We are just days away from Rule 14-1b regarding the anchoring of a golf stroke going into effect, some three-plus years after it came on everyone's radar.
And I am more convinced than ever this is a bad move.
Not because of the impact it will have on senior golf at every level, or championship golf, or even teaching the game. It's because of the exceptions within the rule, the lack of clarity it provides and the more important issues the ruling bodies should be focusing on rather than anchored strokes. Rule 14-1b, as officially announced in May 2013, prohibits anchoring the club either directly or by use of an anchor point in making a stroke. This is fine on the surface, but let's take a more in-depth look at the layers of this ruling and the long-term impact.When Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club, he became the first major champion on the PGA Tour to do so with a belly -- or anchored -- putter. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
For decades, golf's ruling bodies approved of the anchored method with many of the thoughts being:
1. It will be pretty much confined to senior golf (quickly proven untrue on all professional tours and top-level amateur golf around the world).
2. No one will win a major championship with a long or anchored putter (seeAdam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and others).
3. No one will ever teach the anchored method to youngsters. (USGA President Tom O'Toole Jr.'s young son was encouraged to learn this method by his professional, thus sending Mr. O'Toole, by his own admission, to his breaking point to take the side of the anchoring ban.
The information about implementation of the rule on the USGA's website is seven -- yes, seven -- long pages when printed. The rule itself reads like the tax code and includes exceptions that undercut the strength of the rule, like Matt Kuchar's method of putting where he braces the putter grip against his forearm. I have yet to hear an explanation of this particular method that dissuades me from thinking it is an anchored stroke.Matt Kuchar's putting stroke, where he presses his club against his forearm, is allowable under the new rule, to the dismay of many. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Why not say a player might only have up to two points of contact with the club, those points being either one or two hands? This certainly would make it much cleaner and simpler, especially when the big scream about the rules of golf (and the decisions) are centered on their complexity and difficulty to understand.
Furthermore, the reversal of the previous decision and the course of action with the "because we said so" air undermines the authority of the ruling bodies. I applaud the current USGA and R&A leadership and committees for being more active in protecting the integrity and future of the game, but not like this.
I also disagree with the USGA's announcement just prior to Thanksgiving that "scores made while playing alone will no longer be acceptable [for] handicap purposes." Unless the USGA has a larger motive for a global handicapping code (the United Kingdom, among others, does not allow for solo scores to count toward handicapping), then the organization talking about making itself more inclusive has done exactly the opposite.
From a personal standpoint, one of the biggest attractions to the game was the opportunity for solitary participation. There was no need for someone on the other side of the net to return a shot or even to practice with me. I was raised in a very average, working-class family where both parents held jobs and I played at a working-to-middle-class club just a mile from home. I could ride my bike back and forth to McGregor Links with my eyes closed and knew every blade of grass on the course.
It would have been nearly impossible to find people to play with during regular hours in order to verify my scores by "peer review." Scores are needed to be eligible for entry to the local, regional and statewide competitions that paved the way for what has become an incredibly blessed life in and around the game. My life would have taken a very different course if I had to have someone sign every time I needed scores.
Par and personal bests were better than any "peer review" I could ever imagine, my own measuring stick for my dreams of earning a college scholarship and degree, becoming a professional, a major champion and ultimately someone who is still involved in the game more than 40 years later.
Good on Golf Canada for feeling much the same way and not enforcing the USGA's "peer review" ruling. We need to be putting ourselves in the position of growing the game at every level and not putting up more roadblocks.
As a game, golf has a number of issues that need much more attention and energy than the two just addressed, such as speed of play, green speeds, the huge distances today's golf ball travels in concert with the current club technology, and caddies lining up their players during competition.