Anchoring Whistling in the Wind

At the annual meeting of the United States Golf Association in Pinehurst last month the PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and PGA of America President Ted Bishop asked the Executive Committee to delay the implementation of Rule 14-1b prohibiting anchored putting strokes.

Their presentation proposed a “grandfather” period to provide amateurs more time to adapt to putting with a conventional stroke. Professionals and amateurs playing in competitions using the Rules of Golf would have to comply in any event so the request was only applied to recreational players.

In any event the USGA said, “No,” the Rule will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2016 without exception according to a letter from Bishop to his members released yesterday. When the Rule was announced both organizations came out strongly against it as something that would hurt the game and its potential for growth.

What has been lost in all the posturing and rhetoric is Rule 14-1b will not have any more attention paid to it than the other Rules of Golf unless the average golfer chooses to. Put another way, on any given day you often see multiple mulligans, a Judge Smails “footwedge from the rough, bags with over 14 clubs and gimme putts of a length that if you had that much Manhattan real estate you’d be rich.

All of these are against the Rules of Golf but at the end of the round the scores are still put in the GHIN computer for the calculation of handicaps…talk about a system that’s dysfunctional. And by the way, nobody knows for sure but far fewer than 20 percent of golfers — maybe less than 15 percent — have a USGA handicap. So a rule banning anchored putting strokes for recreational players is another case of golf’s ruling body whistling in the wind.

Or maybe it’s whistling past the graveyard as participation in our game continues to shrink and the USGA continues to fund programs that don’t produce significant results.

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