PGA of Canada to USGA: Our pros don't support anchoring rule change

Fascinating to see the continued split over the anchored putter debate, with the PGA of Canada issuing a note to the USGA about it and making that note public (full disclosure — I edit two magazines for the PGA of Canada). The PGA of Canada members aren’t in support of the ban:

In late February, the PGA of Canada conducted a poll, surveying the nearly 3,800 members of the Association. Twenty-­‐five per cent of our membership responded to the poll, with nearly two thirds (63.5%) indicating they did not favour the proposed ban on anchoring. These statistics are nearly identical to the PGA of America’s poll, surveyed within its membership in late 2012.

The PGA of Canada also asked our members whether or not they supported the recent discussions on the bifurcation of the Rules of Golf. The poll results indicated 54.6% of the members did not support bifurcation. It would seem that based on positions taken by other organizations within the golf industry, if Rule 14-­‐1b were to go ahead, the talk about bifurcation would continue to escalate. The PGA of Canada supports the USGA and Golf Canada that in a growing and flourishing industry there would only be one set of Rules of Golf for all players, regardless of ability or position.

I’ve stayed out of this debate, but my position is clear — I used a belly putter last year, and I don’t see any reason to rid the game of the concept. I’m also not a supporter of rolling the ball back, having had numerous interesting discussions with my friend, golf architect Ian Andrew, over it in recent years. Andrew continues to support rolling back the ball, but is wants the game to keep the long putter.
Golf organizations should be specifically about growing the game. That should be true of the USGA, the R&A, and the various PGAs. Instead we’ve got a split over a rule that will have no impact on the growth of the game — though truthfully I doubt many will disappear if they take away anchoring. I’ll just go back to a short putter, for example. But I don’t think that’s the point.
It strikes me the USGA has lost the plot. A player won its national title with a long putter and suddenly that’s the line in the sand. But the anchoring debate has nothing to do with the average player — it is about golfers on the elite level. The PGA Tour is in fine shape — strong sponsors, strong tournaments. Where the game struggles is at the club level — public and private. And eliminating anchoring won’t help at all with the popularity of the game, it can only hurt. Is there a single person out there thinking, “I wasn’t going to play golf, but now that they’ve made the game harder I think I’ll try.” It is a ridiculous perspective.
My colleague Lorne Rubenstein said last year that he thinks golf might have been intended to be a niche sport. It is too hard and too challenging for most, and takes too long for many. He might have a point there. But if we roll back the ball, making it go 20% less, and eliminate belly putters, is that going to bring more people to golf? Frankly I think rolling back the ball will drive people from the game. And I don’t buy the notion that the typical amateur is hitting it a lot farther — I see them standing on the range at Eagles Nest hitting 200-yard slices into the long grass right of the range. Better players may hit it farther — but that’s a small minority.
Golf organizations needs to come together on a plan that moves the sport forward. The PGA of Canada have it right — belly putters aren’t the issue. Heck, even I don’t believe PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem when he says 20% of players are using them — but if the number is smaller that also means the impact on the sport, especially on the everyday amateur ranks, is also less significant. I also wonder if Golf Canada ever thought — especially given its push to try to generate members from the group of average public golfers — that this rule matter might have been a good time to separate itself from the stuffiness of the R&A and the USGA and say it wasn’t going to support the rule change because it isn’t good for the game.
The PGA of Canada had this to say in conclusion:

If Rule 14-­‐1b were to come into effect, would the loss of golfers render the game unsustainable? More than likely not, however, as stewards of the game, promoting the game and the growth of the industry is a key priority of the PGA of Canada.

For all of the reasons set forth above, it is our opinion that the proposed Rule 14-­‐1b is not in the best interest of the game of golf.

They are right.
Why don’t we turn our attention to slow play? Over the over-manicuring of courses that drives up costs? Why belly putters? Because it seemed simple at the time.
But it has become increasingly complicated — and I wonder if in retrospect the USGA wished they’d stayed out of this one.

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Jeff Lancaster

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • We have aluminum and composite bats for baseball for everyone except the pro level. To my knowledge, it’s never been an issue. Is that bifurcation? Personally, I don’t think that on a professional level, one should anchor the putter. It doesn’t constitute a golf swing. At the club level, the weekend hackers etc.-who cares? If they want to putt with a hockey stick in my group, so what? If the others in the group don’t mind, have at it. What is the USGA, the RCGA or anyone else going to do about it? Tell us we can’t have a registered handicap? Big deal. Send out a course marshall telling us we can’t putt with an anchored putter? Not likely. This is an issue with the Professional Golf Tours, and I’ll let them decide on what they think constitutes a putting stroke on their respective Tours. For the general public, use square grooves, putt with anchored putters, or pool cues for all I care. Go out, have fun and come back another day. I’ll decide if it’s a competitive advantage when calculating my wagers before we tee off…

  • Robert,

    Do you really find it that fascinating? I’m starting to get tired of hearing about it to be Frank. This whole anchoring debate has become a rather one sided debacle if you ask me.

    The USGA is out of touch with the game…I’m heading out to buy a belly putter for spite.

  • Lorne had the correct point of view in an article a few weeks ago – “Only one question matters when it comes to anchoring: Is it a stroke of golf?”

    It really doesn’t matter if it makes the game easier or harder.

    IMHO it is not a stroke so it should be banned.

  • Wayne: But they’ve had to redefine what a stroke is to ban it? So it was a stroke and after the rule it won’t be. That’s poor by my way of thinking. I also don’t think Els winning the British with a belly putter against Scott with a long putter made it any less exciting.

  • It has never been a stroke, just like Snead’s side-saddle putting method was not a stroke of golf. This croquet style was made illegal in 1968 but it appears to have been in use, at least by some golfers, for decades. It just took them way too long to ban this style and anchoring.

    At the golf history show you will see lots of clubs that were banned after a period of time, such as concave faces, adjustable irons, and prior to 1938 there was no limit to the number of clubs you could carry.

    I agree that Els’ win was no less exciting, but nor was Bobby Jones’ grand slam and he was likely carrying clubs that would be illegal today or carrying more than 14.

    Many of these devices also made the game easier, yet the USGA ad R&A determined that hey weren’t in the best interest of the game.

  • Sorry – I meant croquet style above, not side saddle. Side saddle is still legal, croquet has not been since 1968.

  • I think both the USGA and the R&A are not in touch with what’s in the best interests of the game, or at least have sat on the sidelines for an awful long time before determining this is the hill they want to die on.

  • I’ve probably missed this but has any research been conducted to make sure it improves your putting, similar to C.O.R. with drivers like Wayne has eluded to above? I heard Dave Pelz may have some, he would probably the best fit to do so, but if not what does the USGA have to go on? They are usually better prepared.

  • It is not relevant if anchoring makes you a better or worse putter. The only thing relevant is whether it is a stroke of golf. See Zokol’s post.

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