Well as many of you know, the USGA has officially decided to ban anchored putters this week. While the decision itself won’t come until effect now until January 1st, 2016 instead of 2014 the USGA is getting quite the earful. We’re jumping on that bandwagon now too. Kudos USGA, way to flex those muscles.
Here’s what the decision says:
“Note 1: The club is anchored ‘directly’ when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
“Note 2: An ‘anchor point’ exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.”
USGA President Glen D. Nager called the decision “necessary.”
“Our best judgment is that Rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game–that the player freely swing the entire club,”
Wait, what? One of the most important traditions? While traditions like grabbing a drink on the 19th hole with your friends is often talked about, why have I not heard of this one before? While the statement may be true, it’s not like this tradition has been stated in the rules book, or any golf book for that matter until today. I’m going to have to call BS on this statement Mr. Nager, but nice try.
Moving on… rather than just griping about why I think the rule is stupid, I would like to call your attention to the USGA’s 40-page manual of why ‘they’re right and we’re wrong’, which includes their responses to naysayers of the ban.
1) So why is anchoring a problem? USGA: “Rule 14-1b is based on a judgment that anchoring the club, rather than freely swinging it, might assist the player by altering and reducing the challenge of making a stroke.”
Wait… “might”?? So what you’re telling us is that you didn’t actually determine if this stroke is helping players putt better or not. I’m not even going to get into the fact that if the stroke does indeed make it easier for players to putt, that this may actually help benefit the game…
2) How can you ban something that you have no statistical evidence improves play? USGA: “The playing rules are definitional: individually and collectively, they reflect what the game is and how it should be played. For example, a player may not pick up the ball and roll it into the hole. That is not because the rulemakers assessed through statistical or other empirical analysis whether players rolling the ball by hand are more successful than players using a club to strike the ball; rather, it is because rolling the ball with one’s hand is simply not ‘golf.'”
So, because it’s different, you decided to ban it. 100 years ago, by this logic, why didn’t you decide to ban left-handed golf? Honestly USGA, if you you’re going to give us a “cause we said so” type response at least try and hide it better.
3) Will this change have an effect on adopting new players to the game, and retaining current ones? USGA: “There is a difference between possibly not playing as well as playing less or not at all; and there is a difference between expressions of possible future intent made well in advance of the rule’s effective date and actual behaviors that will only later occur as players adapt to the rule.”
Wow. Way to walk around that question. Let’s summarize: “Talk is cheap, we doubt this will effect anything”. Instead of tackling some of the real problems facing golf these days – i.e. slow play, it costing too much, it being too difficult to learn, it taking too long, the USGA went after the low hanging fruit – a tool that helps some players enjoy the game more. While I do hope this rules change has no effect on the game, I hope it’s for entirely different reasons. I hope casual golfers who play for the love of the game take a page out of the NRA playbook and tell USGA President Glen D. Nager that “you can have my belly putter, when you take it from my cold dead hands”.
Where I really find this ruling unfortunate is for newcomers to the game. The USGA runs a majority of the junior tournaments across North America, and this will undoubtedly affect a large number of kids and teens playing the game. These players are the future of the game, and instead of evolving with the game, golf is attempting to cling to the past. I find this rule akin to making knickers mandatory, and banning all bright colors from the course.
This decision is a big step backwards towards improving the game of golf to fit the needs of the masses, and I really hope it starts a wave of talk about bifurcation. And if you don’t know what that means, we’ll let the USGA comment on that too:
“The history of golf is actually a history of movement toward unification of playing and equipment rules–and this is more than ever true today, as golfers of different abilities from myriad geographies and cultures seek to play the same sport on a national and international basis, and soon in the Olympics.”
Oh, sorry, again, the USGA’s cryptic response sort of skirted the question. Well let’s clarify – bifurcation refers to there being different rules for different tours or different levels of play. There is talk about the PGA Tour adopting its own set of rules for it players, as Tim Finchem has already expressed his thoughts on the ruling: “[I do] not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.” Cobra Golf is also on-board with their recent press release:
“Golf lost today. This is not the direction we should be going, it will only continue to alienate people from golf. COBRA PUMA GOLF has been stressing the importance of game enjoyment since we formed in 2010; game enjoyment is how we are going to bring people back to golf. This decision is a giant leap back on that front. With this decision, bifurcation needs to be front and center in golf’s conversations and we should be focusing on adapting the rules and the game to be inclusive and fun.”
So what are our thoughts on this?
Ultimately, this should scare the sh*t out of the USGA. Truth be told, the USGA needs the PGA Tour more than the PGA Tour needs the USGA. And if golf’s most prestigious Tour gives the USGA rules the boot, it begins to show how little power they truly do have. Frankly, I think this is the right thing to do, if anything it will put the USGA in its place. I would also go one step further, and say there should be a different rulebook for amateur golf than there is for professional golf. Amateur golf needs to be focused around fun and improving the game, not limiting and restricting it.
So in a nutshell: USGA, thanks for wasting all our time, and making it much more apparent how backwards your thinking is. Ironically, your cryptic ‘we’re right you’re wrong’ responses to the public’s concerns really helped shed some light on how you’re not interested in improving the game for the masses. You really shot yourself in the foot with this one.