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« In Wake Of MJ Incident, Governing Bodies Need To Look At Courses That Actually Enforce Cargo Short Ban | Main | Clippings: Anchoring Ban Announcement »
Thursday
Nov292012

Buried Lede In The Anchoring Ban Announcement?

Ron Sirak, writing about the announcment of a ban on anchoring putters against the torso:

So for those currently anchoring the long putter, the announcement today created their own version of the Mayan calendar, which some say predicts the word will end Dec. 21 of this year, which is bad news for those currently leading their fantasy football leagues.

And I say there is a 100 percent chance that this ban is not an end but a means to an end, a beginning salvo in a battle by the USGA and the R&A to push back against some of the ways the game has changed in recent years.

And he's right.

They used the opportunity to repeat some of the strongest words on distance to ever come out of St. Andrews, Far Hills or their new de facto headquarters in an Orlando conference room.

Peter Dawson had to quibble with my question referencing Webb Simpson and Adam Scott's past statements and the St. Andrews redo reference.

But then he moved to the distance topic that has created many more problems than anchored putters:

As far as the distance issue is concerned, clearly that is very germane to the future of the game.

Ok, right there. That alone is a big statement from Mr. Dawson. There's more...

It affects size of golf course, amount of land use, cost of play, and there can be no doubt at all that this distance issue has to be at the forefront of our minds at all times.

You'll recall the R&A and the USGA did issue a joint statement of principle ten years ago now saying that if distances crept up further, we would take action.  Distances have actually plateaued since then.

So he reverted to old habits there briefly. But then...

But I think the issues that surround the sustainability issue are coming more and more into play when we consider distance, and both the R&A and the USGA have research projects that are ongoing in order to make sure we are ready to address this at an appropriate time.

The fact that we have chosen to do something about anchored strokes that is a completely separate matter and it would be a mistake to feel that because we have done something about one that we don't care about the other.

And the USGA's Mike Davis then chimed in:

Just to add to that, Peter mentioned [2002], the joint statement of principles, I can assure everybody, that the R&A and USGA have been quite busy on these research projects the last ten years.  And looking forward, we are very concerned about the long‑term health of the game, the sustainability of the game.  We are concerned about water usage.  We are concerned about the cost of the game; time, as Peter mentioned.

So this is something that we are taking very seriously, and certainly we are looking, also, at distance.  We want to quantify if one day there was a need to reduce distance, and we are not suggesting today; that we feel that it's our duty, that it's part of our mission to look at the future of the game.

We want to understand what reduced distance might mean; how much matter would it save?  How much cost would it save?  For those courses that haven't been built yet, how much less land would it mean?  That's important to the future of the game.  We have 33,0000 golf courses in the world right now and we need to protect them.  But furthermore, we need to protect those courses that haven't been built yet.

It sure sounds like they are preparing to present data explaining what a reduced footprint would look like economically. Most of us know if they do that, combined with some shrewd forecasting on future water costs from the USGA Green Section, and their case for some sort of revised overall distance standard may just be easier to make than the anchoring case they presented Wednesday.

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Reader Comments (10)

Dawson says this while riding a bulldozer on the 17th at the Old Course.

That's two-faced.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDa Man
You're right, Geoff. Talk about burying the lede.

I thought that the first part of Dawson's answer to you was interesting.

"PETER DAWSON: If I can just address the Old Course issue very quickly, that's not the subject we are here to discuss directly. Under the proposals, there's been quite a bit of hysteria about recently because I think they have not been well understood. There's absolutely no distance or lengthening of the golf course being proposed whatsoever; it's for other quite detailed reasons and I'm quite happy to discuss that with you separately."

Is that even true? Is there "no distance or lengthening of the [Old Course] being proposed whatsoever"? I understand that carving up the Road Hole bunker is not technically "lengthening." And you, Geoff, have already effectively carved up Dawson over the decision to alter greens so as to cater to modern, hyper-defensive ultrafast greens speeds. But can we hold Dawson to that statement about no more lengthening of The Old Course? Even holding Dawson to that statement seems silly. It comes after virtually every Open course in the rota has been lenghtened for every Open since the Joint Statement of Principles, and in the case of the Old course, if they aren't doing much more lengthening it may be because they have already cobbled together every yard of lengthening that can be found in the Auld Grey Toon, including venturing out of bounds, and they couldn't lengthen the Course any more even if they wanted to and oh do they want to...

I'd like to see a good and complete numbers analysis as to whether distance has really "plateaued" since the Joint Statement of Principles.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Ah, "The Joint Statement of Principles..." There's phrase worthy of 21st century-speak, one that will take ten years to dissipate while nothing is done...

Kind of like "bifurcation..."

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
"You'll recall the R&A and the USGA did issue a joint statement of principle ten years ago now saying that if distances crept up further, we would take action. Distances have actually plateaued since then"

I really don't know where to start here...WOW...hmmm.....is this guy seriously THAT bat$hit crazy or merely clinically insane? I would have started laughing when he answered Geoff...you showed great self control if you didn't.

As they eloquently parodied how smug folks can get in a SouthPark episode...I bet Mr Dawson and the rest of his sycophant club actually enjoy sniffing each others flatulence while laughing and regaling in their hubris filled anecdotes.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Geoff how are you still in CA? Dawson is practically begging for someone to take a tour of TOC with him. Get that scoop!
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
I fully agree with both Geoff and Sirak. Any who listened closely to the live feed on Golf Channel yesterday morning should have noticed that when Davis spoke about the shorter courses issue, he was also thumping the table beside the microphone attempting to emphasize his comments. I had the same reaction as Sirak mentioned here:

"...I say there is a 100 percent chance that this ban is not an end but a means to an end, a beginning salvo in a battle by the USGA and the R&A to push back against some of the ways the game has changed in recent years.

"All that talk from officials of both organizations about the need to build smaller, more cost-efficient golf courses is a veiled reference, it seems to me, about making [changes] that shorten the game.

"I'm not smart enough to know exactly what that means, but I have been around the news business long enough to become quite skilled at reading between the lines. Yes, a rule was changed today that goes into effect more than three years from now. And that is a bit bizarre. But look at it as a way of testing the waters for other changes to come. Stay tuned, this will get interesting…"

Following are three Q & A's from the transcript starting - I think - with Geoff's question. Then going on to a couple of relevant follow ups.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSGarrett
Q. You mentioned that in the last 18 to 24 months that this really became a pressing matter, yet players like Webb Simpson and Adam Scott have mentioned that distance increases, larger drivers, things like that have really been a bigger issue for the game for some time and changing the way skill is determined. I'm wondering if you can discuss why this was more pressing perhaps than that issue, especially as the Old Course at St. Andrews is needing to be modified to keep up with this changing game.

PETER DAWSON: If I can just address the Old Course issue very quickly, that's not the subject we are here to discuss directly. Under the proposals, there's been quite a bit of hysteria about recently because I think they have not been well understood. There's absolutely no distance or lengthening of the golf course being proposed whatsoever; it's for other quite detailed reasons and I'm quite happy to discuss that with you separately.

As far as the distance issue is concerned, clearly that is very germane to the future of the game. It affects size of golf course, amount of land use, cost of play, and there can be no doubt at all that this distance issue has to be at the forefront of our minds at all times.

You'll recall the R&A and the USGA did issue a joint statement of principle ten years ago now saying that if distances crept up further, we would take action. Distances have actually plateaued since then.

But I think the issues that surround the sustainability issue are coming more and more into play when we consider distance, and both the R&A and the USGA have research projects that are ongoing in order to make sure we are ready to address this at an appropriate time.

The fact that we have chosen to do something about anchored strokes that is a completely separate matter and it would be a mistake to feel that because we have done something about one that we don't care about the other.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSGarrett
Mike Davis response to Question above...

MIKE DAVIS: Just to add to that, Peter mentioned [2002], the joint statement of principles, I can assure everybody, that the R&A and USGA have been quite busy on these research projects the last ten years. And looking forward, we are very concerned about the long‑term health of the game, the sustainability of the game. We are concerned about water usage. We are concerned about the cost of the game; time, as Peter mentioned.

So this is something that we are taking very seriously, and certainly we are looking, also, at distance. We want to quantify if one day there was a need to reduce distance, and we are not suggesting today; that we feel that it's our duty, that it's part of our mission to look at the future of the game.

We want to understand what reduced distance might mean; how much [water] would it save? How much cost would it save? For those courses that haven't been built yet, how much less land would it mean? That's important to the future of the game. We have 33,0000 golf courses in the world right now and we need to protect them. But furthermore, we need to protect those courses that haven't been built yet.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSGarrett
Followup 1.

Q. You guys have been very careful to make this not an equipment rule change, but a playing rule change. Has it become too costly in terms of possible litigation to even make any equipment rulings at this time?

PETER DAWSON: Frankly, no. As governing bodies, we take our role extremely seriously to do what we think is right for the game, and I can honestly say for the R&A, and I'll leave it for Mike to speak to the USGA, that litigation is not something that we consider in any depth or with any seriousness when we are trying to do what's right for the game of golf.

MIKE DAVIS: I agree with what Peter said, and I would furthermore say that we are in the governance business. We are here to do things that other groups, golfers, cannot do. They don't write and interpret, whether it's the playing rules, the equipment rules, the amateur status rules, and we need to do what we think is right. And shame on us if we are scared of litigation for doing the right thing.

So we are always going to try to do the right thing and it would be unfortunate if we get involved in litigation, but we can't make that part of our decision making. It just simply is not the right thing for the game.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSGarrett
Followup 2.

Q. Did you consult your lawyers and with you consider defending this all the way through the American legal system to the Supreme Court?

PETER DAWSON: The answer to that is we do consult and we do take legal advice whenever we are doing something like this, more to ensure that our process is robust than any other defensive reason.

We believe very strongly that the governing bodies have the authority in the game to make rules changes. But we obviously need to do so responsibly. Once we are convinced we have done that, we would defend our position all the way up the legal system I'm quite certain.

Our advice at the R&A of course tends to be under Scottish law and the USGA advice I'm sure is from the United States, but it's not for me to speak to that. But yeah, once we have decided we have done the right thing, we are ready to defend it all the way.
11.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSGarrett

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