Let's be clear about a couple of things.
Firstly, long putters are not banned.
You can use them, but you cannot anchor them against any part of your body directly or indirectly, apart from your forearm. If you want to find out how you can use them then visit the R&A's section on the matter at www.randa.org/anchoring
Secondly, anchoring is not a stroke with both arms freely moving like every other stroke in golf and I feel it does provide an advantage to those who choose to use it.
For instance if player A and B are as good tee to green as each other, but A is an average stroke putter and B a poor stroke putter then A will usually win. If B switches to an anchoring style and then becomes an average putter then he has gained an advantage on A, not through an improvement in his ability, but through playing the one element of the same game in a different manner that is not a stroke. Player A's skill at putting is disadvantaged, so someone must have gained an advantage.
If A is a poor iron player and B an average iron player, then B has an advantage over A. Player A cannot find an alternative way of playing irons. He just has to improve through practice or better technique. That is the essence of the game.
And if there are still those who feel it is not an advantage, then it should not be a disadvantage for Player B to change to a non-anchored style.
But if the rule has to change then why now?
Whilst it could be reasonably argued that the ruling bodies have been slow off the mark, it could also be said that they have acted just in time. As Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA said, the number players using anchored putting styles on the PGA Tour has exploded from 4% in the 90s, to 6% in 2010, to 11% in 2011 and 15% in 2012, with some events at nearly 25%. On the Champions Tour the figure is even higher.
I spoke with Chris Koske, Global Director for Odyssey Putters the day after the announcement and he revealed that historically long shafted putters had been around 3-6% of their sales. However in the last quarter of 2011 they jumped to 25% of sales after Keegan Bradley won the USPGA with their long shafted Sabretooth. In 2012 Odyssey were expecting it to be 15-20% of sales, but the impending ruling has seen that fall by around half. Clearly this was not a tour only phenomenom. This was an avalanche that was going change how a golf stroke was made.
Had this change of stroke not come in then I predict long shafted wedges would have been next for those who have lost the ability to chip (and there are many more of them). Anchor a long shafted wedge up under your armpit and rotate your body in the same way and say goodbye to the chunk, the skull and all manner of wonderfully named shots. And other uses for anchoring would have come in time and golfer's bags would start to look more like a collection of ski poles than golf clubs.
This change had to come now and it is the right decision. The ruling bodies are there to govern the game and ensure that the essence of it remains the same.
Where this leaves the PGA of America and the PGA Tour is an interesting point. As Ken Schofield said when he was Executive Director of the European Tour, it is not in their remit to make rules, but to follow them. The US Open and The Open are run by the governing bodies and if their championships do not allow anchoring will players risk their chances in 2 or maybe 3 majors? The PGA Tour players meet at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2013 and they could vote to create a different condition of competition rule, but I doubt it.
However the rest of the world should realise that the anchoring issue is closer to the heart of golf in the USA than elsewhere. Koske said that 90% of Odyssey's long putter sales were in the USA, so the concerns raised by the PGA Tour, the PGA of America and recreational golfers in the USA are understandable.
However Odyssey's approach to the whole matter should be a source of inspiration to the those who are affected by this rule. Koske said that they believe in the freedom of making a stroke in putting and have a great respect for the rules. Odyssey see it as an opportunity for them to blaze the trail again by creating new styles of longer putters that will be able to offer similar benefits for those using a non-anchored.
(Note: Since we spoke to Odyssey has launched a new putter so read our review of the Odyssey Metal-X Arm Lock Putter
They have form here as being one of the pioneers of hot faced drivers before the maximum COR rules came into force and they had to take a different tack. They took it on the chin and today still make some of the fastest drivers on the market.
Club pro's will have a reason to sell more putters and putting lessons to all these pole weilding golfers too. Deadlines are great for generating sales.
It's all good, so here are some of my predictions for putters and putting going forward.
1. Putting styles with mid length putters will stay roughly the same with the 'Kuchar' forearm anchor, the 'Langer' forearm clasp and the 'Cabrera' use of a longer shaft as a counter balance all becoming more popular.
2. The longer putter style favoured by players like Adam Scott will be slightly modified to look very similar by just lifting the top anchoring hand away from the body and then rocking the shoulders. The motion would then be very similar to a standard putting stroke as the left hand is held at the top of the club instead of by the right hand.
3. Some new and fascinating putting styles will be devised that are within the new rules. This will be great because innovation and the desire to improve are also the essence of the game.
4. The manufacturers will introduce a new range of mid length counter-weighted putters that will have adjustable shafts and weights that golfers will use with a conventional putting stroke to try and reduce the effect of hands in the stroke.
5. By the end of 2014 there will be few, if any, Tour players still using an anchoring style because they will not want to change at the last minute and also because the moral pressure on them continuing to use a style that is due to be outlawed will be too great. They will not want the distraction of all the attention, apart from one or two who will stick to the very end for notoreity. Therefore the rule will effectively be in force much earlier than it is on paper.
6. The majority who switch back will putt the same, or better and have more fun.
And one final, very long term prediction.
Once the rule change for anchoring is successfully introduced and the dust has settled, the ball is next.