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« Clarke Takes Himself Out Of '14 Ryder Race | Main | Siri, Please Tell The Racoon I Want My iPhone Back »
Friday
Jan112013

"Bifurcation is the imperfect answer we're looking for, and 2013 might be the year we decide."

Jerry Tarde's editor's letter in the February Golf Digest features an image of Paul Runyan displaying an anchoring technique in October 1966, which gives some context to Tarde's provocative view that the governing bodies may be setting us up for a fight over distance.

Or a backdoor rollback.

In the meantime, we will watch as everyday golfers react to the USGA and R&A's harder line. In an ongoing survey, almost 40 percent of respondents are indicating that golfers who use the anchored method will continue putting that way past the 2016 rules change, and almost half favor a different set of rules for amateurs than for pros. We saw this ambivalence in a statement from the PGA of America that uncharacteristically pushed back and questioned how the ban would affect enjoyment and growth of golf. Even purists like Tom Watson have "mixed emotions," hinting that bifurcation--two sets of rules--might be acceptable.

I don't hit it far enough to want my ball rolled back, and my pals who anchor say they'll give up the game before giving up the long putter. Bifurcation is the imperfect answer we're looking for, and 2013 might be the year we decide.

The Golf Club Atlas gang has begun a discussion on the column worth checking out.

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Reader Comments (32)

I've heard the USGA's Sir Mike Davis(who has never been wrong about anything in his opinion) talk about it like it would be the absolute worst thing in the world if there were 2 sets of rules--which is a giant overstatement anyway--and I just don't see it. You are talking about a very very small percentage of elite golfers playing with a rolled back ball and then the belly putter ban. Over 99% of players will not be affected. His biggest concern was that golf is so unique and the only sport where amateurs can judge themselves against the professional and play the same golf course which is all nonsense anyway. The Tour Pros already play by different rules with the groove rule and you don't hear word one about that affecting Joe the golfer.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I think most golfers want to play what the pros play, or at least have the same logo on what they play. its no surprise that the comapnies with the biggest market share spend the most on tour players and use tour players in their advertising

when the small ball went away in the open, it died a natural death in golf shops as most golfers wanted to play the same stuff as the big boys

What you might see is the groove approach applied to putters--ban it for tour players and players in USGA championships as of 2016, with the ban for the mens club championship kikcking in a few years later. everybody buys a new putter at some point (except for the kooks) and this would allow people to switch as they decide to do so
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commentersmails
Whether or not bifurcation happens regarding the ball, what I see 0 chance of happening is a "roll back". Best case - a "freeze" of some sort. To actually reduce the distance that a theoretical future ball carries would instantly invalidate all the players achievements that used the "long" ball. How could it not ? If theoretically you had a ball that resulted in top end drives south of 300 yards, how could that generation of players not say that the guys from the past (Tiger/Phil/Rory era) had an unfair advantage that has since been corrected, so their records should be taken with an *. Folks might say well, what about grooves, or even the belly putter, but neither of those devices produced a quantifiable impact that could be measured so easily. It has not even been established that anchored putting is better - it is being banned for aethestics (which I agree with). The groove issue is too hard to quantify the impact of the with/without, if there even has been one. I have 0 problem with freezing the ball at the current or some future point, but I think to go backwards will not and should not happen.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
BrianS. The thing with grooves is that we now have shafts that make the ball spin as much as the grooves ever did - so null and void there.
My problem with bifurcation is where do you draw the line? Club events with scratch markers, college events., State amateurs" Where does the line get drawn as to when the ball has to change?
Imagine the US Amateur being played at 6800 yards with the old ball and the US Open being played at the same yardage with the "new" ball.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
I feel it's completely possible to not have two sets of rules, however I don't count having a 'pga tour tournament ball' or a 'world pro golf tournament ball' as a second set of rules, I just see that as having a proper official ball - similar to basketball or soccer or volleyball etc. If there truly are people who would 'give up the game before giving up their long putter' - fine, let them go. They couldn't have cared that much for the game in the first place, and really the numbers would be so small it's not going to affect the 'growth' of the game etc. Anyway, long putters are kinda complicated and make it more difficult rather than easier. When a beginner picks up a traditional putter it's clear how it works, simple pendulum swing and try to knock the ball in the hole. Hand that same beginner one of these long putter monstrosities and they have no idea how they are supposed to hold it, do they tuck it under their chin, do they anchor it to their nipple, do they hold it away from themselves and use one hand to rotate and the other to anchor, or do they move both hands? ?? Hopefully they don't bifurcate and when it becomes illegal to anchor on tour it becomes illegal to anchor everywhere; having your friends call you a cheater every time you play will get you to switch back and start practicing with a proper putter very quickly.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
The Blue Blazers lost all credibility when they lost the groove issue – thank you Karsten for standing up for the game – an then to get so lost and show their lack of involvement when they allowed ball to get out of control and where it is today. And the coup de grace was banning the belly putter years after it was permitted to be used. What a joke this is. Let's rule again graphite shafts for gos sakes. At least there is evidence that they allow you to hit it further! Re: bifurcation, so many major sports already have implemented or endorsed different rules for different skill sets. Baseball allows metal bats except for the professional and ML’s; women's basketball utilizes a different size basketball altogether; high school, college, and NBA play under different set of rules. Why they can't even agree on how long the game should be. Should be played in halves or quarters? "I dunno" they say. The NFL and NCAA can't agree if the receiver has to have one or two foot inbounds on a reception for gosh sakes! And the NCAA and NFL play with a different size football! OMG!

The average club or public course golfer does not play a game remotely close to championship level or professional-level golf - and should not be expected to. They are recreational golfers. The USGA and R&A and the PGA Tour can implement whatever rules they wish when a player competes in their events. But, why not let the game grow and the average player enjoy it at the level in which they participate by allowing some bifurcation? What would it really hurt? The game ain't growing in its current state. It is long past the time the Blue Blazers realized how many good changes there have been and get on with it. If it weren’t for change we would all still be playing hickories! The problem is a bunch of amateurs in Blue Blazers think they “OWN” the rules.
I feel it's completely possible to not have two sets of rules, however I don't count having a 'pga tour tournament ball' or a 'world pro golf tournament ball' as a second set of rules, I just see that as having a proper official ball - similar to basketball or soccer or volleyball etc. If there truly are people who would 'give up the game before giving up their long putter' - fine, let them go. They couldn't have cared that much for the game in the first place, and really the numbers would be so small it's not going to affect the 'growth' of the game etc. Anyway, long putters are kinda complicated and make it more difficult rather than easier. When a beginner picks up a traditional putter it's clear how it works, simple pendulum swing and try to knock the ball in the hole. Hand that same beginner one of these long putter monstrosities and they have no idea how they are supposed to hold it, do they tuck it under their chin, do they anchor it to their nipple, do they hold it away from themselves and use one hand to rotate and the other to anchor, or do they move both hands? ?? Hopefully they don't bifurcate and when it becomes illegal to anchor on tour it becomes illegal to anchor everywhere; having your friends call you a cheater every time you play will get you to switch back and start practicing with a proper putter very quickly.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
sorry, not sure what happened with the double post.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
@BrianS .. re your ball theory, this is nonsense. Rolling back the ball would not invalidate any achievements made with the longer ball as players would have all been playing with the same type of ball ergo a level playing field. It's far more likely that asterisks will be put against those who've won via the anchoring method.
I most be confused about the concern of bifurcation. If the desire is so that the amateur hacks like me can test our skills against the pros, wouldn't we need to play the "course" is similiar condition as the pros play the "course". Isn't this argument antithetical to the "play it forward" movement? And what about course conditions? PGA courses are groomed to peak for the one week a year that the pros play the course - we "hacks" will never get to play the "course", much less the same course, in that condition; hard and short fairways, evenly cut rough, perfect traps, and hundreds of fans and cameras helping to find the lost ball. On the other side of the coin, we "hacks" we rarely see true US Open conditions - thank god.

If you want to "lengthen" courses for the pros, "slow down" the courses. A little longer grass in the fairways and rough, traps that are actually penal, put rough or danger at the 300+ yard mark in some of the fairways to force the pros to make the decision on the tee. If they can fly the danger, great!

But stop lengthening courses for the 1/2% of golfers! The rest of us pay the price, literally and figuratively. If the pros can drive the 400 yard par four, good for them. Then when I play the same hole, and I am hitting driver and 5-iron, I can still appreciate how good they play; I don't need to hit driver and 3-wood to have any better appreciation of their abilities.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterH Leonard
First, in reality we already have bifurication. Outside of tournament golf, the ROG are often seen as guidelines. Concerning equipment, there is enough of a stigma to keep Joe Golfer from buying non-conforming equipment and keep manufacturers from promoting it. But if I had a nickel for every time I see a blatant rules infraction (and no corresponding penalty) or players carrying 15+ clubs, I'd be a rich man.

I also have to agree with metro 18...where do you draw the line? I have a brother who is lucky to break 100 on a good day...but he can mash a drive 330+ yards (of course he is 6'4, 230 lbs). Elite amateur are as long, if not longer on average as the pro's...and even many single digit players can hang with tour pro's as far as distance. What is the main rationale for "rolling back" the ball? If it is to keep the length of course from getting further out of hand, a restriction on just pro's will do nothing to help that if elite amateurs are still being accouted for in course design.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
The Pro v1 is a good ball hit at 80 to 100mph but is brilliant at 110+
I cant believe that its not possible to have a ball that does the opposite.
I still think however that driving has become too easy for good players because of 460 heads.Dont know how you change that though because club golfers wont want to give them up-nor should they-so we either put up with the situation as is or bifurcate.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
The tours follow the rules of the R&A and USGA
They do not make rules FOR those tours

Now, same effect would be as mentioned before. The Open, US Open Championships
could say this is the ball/club rules (rolled back)

Trying to tell the Tours to use different equipment than is sold to the public
jis just saying you want to take money out of their hands with endorsements and equipment support
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat Burke
A) "Roll Back":
* Disparity of Performances over past players (as mentioned above)
* Creates millions of non-conforming "legacy" equipment / balls that needs to be dealt with
* Makes ams "worse" than before, creating ill will
B) "Freeze"
* All current equipment legal.
* Future distance gains can clearly be attributed to non equipment issues
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Brian-the RBZ 3 wood 2013 version goes 22 yards past the 2011 Burner.
Equipment improvements will continue.
Equipment made to help club golfers is helping elites 10 times more.
There is something wrong somewhere.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Chico is spot on.

Fred Funk said it best, bring back the golf balls of 2002. The USGA balked on "their Statement of Principles" released in 2002. Look at the PGA Tour distance stats of 2002, and compare them to 2003, then ask the USGA where were they.

@BrianS
The "freeze" was suppose to take place in 2002, wasn't it?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterL.A. Confidential
This is really furicated up.
The idea that someone has stockpiled 1,000 Pro-V1's for use in 2015-2016 is laughable. If they roll back the ball, it will have a future enforcement date (similar to the way the groove rule was implemented). I'll be out exactly $0. I will use the non-conforming balls in my trunk until they're lost or worn out, and upon the change over date I'll buy conforming balls.

Without a ball roll back, over the long term I'll be out thousands of dollars in the form of increased green fees (as courses get longer and longer) and remodeling costs. Those costs are certainly passed along to golfers. Also, because it takes more time to play these longer courses, the game is dying.

Slowing down the course through overwatering and higher rough makes the game boring. If a ball roll back is done correctly, the only thing that amatuers with swing speeds under 110 will notice is that the bombers are 20 yards in front of them instead of 50.

For those opposed to a roll back, was the game really that much easier in 2001?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW
Pro from Dover, where the hell have you been?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
1) Agree that a roll back of balls much easier to implement than a roll back of equipment, since the balls get refreshed much more often.

2) Also agree that failure to enforce the current freeze is the heart of the problem.

If the ruling bodies can't be counted on to enforce a new "freeze", then how can we depend on them to enforce the "roll back" ?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Chico, how is the ProV at 105-111 mph? (relative to...??) I live there when I'm healthy. It is the ball I use-I love it with a wedge.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
its pretty good Digs-but it gets better the harder you hit it
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
I don't use a long putter but will never call any partner on this. The game is hard enough for most of us anyway.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterC Poe
Bifurcation makes no sense to me, since it's not a bifurcated problem. The ball doesn't only go too far for the pros, it goes too far for amateurs as well, me included.
For example: My buddy is the coach of a NCAA Div. II golf team...no plus handicaps there, but solid players in the 1-5 index range. His response concerning how far all of those kids hit it: "The 7-iron is dead. There is no more middle or long iron play. Other than long par 3s, almost every hole the kids play is either Driver or 3-Wood and a wedge. The game looks nothing like it used to."

I'm with JW above...if we don't stop it, the cost and effort to keep up with equipment will get out of hand. That said, even if the ball is rolled back, how do we prevent manufacturers from building ever better drivers that make the ball go further?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex H
I still think it is possible with multi-layer balls to make one with a dead (low rebound) center. If only the outer layers compress (my swing) it is similar to the distance an am gets today. Compress it more (pro swing), and you don't get much more out of it and distance is limited.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJ
So Chico, any ball that is the ''one' on 105-111 SS that has ProV like wedge characteristics?
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
alex h-you first para sums the problem up perfectly-I see that all the time when I'm reffing.
JJ-spot on!
Digs-try the Penta.
01.11.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Won't a rollback mean a comparatively greater loss in distance for the pros than for we amateurs?
The Pro from Dover is a wisw man!!
01.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Stevens
Chico. Try the Lethal, it's even better.
01.12.2013 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Aren't there a lot of blue blazers that are members at Augusta? Wouldn't the best way to make this happen is for ANGC to announce in advance that they are going to play the following year's Masters at 6900 yards and with a tournament ball.
01.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
@Alex H your comment was very well said. Amateurs play the long ball and it doesn't matter handicap, the game is changing from what it used to be. i play to a 4 handicap and play with guys who are 8, 12, 16 handicaps. it doesn't matter, we're all long off the tee and even from the back tees rarely do we hit more than a 9 iron into a green. even when guys spray it off the tee they often have pw into the green.

the league i play it doesn't matter what kind of ball striker you are when you smash driver and then have 9 iron even though you're playing from the next holes fairway.

do the game a favor and roll back drivers to 400cc and slow the ball down for higher clubhead speeds while lower compression rates will keep the same ball speeds. won't affect the slow swing speeds as much as the long hitter, but will also put more emphasis on ball striking and accuracy
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

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