Not since Sonny Corleone was hit with 300 bullets (yet not one to the face!) has one of Golf's Five Families gone on such a brazen attack of another family. Yet the PGA of America sounds determined to go after the USGA and R&A's place in the game with its latest missive, penned by president Ted Bishop in his weekly column that summarizes the recent PGA Conference of Leaders.
An "Open Forum" was convened and mostly discussed anchoring.
A straw poll was conducted on Tuesday and there was not one single hand that went in the air to support the proposed ban of the long putter by the USGA and R&A from the over 200 in attendance.
Or maybe just confirmation that groupthink is alive and well in America?
During the Open Forum, I gave a brief presentation to our PGA members on Local Rules and Conditions of Competition as defined by the Rules of Golf. The reason for doing this was to insure that our Section leaders were clear on their understanding that if the proposed ban is implemented, PGA professionals and their facilities will not have the ability to impose a local rule or a condition of competition allowing anchoring without it being a direct violation of the Rules of Golf. This would be bifurcation of the Rules in its purest sense.
I do believe the Rules of Golf are entirely optional, so technically it's not bifurcation? More like, not playing by the optional Rules of Golf, right?
Currently, there are four Conditions of Competition in the Rules of Golf that are adopted differently by the four major championships. In the case of the One Ball Rule, the PGA Championship does not accept it while the other three majors do.
There's a buried lede for you! Go on...
However, there has been widespread speculation that if the proposed anchoring ban is implemented by the USGA and R&A that the PGA TOUR might adopt in its own set of rules which will allow anchoring. The question was then posed to PGA members in the Open Forum, which rules would you follow? Those adopted by the USGA, banning anchoring, or a set of PGA Rules, which might permit it? Less than a dozen in attendance indicated support of USGA Rules and well over 200 indicated support of what could be PGA Rules.
Great! Can't wait to read these special rules. That should only take about 1000 hours of Tim Finchem's time in the coming months, not to mention the massive legal bill they'll run up ironing out differences and proving they aren't plagiarizing the copyrighted Rules of Golf.
Just the thought of the non-profit PGA of America and PGA Tour dipping into their hundreds of millions in the bank and spending so much time on something that won't make them a dime makes my Friday!
Of course, it'll take them about three years to get these rules up and running. If we're lucky.
The PGA of Canada recently surveyed its membership and approximately 33% responded with nearly 65% opposing the proposed ban on anchoring. The PGA of Canada has sent a letter to the R&A and the USGA expressing the opinions of its members. I have also had conversations with Shizuo Mori, the Chairman of the PGA of Japan. He indicates that while there is nothing official yet, he agrees more with the position of the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR. Japan and Canada both are governed by the R&A.
PGA Tour, PGA of America, PGA of Japan. Tim, don't forget to build in translation costs to that bill for the new PGA Tour Rules of Golf! But it'll be great having your partners from Japan at the table, won't it?
A week ago, the European Tour issued a statement in support of the proposed ban. Some would say that this was a reversal of positions based on earlier comments by the European Tour that “there was no compelling reason to change the Rule at this time.” The Sunshine Tour, located in South Africa, also supports the ban.
The line in the sand seems to be the Atlantic Ocean. Golf bodies west of the Atlantic are agitated by the proposed anchoring ban. Those East of the Atlantic seem more inclined to follow the authority of the rules makers. As Michael Bamberger from Sport Illustrated pointed out to me, Americans always seem to be more inclined to challenge authority than their European counterparts. History has proven that.
Or maybe the Europeans don't have silly fast greens and therefore as many yippy golfers?
The PGA TOUR recently acquired the Darrell Survey Data from 2009 to present as it relates to usage numbers of mid-length and long putters at all official PGA TOUR events. In assessing this date, the TOUR has cross-referenced the number of players using these clubs per event (of whom almost all are presumably anchoring) with field size, identifying a percentage of use at each event.
From 2009 through much of 2011 between 5-10% of the fields anchored. From late 2011 to early 2012, there was a significant spike in usage where the TOUR saw 15-25% of the field using these clubs.
Which would be supporting the notion that anchoring was increasing at an amazing clip?
However, following the end of the West Coast PGA TOUR events in the early spring of 2012, usage begins to drop and we see a continuing downward trend that appears to be approaching the previous levels of 2009-2011.
And therefore...the announced proposed ban has already discouraged some? Or it was a fad and the governing bodies are merely eliminating a fad?
Certainly another issue facing PGA members is at the recreational level. We have serious concerns on how the ban on anchoring could affect the enjoyment of the game by our amateur customers. Over the past few months, I have received dozens of letters from concerned amateurs who look to the PGA of America to stand up and protect their interests.
These people are discouraged and frustrated that an anchoring ban will be imposed after they adopted a previously legal method of putting. Most indicate they will play less golf or quit. The game cannot afford this.
I think we need to commission a study on this, no?
We feel the USGA and R&A have underestimated the impact and ramifications that Rule 14-1b will have on the overall state of the game. It has become one of the most divisive issues that modern day golf has seen. All of these controversial issues will dissipate if the proposed ban is dropped.
Oh, something tells me that isn't so!
**The PGA of Canada's Gregg Schubert has issued a similar letter addressed to the USGA's Glen Nager and Mike Davis with a much different tone but some of the same glaring omissions. Also a tad problematic is that it's dated March 14, which is two weeks after the 90-day comment period ended. What took so long?
Anyway, this is an ironic pairing of paragraphs:
So there is data to support the assertion that the number of golfers will decline, but we aren't actually going to cite that regression other than the opinions of Canadian golf professionals?
In the next paragraph the PGA of Canada then complains about the lack of scientific data cited to make the case for anchoring in the next paragraph?