspin and topspin variations) and in turn affects the bounce, skid, roll and pace of the golf ball. You will realise that golfers must continue to find effective ways to help them achieve consistent static and dynamic loft angles with the standard or short putter… look at the styles adopted by Matt Kuchar and Soren Kjeldsen to help their body and arm movements eliminate manipulation and therefore return the putter to the desired impact position.


So, with anchoring of the putter banned from 1st January 2016, how should you achieve the pendulum effect of your putting stroke with the short putter?

  • The first aspect is posture – it is vital to develop a stable posture with only the shoulders rocking around the upper thoracic vertebrae – stand up and try that without a putter.
  • Maintain connection between upper torso and arms but with relaxed grip pressure and forearms. Increased grip pressure creates tension and poor rhythm.
  • Get your putter fitted to YOU personally, so that you start out with correct loft, lie and length to match your stroke – do you know the loft and lie of your putter(s)?
  • Start with shoulders level, this positively influences the pendulum. Some golfers grip the putter with the hands level or with the leading hand below trailing (commonly, left below right) to bring the shoulders level – before you dismiss the latter, consider that Jack Nicklaus is quoted as saying that is the one change he would make if he were starting out again.


The perfect pendulum requires no manipulation of the hands, wrists or shoulders. If you rely on manipulation of the clubface, forearms and / or shoulders, it will not always be repeatable especially under pressure.  Remember that when a golfer manipulates the putter with wrist break and /or elbow movement then there is extreme difficulty controlling the double or even triple pendulum effect created through the multiple pivot points.

Manipulation demands compensation which in turn begs the ultimate questions for that split millisecond contact of clubface and ball… especially when facing a downhill left to right ‘8 footer’ to win the match. What line? What pace? Can I deliver?




With a conventional ‘short’ putter, there are more possibilities to consider (indicated by the three red dots – wrist, elbows & shoulders), making it more difficult to repeat a perfect pendulum motion.




Finally, I firmly believe the right decision has been taken by the R&A / USGA with regards the professional game. However in a time when club memberships and participation are in decline, it is a more complex question for the amateur game. Will it reduce the enjoyment of the club member wishing to play their Saturday afternoon game on their local course? Personally, I think it may not be the right time to be restricting the average golfer who finds it so difficult with the shorter putter (effectively ruining their enjoyment of the game), why penalise an amateur who has no desires to play professional or even competitive amateur golf. I can see certain golf clubs introducing a local rule, thus allowing members to play with an anchoring style of putting…

Dr Paul Hurrion