The R&A and USGA announced earlier today that the proposed anchored putting ban would be put into effect beginning in 2016. A jointly-issued report explaining the decision was issued.
At 40 pages, and reading like a legal brief, the report tries to backfill a position that boils down to, “It looks funny.”
The basis of their position is that the anchored stroke is not in the tradition of the game, which is that the golf ball must be hit with a freely swinging club. In the entire 40 pages, is always comes back to that.
Let’s look at what golf is. The essence of the game is simple. You put a ball on the ground, at a designated spot, and try to hit it into an associated hole, which lies at some remove, in as few hits as you can. That’s it!
To make golf a game, two other principles were established. You have to have to hit the ball. You can’t scoop it or push it. Also, you have to play the ball from where it lies.
Every rule is designed either to support those concepts, or to provide guidance when unusual circumstances arise (for example, what do you do when you hit your ball into a pond?)
There is a large book of decisions, which is essentially a casebook, that shows how the rules are applied to specific instances, and prevents players from taking undue advantage of a rule.
An appropriate analogy would be that the rules are the statutes of golf, and the decisions are the administrative rules that implement the statutes.
Golf’s two governing bodies, however, decided to create a new tradition, which is that the club is always freely swung.
Of course, you have to freely swing a driver. If you want to anchor your driver, go ahead. Maybe you could hit the ball 100 yards that way. Or if you want to anchor your sand wedge for hitting in a bunker, please do, but good luck getting the ball out.
Those strokes require the club to be freely swung. That’s not golf; it’s physics.
Putting is different, though. You can anchor your club and still strike the ball effectively given the demands of the stroke. That’s physics, too.
A legalistic argument establishes the authority for making such a rules change. On page 21, the report lists examples of rules changes made in other sports for the good of those games. This is to say that the USGA has the right to change rules for the good of the game.
– in American football that restricted the “bump and run” technique and eliminated or altered many other established techniques of using the head, hands or body in blocking, tackling or running;
– the lowering of the pitching mound and changes in the size of the strike zone in baseball;
– the creation of the three-point shot in basketball and various rule changes limiting the use of hands and altering other defensive techniques;
In the case of football, some rules were changed to remove dangerous practices that caused player injuries. In all three of these sports, rules were changed to introduce more scoring due to advances in defensive strategies. The games were getting boring for spectators, without whom the sport would really not exist.
Golf is not a spectator sport. It is a recreational game. Rules are not needed to protect us from being injured by our playing partners, or from boring the thousands of fans who don’t watch us play.
The entire argument centers around the notion that banning anchored putting is in the best interests of the game, but we are never informed exactly what those interests are.
Perhaps the silliest argument, and one I can’t believe they even bring up, regards bifurcation.
– An integral part of the game’s appeal is that golfers of all levels can play the same courses with the same equipment and under the same Rules, enabling even the casual golfer to compare his or her performance to that of the most elite players and, at times, to play as good a shot as the elite player.
First of all, do full-grown adults still think “I’m, Rory McIlroy,” when they’re about to hit a wedge to a tucked pin? I thought you stopped doing that when you were 12.
And second, let me compare you to Tiger Woods once and for all. If Tiger were to play your course twice, so he could learn it, he would play from the tips and never shoot over 62 thereafter. Any questions?
And, yes, I have sunk a 30-foot putt. That in no way made me think I was ready for the Tour.
– The USGA and The R&A are committed to the principle that a single set of Rules for all players of the game, irrespective of ability, is one of golf’s greatest strengths.
So what is softball all about? What is flag/touch football all about? What is no-check hockey all about?
Bobby Jones, the force behind banning the croquet-style putting stroke, said, “There are two kinds of golf — just plain golf and tournament golf.” How true that is.
Just as there are two versions of the three sports I mentioned, so are there two kinds of golf. I’m out there to have fun with my friends. I’m not trying to win a major competitive championship.
Here is a one-page set of rules that would be all that’s necessary for an honorable and enjoyable game of golf. The the pro’s dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
And while we’re on the subject, bifurcation exists right now. I reference the groove rule.
There are many other arguments in the report that I could respond to, but this post is long enough already. With all due respect to USGA President Nager, a high-powerd attorney, I hope he never takes arguments as flimsy as this into the Supreme Court chambers. He wouldn’t last two seconds.
To conclude my rant, the report keeps referring to the long-term good of the game without really saying how anchored putting would adversely affect it.
Golf is a recreational game. We just want to have fun. If you want to anchor your putter, that’s fine with me. I still have fun. My golfing experience is in no way diminished in the presence of someone who anchors.
Just as the guy I played with once who beat this weed near his ball into submission so he could have an unobstructed chip doesn’t bother me. If that’s the way he wants to play golf, it doesn’t take anything away from the way I play.
The USGA has no authority over my game that I do not give it. There is no need to quit playing because you can’t anchor anymore (or beginning in 2016), or even stop anchoring because the USGA has a rule.
The solution is to sever your relation to the USGA. Just go out and play. Forget about having a handicap. Yes, that means forgoing tournaments, and there would be some loss in that. But golf is your game, and you can choose your own approach to it.
I played golf for over 40 years without having a handicap, and I did just fine. Had lots of fun. I have a handicap now, but it will be frozen from this day forward. I’m not turning in any more scores. When my USGA membership comes up for renewal, I will decline.
I just want to play golf.
And so you know, I don’t anchor. I tried it once and found it to be too much bother.