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Mike Davis - November 29, 2012

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Mike Davis is the Executive Director of the USGA. During the 24 hours since the proposed anchoring ban was announced, he has heard from many different people and organizations. Communication is key when it comes to announcement like this and the 90 day period allows an opportunity for the USGA and the R&A to hear input from many different areas of the game of golf. Davis feels that the USGA and the R&A foreshadowed this ruling for several months but they want to make sure that everyone knows why this decision was made and what they want to do with this decision. Both organizations want to take a controversial issue and put it to rest by specifically defining what a stroke actually is.

When asked about the comments from PGA of America President Ted Bishop, Davis said that the PGA of America was unable to tell its members the details of the proposal when it conducted a survey among its members. The National Golf Foundation did a poll which said that 70% of active golfers play the game because of the challenge that is involved. The USGA and the R&A want to help make the game more fun but making the game easier will not necessarily help the game of golf in the long run. The challenge is part of the fun.

Numerous people have raised the idea of bifurcation when it comes to the rule and Davis said that this rule spells out one of the most essential parts of the game of golf: the stroke. For hundreds of years, people have held a club away from their bodies and made a swing. It is illogical to make two sets of rules when it comes to something so essential to the game of golf and bifurcation will only open Pandora’s Box when it comes to the uniqueness of golf. If someone says we should have two sets of rules, someone else could say that we should have five or ten sets of rules. Golfers love to compare themselves with the best players in the world and bifurcation will slowly take that joy away from the game of golf. The USGA and the R&A are steadfast in their belief that one set of rules for all golfers is essential to the game of golf.

Everyone who has followed the game of golf, particularly those who anchor their putter, are wondering why it has taken so long to make this proposal. For many years, it seemed as though the only players who anchored their putters were those who did so for health reasons or nerve reasons and the people who did were older players who sought to continue playing golf. Over time, younger players began anchoring their putters not for health reasons but instead because they felt that it was an easier way to make putts. The USGA and the R&A are looking to the future of the game and they do not feel that it is good for the game if younger players are being taught either through observing the world’s best or through lessons that it is better to anchor your putter than putt conventionally. No one can predict the future and looking back, it is quite possible that this proposal would have happened earlier if they knew how the use of anchoring would evolve.

Some people are wondering why the organizations are waiting three years to make this potential rules change and they want to make sure  they are making the right decision. It is quite possible that during this 90 day period they will hear good arguments for enacting the change before 2016. If they feel that enacting the rule before 2016 will help the game, the idea will certainly be taken seriously.

On the question of why the Matt Kuchar/Bernhard Langer forearm stroke is not considered illegal, Davis said that in Kuchar’s instance, Matt is controlling the whole club when the mid-size putter is laying against his forearm. That position helps to control the putter just as the cross-handed grip does and both grips still require the player to control the entire club during the stroke.

Something as fundamental to the game of golf as the stroke should not be left up to local tournament committees to enforce as they see fit in their individual events. Both organizations are not approaching this announcement as a popularity contest and they seek to preserve and improve the health of the game of golf around the world. They have spent countless hours trying to get the wording of this proposal right but they are open to the idea that over the 90 day period they will hear new information. As long as it helps the long-term sustainability of the game of golf, the USGA and the R&A want to help.

Cost of the game of golf not only for players but also for golf course maintenance is another key issue. Slow play and golf ball distance are also other issues and while some people may not like where the distance level is right now, the rise in average distance has stopped. Water is absolutely key to the future of the game of  golf and it is very important to be aware of the environmental and financial costs to maintaining a golf course. Using less water and creating more brown areas on a course could be a key to maintaining and growing the game in the future. If we can make the game of golf more cost-efficient and less time-consuming, it will strengthen the game for years to come and both organizations have spent a lot of time trying to figure the best ways to help the game for the future.