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USGA bans anchored putting strokes

Stu Ingraham has utilized an anchored stroke with a long putter for the last 23 years, a span during which he has won Philadelphia Section PGA player of the year honors on eight occasions including last year.

Stu Ingraham has utilized an anchored stroke with a long putter for the last 23 years, a span during which he has won Philadelphia Section PGA player of the year honors on eight occasions including last year.

So Ingraham strongly disagreed Tuesday with the joint decision by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to ban an anchored putting stroke, either with a long putter or a belly putter, saying the stroke goes against the traditional golf swing where a club is gripped with both hands away from the body.

"I'm incredibly disappointed by this," said Ingraham, 53, a teaching pro at M-Golf Range in Newtown Square. "It doesn't make any sense to me. They're looking at it as an advantage. You're not going to change a rule unless you feel someone is taking an advantage. There's no reason to. It's an opportunity to survive and enjoy the game of golf."

The decision by golf's major ruling bodies is included in what is now Rule 14-1b. Going into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, the rule is directed at players who use long putters and belly putters where the butt end is stationary or pressed against the upper part of the abdomen. It does not ban such putters, just the act of the anchored stroke.

Four of the last six winners of a major championship utilized an anchored stroke, the latest being Adam Scott with a long putter last month at the Masters. Webb Simpson, who will defend his U.S. Open championship next month at Merion Golf Club, uses a belly putter.

Michael Hyland of Marlton, Burlington County, won the Philadelphia Amateur twice with an anchored stroke and used a different putter both times - belly in 2000, long in 2011. He thinks the success of major champions with that style prompted the USGA to take action.

"There aren't enough guys in the top 20 on the tour using the anchored putting," Hyland said. "When guys started winning majors with it, they got freaked out. They made this decision based on that, not based on the people who go out and enjoy playing the game."

USGA president Glen Nager said the rule change "protects one of the important challenges in the game - the free swing of the entire club.

"The traditional stroke involves swinging the club with both the club and gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and control movement of the entire club," Nager said at a news conference at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.

"Anchoring is different. Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing."

The PGA Tour and the PGA of America have been opposed to the ban on anchored putting. Both organizations said they will discuss the decision internally over the coming weeks before deciding whether, and how, to implement the rule. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has said it is important for golf to be played under one set of rules.

The LPGA said in a brief statement that it would implement the rule in its events effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, which represents more than 27,000 club professionals, said the decision prompts concern "about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game."

Nager said he didn't think the ban would limit the enjoyment of the game for the higher-handicap recreational players.

"We understand that some golfers are expressing concern with this change," Nager said. "But the proper solution is not to allow alternation of the challenges of the game and pull the game apart, but rather to work together to help these golfers overcome their concerns."

Ingraham, a longtime PGA of America member, agrees.

"Golf is doing everything to get people to enjoy the game, but this is not doing that," he said. "Golf needs a boost for positive expression and this, to me, is like taking a divot out of someone's forehead. You can make all the justifications in the world for anchoring. That's just trying to justify a stupid decision, in my opinion."