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

Langer's post-anchoring-ban putting style examined and cleared by USGA

Bernhard Langer putting during the 2017 Senior British Open
Does Bernhard Langer's post-anchoring-ban putting style conform to the new rules? Golf's governing bodies say yes. Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images 

When you think about golfers whose careers were saved by a switch to a long putter and an anchored putting style, Bernhard Langer may be the first name that comes to mind. After years of struggling with the yips, Langer became a good putter by anchoring his broomstick to his sternum, and he won — and won, and won some more — on the Champions Tour.

But then golf's governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, banned anchoring the putter, or any other golf club, against one's body. That ban went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

And how did Langer handled that ban? He moved the grip-end of his putter ever so slightly away from his chest, and kept right on winning. From a distance, it's difficult to tell any difference at all in Langer's post-ban putting style, and that has caused considerable controversy. But Langer has specifically been cleared by the USGA of any wrongdoing with his post-ban approach.

It was when Langer, at age 58, was in contention at the 2016 Masters after three rounds, just a few months after the anchoring ban went into effect, that his continued use of the long putter and a very, very similar putting style first received the glare of the spotlight. Some fans, even some other tour pros, looked at Langer and said, hey, wait a minute: Isn't he still anchoring?

The Rules of Golf issued on Jan. 1, 2016, included a ban on anchored strokes, yet there Langer was, appearing to use the same ol' putter and stroke he was using before the anchoring ban. And today, Langer keeps rolling on, using what to some appears to be an anchored stroke.

What gives?

Remember: 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 2016) 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 done this multiple times over the course of a couple years.

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.