Our decision to propose the Rule change is based on preserving the fundamental character of the golf stroke rather than on empirical data concerning putting performance. The only such data of which we are aware are recent data from the PGA Tour that track Tour players’ putting performance in relation to length of putter used, but those data from Tour events are limited and inconclusive. Otherwise, we are aware of no data regarding the effect of anchoring on putting outcomes for all the many other types of players throughout all levels of the game.
More important, changes like this to playing Rules are not based on empirical studies. In writing the Rules that define how golf is to be played, the governing bodies assess current practices and recent developments in the context of history and traditions and make a judgment about the game’s fundamental nature and long-term best interests.
In adopting other Rules defining how a stroke must be played – such as the prohibitions on spooning, scraping or pushing (current Rule 14-1, which would be re-labeled as Rule 14-1a under the proposal), using a croquet-style stroke on the putting green (Rule 16-1e), or accepting physical assistance or protection from the elements (Rule 14-2a) – the governing bodies did not conduct empirical studies of the effect of the methods in question. Rather, they made their best judgment concerning the types of strokes that should be permitted in golf. While some actions are subject to penalty under the Rules because they may provide undue advantage to a player, many other actions are subject to penalty because they are deemed to be inconsistent with the definition of golf and the way in which the game is to be played.
In this case, we have concluded that a free swing of the entire club is part of the essential character of the game and central to its inherent challenge, and that anchoring the club may alter that challenge by using the body to provide extra support and stability for the stroke and enabling the player to swing only a portion of the club. Also, whether any actual benefit to a particular player may be significant or minor or whether it may be experienced by many or few of those who adopt anchored putting, the very use of this stroke has generated doubt and uncertainty among the participants themselves about whether players are facing equivalent challenges and playing the same game. The competitive nature of the game will best be served if these dynamics are eliminated.