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Wednesday
Dec052012

Anchoring Ban Continues To Highlight The Distance Issue

I'm beginning to think the anchoring ban was a clever ploy by the governing bodies to unlock previously muted opinions on the distance issue!

Royal and Ancient Golf Club member Michael Bamberger is the latest to note the Old Course changes with little enthusiasm but says "the real problem is that the R&A/USGA have consistently lacked a 'staff futurist' to anticipate how various issues would spiral."

The R&USGA should be focused on how to make courses far shorter and easier to maintain. As modern layouts approach 8,000 yards, maintenance becomes incredibly expensive (a cost that's passed on to golfers), and the courses become excessively punitive and excruciating slow.

So, where to start? Brown, for starters, should truly be the new green. Augusta National, ridiculously verdant, sets a terrible example in this regard.

But where the governing bodies absolutely blew it was by allowing big-headed titanium drivers almost 20 years ago. It's because Dustin Johnson can use modern weaponry to drive the ball 370 yards that the Old Course is getting these pointless renovations.

And add him to the bifurcation camp.

The modern ball, coming off the face of the modern driver, flies way too far for golfers on TV trying to break 60. But it doesn't for us, shooting our newspaper 89s. The solution is two sets of rules. Rory and Co. should have a ball they can call their own. Bifurcation. That's the word they don't want us to use.

An unbylined FayObserver.com story talks to club pros and everyday golfers. Guess what, they are saying the same thing.

"I think it's kind of dumb," said pro golfer Chip Lynn of Lillington. "There's a lot of other stuff that they could ban that affects the game more."

Lynn is a former Fayetteville State golfer who now plays on the Egolf Tour and got through the first round of PGA Tour qualifying this year. He said he tried a belly putter in "six or seven events" this year and found it didn't help him.

"I didn't putt any better," he said. "I don't think the belly putter gives you that much more advantage. I didn't notice anything different. My putts weren't better during the round."

Lynn said technology has affected the game more than anchored putters.

"I agree with Webb Simpson who said there are a lot more things that have affected the game than just the belly putter," he said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal.

"If you're going to change that rule, you probably need to do something about the balls, the driver heads and the technology that has really affected the game instead of the belly putters."

 And Adam Scott continued to press his case on this theme Wednesday, asking for some consistency from the governing bodies

Maybe, just maybe, all of this crying out for a distance solution was part of the plan to start with when the anchoring ban came about? I know, they aren't that clever. But the unintended consequences of screwing with the Old Course and moving first on anchoring could ultimately work out in the favor of the governing bodies.

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Reader Comments (43)

I am 100% in favour of bifurcation.
But does anybody seriously think it will ever happen?
"unintended consequences" you got to look out for them things...
I always find the lets focus on other things crowd to be interesting. Can't focus on the subject at hand?
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeeWatson
Well, the subject at hand is really a sideshow. The broomstick is ugly. But so were the first Ping putters and cast cavity-back irons. Those S2H2 Callaway clubs? Ditto. Maybe anchoring is incompatible with a "golf stroke." I tend to agree with Tom Watson on that. But that was just as true 20 years ago. But it's not the reason the Road Hole tee was OB during the last Open on the Old Course. Or that the first tee at Augusta is practically in the middle of the practice green.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Could it be that one day the ball will come under control along with equipment and we'll say the tipping point ... was this stupid work on TOC?

Would we even go so far as to thank Dawson & Co.?

Now that would be ironic...
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPHK
I will gladly get down on my knees and thank anyone who does something to rid the game of 500-yard par 4s and driver/8-iron par 5s.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Smith
I am 100% against bifurcation.
Just roll back the ball, how hard can that be? Actually, I would like to hear why I keep hearing that this would open the governing bodies to litigation. Can someone with some law background sum it for me?
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrad
I think the vast majority of club golfers would oppose anything that made their shots go less far!
Ping sued over grooves.Titleist et al would sue if you tried to change the ball spec-shouldn't be able to but they will.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
I don't think the ball specifically should be part of bifurcation. It needs to be rolled back for all golfers.

However, I don't see why bifurcation is such a big problem. Baseball has bifurcation. Metal bats are used all over the college ranks, but the pros can only use wood. Bifurcation doesn't seem to cause any problems there.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdafrey
I'm against bifurcation.
It is completely unnecessary. The idea that the tour players are hitting significantly further than good amateur players just isn't true. The rather prosaic fact is distances on tour have gone up only a tiny amount since 2003. Advances in equipment are more or less at a limit, constrained by R&A and USGA rules, and the laws of physics.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
Geoff's words may be the truest of all:
"I'm beginning to think the anchoring ban was a clever ploy by the governing bodies to unlock previously muted opinions on the distance issue!"

Brad I too am against bifurcation, notwithstanding my solution for the worlwide angst over the putter-anchoring rule, which is to 'reverse bifurcate' it, banning any anchoring first at the level of junior competitions and then letting the rule follow that generation through junior, collegiate, and amateur levels and only lastly going to the tours where guys are depending on putting to make a living. That way, anchored putting wouldn't be precipitously taken away from anyone and would gradually fade into memory with a new generation. The USGA's stated concern with young players adopting the technique(s) from the beginnings of their competitive careers would be focused exactly where they want it.

As far as legal action versus the USGA for any action to roll back balls: It depends on how the rollback were implemented. The trending popular suspicion is that Acushnet, the leading ball producer and the holder of innumerable patents on multilayer solid core urethane balls, would sue the USGA and (if it adopted the USGA rule) the PGA Tour based upon the same general legal theories as were used in the old case of Gilder v. PGA Tour, a/k/a the Ping Eye 2 grooves case. To wit: The complaint sought injunctive relief and alleged that the actions of the PGA and its directors (1) violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 15 U.S.C. Secs. 1, 2; (2) violated the Arizona antitrust laws, Ariz.Rev.Stat. 44-1401 et seq.; and (3) interfered with the Karsten's and the professionals' business relationships. There are other business-tort theories that might play as well.

http://openjurist.org/936/f2d/417/gilder-v-pga-tour-inc
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Deford is simply one of my favorite sportswriters today. Very poetic.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Naccarato
Questions for the bifurcationistas:

Where is the line drawn between the two audiences i.e., is there a set of 'Rules of Professional Golf' and another set of 'Rules for Amateur Golf' or is it 'Rules for Serious Golf' (which could include events such as state amateurs and club championships etc.) and 'Rules for Slap&Tickle Golf' that apply to everything else?

Once you've separated the two audiences, do the current (plus the proposed anchoring ban) Rules apply for one of those audiences or do you propose throwing that set out and starting over for both audiences?

If the dividing line is 'Serious Golf' vs. 'Slap & Tickle Golf' I would, as others have, argue that we already have such bifurcation but without the blessing (and rules authorship of the USGA and R&A). Is that blessing important to the bifurcationistas? If not, then why haven't attempts such as Flogton been given any serious support? Could it be that there really isn't a market for a set of 'Slap & Tickle Rules'?

IMO, being 'for bifurcation' by itself means about as much as being 'for peace.' Neville Chamberlain was 'for peace' but his methods certainly didn't help to achieve that end.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Nelson
Chuck, Whatever we think of bifurcation, the size and influence of the golf industry's big players will insure it won't happen.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
ok-distance gains are not all down to the club and ball Andrew-I agree.But the biggest spike in distance ever came with the introduction of the pro v1.
True players are bigger,fitter,stronger and better schooled than ever before and that accounts for quite a bit of the increase.
My problem is that now that courses are being overpowered by today's top pros and ams-and they are-then the top players are not being given a proper examination-bunkers,dog-legs,hazards are not testing the players in the way that they should because they can just blast it past the trouble.Greens that were testing for a long iron are easy peasy when approached by a 9 iron-I cite the Road Hole as a prime example of a hole that has had so much bite taken out of the green that they have had to make the tee shot ridiculous.
Skill and strategy are becoming less important.Players who were exceptionally gifted with the driver or long irons or wedges used to have a distinct advantage over the average-but now you have a massive sweet spot on the driver as well as,hybrids and lob wedges and nearly everyone appears brilliant.
None of my members want a longer harder course-I would bet very few world-wide do(and we are a tournament venue)
We must be the only sport where the venue is altered to suit the equipment/player.
I think a set of tournament regulations for equipment for elite events would be good for the future of the game.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Arthur: Yes, golf is already thoroughly bifurcated between recreational players who mostly just wink at the rules, and club players who mostly play by the rules and elite competitive players, who are the only ones for whom equipment advances have much mattered.
And yes; for whatever reason, everybody who buys golf equipment for the most part wants it to be legal, conforming equipment, whether or not they acutally play by the rules. Even though most recreational players don't religiously follow the rules, it is a marketplace death knell for equipment to be ruled non-conforming.

Andrew: I don't know exactly what you mean by "golf's big players." You seem to assume that Acushnet/Titleist, Augusta National, the USGA, the R&A, the PGA Tour, Ping, TaylorMade adidas Golf, etc., are all part of the same enterprise with the same interests. You might be right; but I am not so sure. What we do know is that so far, the one thing that the ball-regulator (the USGA) and the ball-maker (Titleist) agree on is that they both publicly oppose bifurcation beyond what we already have with things like grooves, and so you are clearly right about that.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
A lot of holier than thou BS is meaningless.

Chico had a very important statement:

''I think a set of tournament regulations for equipment for elite events would be good for the future of the game.''

As to 2 sets of rules- come on keep the ROG, but be aware that most of the rounds played do not use this ''sacred cow'' before the group leaves the first tee, as someone ''takes a mulligan''. So let's be honest here when we start getting all uppity about ''not needing a second set of rules'', or ''I'm against Bifurcation''.

Good for you.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Arthur-I would love to see an end to committees butchering classic golf courses in order to cope with events played by elite players.
Money being spent to accomodate a tiny percentage of golfers.
I think champions should have to prove themselves over a stern test-courses playable with a driver and a short iron won't do that.
I think bifurcation offers a good solution to the problem.
It was done for years in Europe when we had both the 1.62 and 1.68 ball.Pro events and national amateur events opted for the big ball.Club golf was played with the small ball. It worked well!
Only came to an end when the manufacturers whined at having to make two golf balls(sounds familiar!)
Do you have a better solution or do you think there is no problem?
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Chuck, I wasn't suggesting the "golf industry's big players" in some sort of conspiracy theory way, merely the commercial interests of Acushnet et al are huge and they'll exert influence on the R&A and USGA to get their point across.

Chico, you make a lot of fair points. Distance gains have been minimal since 2003 though, and by no means all the top players are able to over power courses. If we're wanting to provide good tests for tour players there's a lot courses can do to toughen up their challenge without just adding length.
Ultimately though, the lowest score wins whether 10,20 or 30 under and I think we have to accept progress.
And I just don't think the current generation of players are in anyway less skilled than those of a bygone era e.g. 2012 Major winners Watson, Simpson, Els, McIlroy. Best golfers still come to the top.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
Andrew-compared to 20 years ago they are ALL overpowering the courses-even Luke Donald!
Why should we have to spend money toughening courses?
20 or 30 under scores will not have tested the players on many aspects of the game.
Els and McIlroy-yes-two of the best ever I fancy,
I rest my case with the other 2!
I find drive,short iron,drive short iron boring,As I do with way too narrow fairways and silly rough.
But then I'm old-and I bet you aren't?!
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
While I am a regular reader here going on years, I am an infrequent poster, so, forgive me if this has been covered. Why not simply make the current ball heavier or lighter (whichever reduces distance)? Appendix III of the Rules of Golf governs the weight and diameter of the ball. Not wanting to have to meddle with the size of the cup as a result of changing the diameter of the ball ,(even though this has been done before), why not establish the weight of the ball as one that limits the distance the ball travels?
Jim
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Chico, yes maybe it's just my youthful naivety!
Totally with you that the US Open style set up aiming for a level par winnning total is no fun for anyone. I agree that I wouldn't want to see a Major won at 20 or so under par, but I don't see a problem with 10 to 15 under par totals in Majors.
Lengthening courses just plays into the big hitters hands e.g. McIlroy's 24 under par or so winning total at the 7675yard Earth course.
I think we can make courses trickier though. Valderrama was one of the shorter courses on the European Tour but it infuriated players.
Modern designers should look at holes such as the postage stamp, the 12th at Augusta and many other great holes that have stood the test of time, despite their length.

And Chico you don't rate Watson or Simpson! Have to say I think Bubba's an amazing one-off player-the 2nd shot he hit at the 10th in the playoff at the Masters was like Seve at his best. Webb Simpson's no less a player than many previous US Open winners.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
@ chico ... is it not also true that however much the club golfer whined about the 1.68, none complain about it now?

In any event, with a roll backed ball, wouldn't it be the pros who'd stand to lose comparatively more distance than the club golfer? Would the club golfer even notice!?

In the wider world people have to adapt frequently to changing situations so, in the grand scheme of things, I really don't think a rolled back ball is going to hurt the game at club level. Indeed, given the crisis point the game has reached in regard to excessive distances, I rather think the club golfer would be quite happy to support a change even if it did mean losing a few yards.
Carnaptious and camsteerie "crisis point the game has reached". Distances have gone up two yards or so in the last 10 years!!
I agree though that if the ball is to be rolled back, then it should be same for everyone, pros and ams.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
No nothing wrong with being youthful Andrew!And I'm sure you're not naive.
Its just that every good young player I meet these days(and through work I meet a lot) thinks that their superior striking is wholly down to their superior skill-I just don't happen to agree!
And no-I think Watson is fortunate to be playing now-he wouldn't have kept it on the planet 25 yrs ago-and I don't really rate Simpson to be honest.
Anyway its lovely in front of the fire-and I'm fed up of typing for now!
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
The long putter& belly putter has little effect just helps bad putters enjoy the game more. A blight on the game is the hybrid club they give poor iron players a greater advantage than the long putter.in Australia the other blight on the game is full handicaps in stableford & vss competitions which are easier than stroke .
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterR Bell
All that needs to be done is to have the PROS play a different ball that is corrected for distance.
No other change is required.
And the rest of us can go on with our everyday lives.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
This is totally unrelated, but I played in tournament two days ago in Tarzana (Braemar...meh)...it was a scramble format, but this time they paired every foursome (5th player) with a pro...we could use his tee shot, score and as a fifth putter, but he was playing his own ball in a "pro" division tournament.

Aside from being the worst "pro" I've ever witness (numerous OBs and muffed shots), on one hole I was on the green and his ball was in my line (he was driving up to the green). I marked his ball and tossed it a few feet to the left of the mark. We putted out as a scramble.
He then went to putt his ball, and as he was putting I noticed my ball mark still on the green....I had forgotten all about it and didn't mention it to him. He was visibly upset (even though he had no chance whatsoever at winning), and none of us could figure out the ruling....he putted from further away, BTW, and two putted from about 15 feet. I looked at the rules of golf on the USGA site, but am even more confused now.

The pro told me that I should have placed the ball a couple inches from the mark, which IMHO would have defeated the entire purpose of marking his ball. When I play with my friends, we mark each others balls all the time.

Also, both pro's (under 30) were using belly putters.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterManku
@andrew: The average distance is probably not the key number! I'm going to commit a sin, as defined by my freshman sociology teacher, and generalize about my own limited experience. Which is probably not unique:

I started playing seriously in about 1987 when I was in my early 30s. I used a persimmon driver and a set of Tommy Armour 845s irons; I used a Titleist DT100 most of the time and a Tour100 "balata" when I felt rich. Played a hilly, difficult course from the blue tees at about 6600 yards. It was all I could handle with a high single-digit handicap. 25 years later I use a Ping i20 driver, 3-wood, and 5-wood and a set of S56 irons; the ball is a Bridgestone B330S. I am now eligible for the Senior Amateur and have come reasonably close in qualifying, with a lower handicap and a probably better golf swing. But because of the longer, trampoline-faced driver with a sweet spot the size of a half-dollar instead of a nickel and a ball that WILL NOT curve into the woods unless I really slice the damn thing, I now play a similar course at 6800 yards with no trouble. Except for the occasional all-world slice off the tee and 3-putt from 10 feet. The reason for this is 80% equipment/20% improvement in technique. I am right on the edge where the modern ball and driver help me. I have been outdoors on a good launch monitor precisely once. It helped. My best drive now stops 290 yards from the tee. 25 years ago that was 265, tops, on hard ground, and only when I caught it right in the screws with a low slinging hook. Imagine what that is like for the Tour Pro. Actually, you don't have to imagine anything. Just watch DJ and Bubba at the high end. Or Luke and Graeme at the low end.

Do I think it's pretty cool that I hit it farther as an old man? Hell, yes! But I also know that what allows me to play the course at 600-700 yards longer than I should also requires the 17th tee on the Old Course to be placed OB. The trade is not worth it.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
@KLG-wish I'd written that last paragraph.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Andrew, the stats may indicate that the ball only goes a little farther since 2003 but what about the period from the mid 90's to 2003? The LONGEST driver on the Tour Driving Distance stat at a point during the year was Dennis Paulson at 282. 272 was in the top 10. If you hit it 272 today you are one of the five shortest hitters on the entire Tour. Does it make a huge difference for the average Am? NO. Does the modern ball the Tour pros use make most golf courses too short? YES. Change the ball used by the Pro's back to the old TITLEIST PROFESSIONAL that was used in the mid 90's and most of the course issues are settled. The rules don't need to be changed, just the ball, and just for the pros. TF should step up and make this a PGA TOUR decision and not even consult Mr. Davis and Mr. Dawson.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
KLG, Good to hear your story. I can't argue with what you've experienced but maybe you should give yourself a little more credit too!
No doubt the game today compared to 1987 is much easier thanks to the equipment advances, but there's still plenty skill required to play at a low single digit handicap. I've never heard of anyone quit because the game had become too easy.

The point I'm making is that the equipment advances stalled about 10 years ago and, though maybe it's gone a little too far, we are where we are and the game is doing ok. With a bit of thought we don't have to keep lengthening courses either.

And I think it's important pros and ams play to the same equipment rules.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrewcoop
ol Harv, I can certainly see the case for going back to the mid '90s ball, but for me it should be for pros and amateurs.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
The fact that I can use a GPS (or a laser) and Tiger can't tells me we have bifurcation right now.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve A
SteveA, using a GPS doesn't make an difference to your actual shot though, it's just a faster, easier way to know your distance than working off a book.
12.5.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
" ... than working off a book."

I'd ban them too! (lol)
Andrew, you're right about the distance changes, but aren't the statistics misleading? Do they record how far each club is going, as opposed to just a total driving average (not driver average)? If a pro can hit his 3 wood 300 on a 480 yard par 4, he doesn't need his driver, because he can hit his 8 iron the remaining 180. Ten years ago he may have needed his driver.

Every pro knows exactly how far he hits each club, and surely the fastidious ones would have recorded their yardages year on year over the last decade or two. Is there any way we could get hold of some of these numbers? That'd be some interesting reading.

And I'm anti-bifurcation (as in the pro-only ball). Just change the one we have as the penalty is proportionally less severe the shorter one hits the ball.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKnee Bend
Knee Bend, you may well be right. I'm not aware of evidence to support the idea that the driving distance stat is skewed by an increasing use of FWs, hybrids, but for sure if that was happening it would be interesting to know. I can certainly see the logic that to hit tee shots into landing areas, the longer hitters don't need to go with driver i.e. most are happy in a zone 90-120 yards out and if they can find that with a hybrid then there would be little to gain hitting driver and leaving 50 yards.

Can we just be a bit more realistic on the distances the average tour guy hits though? They don't hit 3 woods 300yards or 8 irons 180! Some do, but most don't except on bouncy fairways, downwind e.t.c.

How far do they hit through the air, no wind, no slope? That's the only measure. I'm swinging driver around 110mph, which plenty of guys on tour are doing, and I'll carry driver 255yards, 3 wood 230, 8 iron 160-that's all. What Bubba Watson, DJ e.t.c. do is different to be fair, but this is pretty close to the reality for the Furyks, Strickers, Donalds.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrew coop
Thhe posted distance stats are skewed due to the 2 driving holes not reflecting which club is being used- plain and simple---hybrides, fairway woods and long irons are going ''driving distances'' and the stat shown is just wrong if anyone is naive enough to think that the specs shown are driver distances.

If one only uses their eyes, it becomes obvious that the ball.drive is going further over the last 10 years.

I guess some would call for another ''study'' too bad-- they eyes don't lie, but hey.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Sounds as though bifurcation supporters, believe the professional game is the
most important?
Those (less than) 1% guys need to be rolled back to save the game.

Need to tax the 1% more in the USA to get that 2 weeks of government cost. Yup that will fix it.
12.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Burke

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