Anchoring Ban: Rule 14-1b and Grips/Strokes It Permits and Prohibits

Anchoring a Belly Putter
Anchoring a belly putter into one's midsection will be prohibited by Rule 14-1b, although belly putters themselves could still be used without anchoring. Jim Rogash / Getty Images

After years of discussion and debate, golf's governing bodies acted to put a stop to anchoring in golf. "Anchoring" refers to the act of bracing the grip-end of a golf club against one's body during the stroke, or of bracing the top hand on the grip or the forearm against one's body to create a stable "anchor point."

Anchoring entered golf in much wider usage beginning in the 1980s with the introduction of long putters, a k a broomstick putters, which were braced against the golfer's chest or chin, creating a stable fulcrum point for the putting stroke. Later, belly putters arrived, and they were anchored into one's stomach or sternum for the same effect.

But the R&A and USGA finally decided that anchoring and the use of "anchor points" during the putting stroke (or any other stroke) is not in keeping with the traditional method of making a stroke: with the hands away from the body and swinging the club freely.

So, on Nov. 28, 2012, the R&A and USGA announced the proposed wording of a new rule, "Rule 14-1b: Anchoring the Club." A 90-day comment period followed and then, after a short break, the governing bodies announced on May 21, 2013, that Rule 14-1b would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and that ban on anchoring is now part of the Rules of Golf.

Here is how the rule reads:

14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either "directly" or by use of an "anchor point."
Note 1: The club is anchored "directly" when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
Note 2: An "anchor point" exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

The penalty for violating Rule 14-1b is the same as for a breach of any other part of Rule 14-1 or 14-2: a 2-stroke penalty in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play.

For a more in-depth dive into the rule, see the R&A's Guidance for Players and Officials on Rule 14-1b.

When Does Rule 14-1b Take Effect?

The rule is in effect now; it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Are Belly Putters and Long Putters Banned?

No. Very important point: This rule change is a change (or addition to) Rule 14-1; it is not a change to equipment rules. Belly putters and long putters remain completely legal to use, so long as they are conforming to equipment rules.

What Rule 14-1b addresses is the stroke, not the club being used to make the stroke. So if you putt with a belly putter or long putter, the rule change does not require you to stop doing that - it only prohibits the anchoring of those (and all other) clubs.

What Types of Grips/Strokes Does Rule 14-1b Permit and Prohibit?

Any type of grip or stroke that does not involve anchoring the butt end of the club against the body, or anchoring a hand or forearm against the body to create an "anchor point," is unaffected by this rule change.

A conventional putting stroke, for example, is unaffected. So is cross-handed putting and the claw grip, among many other types of putting grips and strokes. You can even keep putting with a belly or broomstick putter so long as you do not anchor (for example, using a conventional putting grip/stroke with a belly putter; or using a long putter but holding the top of the grip away from the chest rather than pressed up against the chest).

The USGA and R&A have created two photo slideshows that demonstrate what types of strokes Rule 14-1b permits, and what types of strokes the rule change prohibits. The following links are to those slideshows on the USGA website, but you can also find them on the R&A website:

Does the Ban on Anchoring Only Apply to Putting Strokes?

No, anchoring any club during a stroke is banned by the rule change. But for practical purposes, only putting methods are affected (since nobody anchors any other type of stroke).

Additional FAQs on the Anchoring Ban

The R&A and USGA, when they announced final adoption of the anchoring ban, prepared an in-depth explanation of their reasons for doing so. The report includes an examination of such issues determining whether a stroke is anchored, why the rule change is happening at this particular time, whether bifurcation or "grandfathering" were considered, and much more. If you want to go in-depth into the governing bodies reasons and considerations, read it: