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.