Disabled golfer: Anchor putter ban discriminates against me

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim April 22, 2016 16:05

A one-armed golfer has said that the controversial ban on anchor putters, which came in at the start of this year, is discriminatory and has effectively ruled him out of all club competitions.

Following years of debate, in 2013 The R&A announced that from January this year golfers would no longer be allowed rest clubs against a part of their body, using broom-handles or belly putters, in competitions. People with certain disabilities were exempt from the ban, but not one-armed golfers. At the time the then chief executive of The R&A, Peter Dawson, admitted: “We recognise this has been a divisive issue but, after thorough consideration, we remain convinced this is the right decision for golf.” It was contentious not least because when the ruling was made four of the previous six major winners had used anchor putters.

bob payne

Bob Payne

But it also means that now, as well as the top professionals, golfers in amateur club competitions who have got used to sticking a club against their chest, chin or any other part of their body to prevent the club from swinging freely have to find a different way to putt.

Bob Payne is a 71-year-old golfer from Norfolk who lost his left arm in an accident as a child, and has anchored his long putter against his body ever since taking up the game. He mostly plays at Norwich Family Golf Centre.

He says the ban has discriminated against him.

“I anchor a broomstick putter against my body,” he said.

“The ruling has effectively ruled me out of all club competitions that adhere to the rules of golf. This ruling applies to all golfers apart from disabled people who have to anchor the club to enable the club to swing. In my case, this is not so, I can swing through the stroke, but, without anchoring, I have little control over the steadiness of the swing.

“I contend that The R&A are discriminating against one-armed golfers who use a belly putter, or other methods of steadying the putter, other than with the one hand.

“My argument against this ruling is, quite simply, that holding the putter in one hand is one anchorage point. Holding the putter with two hands is two anchorage points. The ruling says that the putter cannot be anchored against the body for support, in effect, a third anchorage point for two handed players. I contend that the hands are part of the body and any further contact with the putter is an anchorage point. If The R&A had thought about it a little more, the ruling could have read ‘no more that two anchorage points including hands’. There would then have been no further argument. I could hold the putter with one hand and anchor against my body or wherever I wished for my second anchor point, and two-handed players would hold the putter with two hands, as they do.

“I feel very strongly about this ruling. I cannot compete with two-armed players on the same level playing field. In the past, once on the green, I was an equal with two-armed players. Holding the putter with one hand to effect a steady putt is fairly impossible for me, and I feel that now I am at a further disadvantage.”

Mr Payne contacted his local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, which contacted The R&A.

The governing body for golf suggested Payne should make contact to discuss his situation with them.

“It’s difficult to comment without knowing more about Mr Payne’s specific circumstances and we would certainly encourage him to contact us directly so we can give him some advice on potential options,” said an R&A spokesman.

“There are a range of strokes permitted under the new rule, including gripping the club against the wrist or forearm.

“Under the modified rules for golfers with disabilities there is also an exception for golfers who cannot hold or swing the club without anchoring it.

“But if the golfer is able to make a stroke, including a putt, without anchoring the club, then the new rule applies as it does for all other golfers.”

Mr Payne, who accepts that not all one-armed golfers have been affected by the new ruling, said this was not the response he wanted to see.

“The spokesman said that the use of the wrist or forearm for support when putting is perfectly permissible. I contend that is an illegal stroke under this ruling because the wrist or forearms are extra anchorage points,” he said.

“I don’t really think The R&A will change the wording of the rule to accommodate myself or others who use a belly putter or their body for support unless there is further open debate.”


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim April 22, 2016 16:05
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