Billy Horschel calls for arm-lock putting ban: ‘Guys are doing it too good’

Webb Simpson is one of the Tour pros who have excelled with the arm-lock putting technique.

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Years after the governing bodies prohibited anchored putting, Billy Horschel is ready to welcome back the belly putter.

But on one condition: ban arm-lock putting instead.

Arm-locking — by which players “lock” the grip of their putters against their forearms — is a technique that has spiked in popularity recently. The putter can ride up toward the elbow, or barely above the wrist, but the grip is always tightly held against the arm. Matt Kuchar debuted the “reverse arm-lock” at the Masters, pressing the putter grip against the back of his forearm.

Horshel thinks the move should be banned. “I’m bringing up something different here and I’m sort going out on a limb, but I don’t think this arm-lock putting is — should be allowed either,” Horschel said Thursday after his first round at the RBC Heritage. “I’ll give the belly putter back and take away the arm lock.”

Just when we thought the referendum on putting techniques had been settled! 

Arm-locking has been employed by numerous PGA Tour stars this year, most notably by top 10 players Bryson DeChambeau and Webb Simpson. Even young Will Zalatoris used the grip (combined with a claw with his right-hand) to finish solo second in his first Masters last weekend

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“I think when you look at what guys are doing now with the arm-lock and moving the grips to the side where it’s parallel or matches the face and then when you do that up against your arm, I mean, it’s — you know, that face is dead square and that face doesn’t rotate at all,” Horschel said. “It’s just sort of locked in. Guys are doing it too good.”

Arm-locking is, of course, legal under the Rules of Golf. According to Rule 10.1b, a player’s putting stroke must not include an “anchor point” on which they plant their forearm — i.e., the technique used with broomstick putters, with the end of the putter (or the player’s forearm) anchored against a player’s chest. Adam Scott prevailed at the 2013 Masters while anchoring, as did Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship. 

The rules also state that a player’s hands must be “separated and work independently of each other.” While the arm-lock grip seems to take one hand (mostly the lead hand) largely out of the equation, that hand still works independently of the other hand. When a reporter said to Horschel, “Some might say it’s anchored,” Horschel said: 

“I don’t know. Yes, you could say it’s anchored. I don’t know because I guess anchored is having one point against somewhere and a fixed point. I know that’s not fixed, but it’s something similar to an anchor style.

“Like I said, I would rather give them the belly putter back. I think there is a little bit more flow. Some guys going that way are becoming great putters, but it’s just something guys are trying and seeing some benefits for.”

And, as long as the rules permit the technique, no doubt more players will keep on trying it.

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.