Should arm-lock putting be banned?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Billy Horschel opened a can of worms after first round play at the RBC Heritage last week when he said that arm-lock putting should be banned since to him it’s no different than other anchored putting styles that are prohibited. Noteworthy arm-lock putters on Tour include Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Horschel’s playing partner for the first two days, Will Zalatoris. Is arm-lock putting a form of anchoring and if so, should it also be banned, at least at the professional level?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No, it shouldn’t be banned, and nor should chest anchoring have been banned when it was a few years ago.  For that matter, they shouldn’t have stopped Sam Snead from croquet putting between his legs, back in the early 60s.  In my view, if you come up with a new method of hitting a golf ball, using conforming equipment, then good on you!  I may not like the way BDC (or the late Moe Norman) hits the ball, but I defend his right to do it his way.  Ditto the anchor-putters and arm-lockers!

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I don’t like the look of arm “lock” putting, but its not like any of the players who are incorporating it are the best putters in the world. Kuchar being the best, but he was a pretty good putter before switching. I don’t think we need to see any ban on this form of putting, its still a form of a stroke in my opinion.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Same old, same old. Your putter has an iron head and traditionally has been the shortest club in the bag. Therefore, cannot be longer than your shortest iron. End of story.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I don’t think it’s the same as anchoring in the belly because that was true anchoring to a body part that isn’t moving.  The arms continue to move in a putting stroke, so anchoring to the arm doesn’t truly anchor anything.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I sympathize with all the methods each player must have suffered through before deciding that the arm-lock worked best. It’s not pretty but I’m ok with it. At least the putter is anchored to the arm which is moving rather than a stationary part of the body.

Much of the discussion about Stewart Cink’s win at the RBC Heritage gave plenty of credit to son Reagan, who was on the bag for his father and instrumental in helping him develop a strong game plan. Jordan Spieth often talks about his “team” and many other top players point to those around them as being instrumental to their success. Still, the player is the only one to ever hit a shot in competition. Is the team concept overhyped?

Deeks: I dunno if it’s over-hyped, but I usually think players don’t give enough credit to their caddies and coaches. Yes, players are the ones who have to execute the shots, but if they don’t have coaches who help them hone their swings and correct flaws… and caddies who provide them with the critical information they need, as well as lugging the 60-lb. bag of tools, I don’t think any of the top players would be top players.  And today, add managers taking care of their businesses and schedules, psychologists who help with mental stress, physical trainers who maximize fitness, and (ideally) supportive partners who manage their confidence, we are indeed talking about a team behind the success.

Loughry: Well, being a former caddie and seeing these teams in action out on Tour, I think the team concept is imperative. Although the player is hitting the shot, it is a culmination of that team support leading up to the hitting of that shot, round and event. I don’t think Bryson could have bulked up and went for distance without some help, I’m not saying what he’s done is good or bad, just that I don’t think he could have done it all by himself.

Schurman: Once a person can ‘play’ (I mean really play) only two things can put them over the top competitively. Physical conditioning, particularly strong legs and a calm/relaxed frame of mind. Reagan Cink helped put Stewart in a wonderful ‘place’. Sure, the shots are hit by the player, but the player has to use every resource within the rules to help extract the winning ingredients.

Rule: I don’t think it’s overhyped.  As professional golfers, there is much more to deal with than just the time spent between the ropes.  Taking stress off of the off-course responsibilities allows the golfers to concentrate on what they need to do to be successful on the course.  And then we’ve talked before about the role the caddy plays in a player’s success, and that can’t be understated in my mind.

Mumford: Each generation seems to find a new way to go about their business. Right now, the team concept seems to be working quite well. Caddies, fitness gurus, swing gurus, short game coaches, mental performance coaches, nutritionists, massage therapists, strategic planners and aromatherapy advisors. Ok, I made that last one up, but the rest of the team is indispensable.  Some day we may see modern day versions of Raymond Floyd or Walter Hagen again – out of shape guys that could party hard, then take two aspirin and beat the field with a raging hangover. Can’t wait to see that.

You’re a Ryder Cup captain (doesn’t matter for which team) and you have a number of captain’s picks to round out your squad. The guys next in line beyond the automatic qualifiers are routinely earning lots of points from Top 10 play but have no wins. Further down the list are a handful of players who have won recently. Do you go with the high points guys or with proven winners?

Deeks: I go with high points guys.  Winning is a bit of a fluke, and as we’ve seen many times, a guy who wins one week doesn’t make the cut the next week.  But the guys who are consistently making cuts and top-10 finishes show more depth and consistency, and surely that’s what you want on your team.  It’s certainly who I want on MY team. (Right now, I’d be picking Corey Conners over Stewart Cink, much as I like them both.)

Loughry: I’d go with high points guys to fill out my Ryder Cup team, but with the caveat that any other close ranking players with Ryder Cup experience and fewer starts due to an old injury/absence who’s showed good recent form should also get a good look. I think guys like Poulter have proved getting consideration. Consistent good golf is better then sporadic wins and inconsistency for me.

Schurman: I don’t like the selection format used by either team. If past performance mandates certain players make the team simply take the top 12. Or, let the entire team be a Captain’s pick.

Rule: I don’t think it’s that simple a decision, there are often many other factors at play, including recent form, how they mesh with other teammates, leadership, experience, etc.  But all other things being equal, and having to choose between those two players, I would take the winner.  They clearly have the mental strength to compete well under pressure and there’s no bigger pressure than playing for your country.

Mumford: I’d be looking for guys who have a record of winning at match play, whether it’s past team competitions, the WGC Dell Match Play or the US Amateur. I want winners. Players that can rack up a lot of Top 10’s are great for golf pools but when the Ryder Cup is on the line, I want the guy with a steely glare and a steady hand. I think that only comes with experience winning.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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