How Is Bernhard Langer Getting Away With Anchoring? He Isn't

Langer's post-anchoring ban putting style receives scrutiny, but is legal

Bernhard Langer of Germany putts during a practice round prior to the start of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2016
From a distance, Bernhard Langer's post-anchoring ban putting style might appear unchanged - but it isn't. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

April 10, 2016 - Bernhard Langer, at age 58, is in contention at the 2016 Masters after three rounds. And he's doing it with a long putter. A long putter that might appear to be anchored.

But wait just a minute: Isn't that "illegal" under the rules now? The Rules of Golf issued on Jan. 1, 2016, included a ban on anchored strokes, yet there Langer is, appearing to use the same ol' putter and stroke he was using before the anchoring ban.

What gives?

Long Putters Not Banned

First, note that long putters (and belly length putters) are completely unaffected by the anchoring ban (Rule 14-1b). That rule bans an anchored stroke only. It has no affect whatsoever on equipment. If a golfer wants to keep using a long putter, that's perfectly fine. You just can't anchor it.

But Isn't Langer Still Anchoring His Long Putter?

No, he's not - even if, from a distance, it appears that way to some.

Here is Langer's post-Rule 14-1b putting routine with his long putter:

  • He anchors the putter during his practice strokes before stepping over the ball.
  • Once he steps over the ball, he moves his top hand - the one holding the butt end of his long putter - slightly away from his chest.

That's it. Getting that top hand off his chest - even if only slightly, even if the fabric of his shirt falling away from his body just a smidge might make it appear from a distance that Langer's hand is anchored - satisfies the requirements of Rule 14-1b.

Really, It Does!

I know there are readers who aren't satisfied with that answer. I understand. Langer has made just a very minor adjustment to his pre-anchoring-ban putting style, one that - to some people - looks funny. Looks fishy. Looks wrong.

In preparation for the anchoring ban, Langer tried many different types of putters and strokes.

He tried, Langer said, Matt Kuchar's arm-lock style; he tried conventional-length putters with a crosshanded grip and a claw grip, among other things.

Not satisfied, Langer returned to the long putter but made the minor adjustment of lifting his hand off his chest (removing the anchor point). He won on the Champions Tour (at the Chubb Classic in February) shortly after.

And Langer got a lot of scrutiny during that tournament and after the victory, from fans, from fellow golfers, and, especially, from Champions Tour officials and USGA officials.

Rules officials have had Langer demonstrate what he's doing; they've tracked him during rounds; they've watched video footage and zoomed in repeatedly, getting the best possible looks.

And they've concluded that Langer is abiding by the letter of the law, Rule 14-1b.

So even if it looks like Langer is still anchoring ... he isn't. That top hand is raised off his chest, there is no anchor point.