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GOLF DOCTOR

Metal spikes, arm-lock putting and greens books need to be banned on tour

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When you watch PGA Tour golf on television you might hear the distinct sound of clicking on concrete paths as golfers walk between holes or near the clubhouse. When I hear that I’m truly irritated. That sound is from metal spikes on their golf shoes. You and I can’t find a private golf club, resort course, daily fee public course or muni that permits metal spikes. Why? The metal spikes damage greens, wood bridges and walkways and clubhouse carpets and floors.

Yet, the PGA Tour allows metal spikes as legal for their purposes. Talk about bifurcation! Some 15 to 20 percent of Tour players use metal spikes. Among the many still using metal are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and most recently John Deer Classic winner Lucas Glover. They fear slipping, no longer worrying about tearing up the greens because golfers behind them are allowed to tap down all spike marks. Even if it’s just a concession to everyday hacks like us, the Tour needs to outlaw metal spikes. It’s the right thing to do.

One would think that the best players in the world wouldn’t struggle so much with their putting. Yet they do. Over the years a number of famous pros have been challenged to overcome the putting “yips.” Then, about 30 years ago a few players began using the “long wand” or “broom” putter close to 50 inches long. From there, tour pros and coaches began experimenting with alternative methods, which eventually evolved into the chest-anchoring and the belly-anchoring techniques. It turns out the USGA determined that the anchoring putting techniques were contrary to the rules about body contact and swing of the golf club, and they banned anchoring five years ago. Still, the USGA rules aren’t foolproof. And yippers and other nervous golfers were not content with normal putters or normal putting technique.

Viola! Now we have the “arm-lock” putting method, whereby the golfer braces an over-length putter grip along his lead forearm up to the elbow. PGA Tour players currently using the arm-lock method include: Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffle, Keegan Bradley, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Stuart Cink and Will Zalatoris. (Neither Jack nor Tiger were ever insecure enough in their putting to be tempted or lured into trying any bizarre stuff.)

Tour veteran Billy Horschel was the first to voice that arm-lock should be banned. Now, there is growing sentiment among more Tour players and others that the arm-lock method needs to be banned. Xander Schauffele is one of them. “I am for banning the arm-lock putters, but if everyone else is going to use it and I feel like they have a bigger advantage, I may as well do the same,” he says.

Here’s an important take from one of the Tour’s all-time most prestigious putters (and Rory McIlvoy’s putting coach), Brad Faxon: “We have to get rid of arm-lock. It’s absolutely anchoring. If the USGA doesn’t think it is, then they need to look at themselves in the mirror.” Which certainly puts the USGA and the PGA Tour in a bind: in the words of author and satirist Douglas Adams, “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof (like putting rules) is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

Finally, let’s turn to the controversial green-reading books. These books show in high detail directions of breaks on putts and the percentage of slope on every part of a green, and have been on Tour since 2008. Leading the way to ban the greens books is none other than Rory McIlroy, who is the president of the PGA Tour Players Advisory Council (PAC). “It’s not that it’s an advantage really; it’s just taking away a skill that takes time and practice to be mastered,” said McIlroy. “I think reading greens is a real skill that some people are better at than others, and it just nullifies that advantage that people have. Honestly, I think it’s made everyone lazier.” Augusta National, host of the Masters, is the only stop on Tour that currently doesn’t allow them.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed sports psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.