Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Tiger's to Blame!

Written by Bob Oliver on .

When last we heard from the ruling bodies of golf - the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Association – the anchoring of a golf club against one’s body will be bloody against the Rules of Golf.

We’ve heard from high above that such golf strokes will be illegal effective in 2016.

Why? Because Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley had the audacity to win four of the last nine major golf championships using putting strokes featuring their flat stick anchored against their body.

Apparently it took the USGA and R&A more than 90 years to research and decide that the anchored stroke is illegal. Really? Yes, because golfers have been using one form or another of an anchored stroke since the 1920s if not before.

The first player inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame who used an anchored putter to win a pro tour event was Leo Diegel --- in 1924. Maybe he’d have used a billiard cue like Richard Peters did in the 1895 U.S. Open, but that was against the rules at the time, so he simply Diegeled (anchored) and nobody complained. Not 90 years ago when Diegel Diegeled It, or not 40 years ago when Charles Owens used his “Slim Jim” putter on the PGA Tour and not two years ago when Bradley won the PGA Championship.

Just 18 short months ago current USGA Executive Director Mike Davis had this to say about anchoring. “We don’t see this as a big trend. We don’t see this as something detrimental to the game.”

Owens was a trailblazer in many avenues, but is well known for his anchored putting style.  

“I needed to try something, I had been putting terribly and bending over hurt my back,” Owens told this reporter at the then Senior PGA Tour’s Bell Atlantic Classic at Chester Valley Country Club in Malvern back in the 1980s. “I found the Slim Jim kept me from hurting and I putted pretty good too!”

Owens played in the U.S. Open, and the USGA addressed the issue at the time. “We discussed Charlie’s situation. The long putter passed the test and we did not do anything,” said then USGA Executive Director David Fay.

Owens used his anchored long putter for years, and later players like Orville Moody, Gay Brewer, Jim Ferree and John Brodie followed suit. At the Merion Golf Club in 1989 at the U.S. Amateur, none other than Fay stated that “Putting is an individual art form, and to inhibit a golfer’s style would take some fun out of the game, and that’s not why we (at the USGA) make the rules.”

Seriously, he said that. He admitted the USGA had examined anchoring, long putters and unorthodox strokes and determined there was no violation of the rules or the spirit of the rules.

Since then Rocco Mediate, Bruce Lietzke, Fred Couples and scores of other pros and an estimated several hundred thousand amateur golfers have taken up anchoring, either with the long putter or the belly putter. Ironically, there are not many anchored putter wielders at or near the top of the PGA Tour putting statistics.

Well, time flies when you are having fun! Except when that fun means Scott, Els, Simpson and Bradley had fun in winning major championships.

Yup, after 90 years of thinking, after numerous reviews and approvals, the USGA changed its mind and gave golfers who use an anchored stroke the raspberry. The word out of Far Hills this week was short and sweet, something like:  phooey on your anchored fun. We can’t have that. Oh, we don’t have statistics or research, we don’t need it. We are the USGA and the R&A, and we will do what we damn well please.

Okay, great. No more anchored stroke. Next up will be the elimination of the hybrid club, because, well, for the first 400 years of the game of golf nobody won a major with a hybrid. Now they do. Ban those suckers.

Okay, seriously, we all know the real culprit here: one Tiger Woods. Yes, absolutely and unequivocally, Tiger Woods is the reason the anchored stroke has been banned.

Why blame Eldrick? Obviously, it’s his fault. No question about it.

He hasn’t won a major championship since the 2008 United States Open. Had El Tigre won one or more of the four events claimed by Messrs. Scott, Els, Simpson or Bradley this whole issue wouldn’t have come to the forefront. All the talk would be about who’s the greatest golfer of all-time, or how many majors would Tiger eventually win.

The blue-blooded USGA and R&A fuddy duddies would have been left thinking about how to deal with viewers calling in with rules infractions rather than the anchored stroke. Or maybe actually performing some real research.