The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

Bettinardi fuels counterbalanced putter trend with BB Series

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-bettinardi-putter1-300.jpgBob Bettinardi has made putters for some of the game’s best, with 21 wins on the PGA Tour since 1999, including a pair of majors (Jim Furyk at the 2003 U.S. Open and Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA). His latest models should attract tour interest as well, but they’re designed to help everyday players in need of options with the looming anchor ban.

The BB Series (BB1 blade, BB32 mallet and BB55 high MOI mallet—all $350) are Bettinardi’s newest counterbalanced putters, and he takes a literal view of the technology.

loop-bettinardi-putter2-300.jpg“We add 42 grams to the end of the shaft by extending it three inches [to 38 inches], which is the same amount of weight added to the head,” Bettinardi says. “This weighting technique boosts the club’s overall moment of inertia so that it swings and feels more stable. Sacrificing feel simply by moving weight higher is the last thing we want to do.”



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Gear & Equipment

Here's a very golf way to show true loyalty to your favorite college team

By E. Michael Johnson

Blog-Florida-putter.jpgWith college hoops in full March Madness mode, representing your favorite school doesn't have to be confined to wearing a T-shirt or cap. Toronto-based MDGolf has a licensing agreement with 17 high-profile universities to produce putters that let you show your pride.

Each features a custom oversize grip with the school logo and a decorated putterhead.

Yet the club ($80) is not merely for ornamentation. Named Halo and reminiscent of Odyssey's 2-Ball, the putter is 34.5 inches long with a head made from stainless steel and coated with non-glare zinc.

Blog-Alabama-putter.jpg"We were determined to produce a putter that could be used on the course and not just look good in someone's rec room," says Dave Kornhaber, VP corporate sales for MDGolf.

Among schools in the men's Sweet 16, MDGolf has licenses for Florida, Kentucky and Baylor. For more information, go to MDGolf.ca.






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Gear & Equipment

Ping takes center-of-gravity conversation to putters with Ketsch

By Mike Stachura

Center of gravity is a big topic with metalwoods and irons, but it's no less important with putters, especially mallets. A low CG can produce less backward rotation on the ball as it leaves the clubface, reducing skid.

Ketsch_address copy (430).jpgPing's new Ketsch putter has a wide soleplate made of stainless steel, which is heavier than the aluminum body, to lower the CG. The top of the putter has two alignment features -- a center line that extends from front to back and ball-framing lines at the heel and toe. The club also has variable-depth grooves on its face to maintain distance consistency on off-center hits.

The Ketsch name comes from the town where Ping's German office is located, but the putters are machined at Ping's Phoenix headquarters. The putter will be available in late March with a retail price of $220.

Ketsch_beauty copy (430).jpg


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Gear & Equipment

Stop guessing which putter is best for you. Go get fit for one instead

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

ORLANDO -- "Oh no. Oh no, no," Rock Wu, a Managing Director of Areso Golf, said after I pointed to the kind of toe-heavy, half-mallet putter I've used most of my life. "Scientists usually don't like these putters because it's a really old model. Very hard to control."

Like most golfers out there, I had never been fit for a putter before -- which doesn't really make much sense. It is, after all, the most important club in the bag. That's how I gravitated towards Areso, a German company that measures, diagnosis then fits a golfer to a putter model that suits them best.


The whole process takes about 20 minutes; the staff attach sensors to your club, make sure you're lined up correctly and have you hit seven putts. Once the results come back, you hit another seven putts with an Areso putter more suited to your game. My prescription? A 35 inch, face-balanced mallet with 4 degrees of loft and a lie angle of 70 degrees. 

"Selecting a putter used to be a shot in the dark," Wu said. "Now, it's about science."

blog-areso-480.jpg

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Gear & Equipment

Table Rock Golf draws a big crowd early at the PGA Show

By Brendan Mohler

ORLANDO -- Not many booths are packed at 8:30 a.m. on the first day of the PGA Merchandise Show, but Table Rock Golf -- a company that sells tour-level Scotty Cameron putters -- needed stanchions around its setup to keep the crowd at bay.

Related: More new stuff from the 2014 PGA Show

"You better be careful or you'll get run over," said Jim Butler, owner and operator since 1991. "The stampede's coming."

Butler was right. At 8:30 sharp, he opened the booth, and patrons flocked toward the wide array of Scotty Camerons the company has to offer. Most of the putters aren't available anywhere else, and can only be found in the bags of tour players. The price range? Anywhere from $150 to $15,000.

blog-cameron-putter-0122.jpg

For example, the GoLo 3 GSS (above) sells for $14,000 and is handmade from German stainless steel.

Butler started the company in 1991, and sold mainly classic clubs such as Persimmon woods. He met Scotty Cameron in 1992 and the business was "transformed." In addition to putters, Table Rock sells the kind of headcovers you see on TV in the bags of tour professionals. Table Rock does some of its business online (selling standard model Camerons), but the only way to buy a tour-level Scotty Cameron is at Table Rock's booth at the PGA Show, or at the International Scotty Cameron Collector's Society convention. 

That's not quite a secret society, but you get the point.

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Gear & Equipment

Social-media campaigns are the buzz at the start of the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- Today marks the start of golf's version of shopping in a huge, outdoor toy store.

Equipment, grips, shafts and other products are on display from dozens of manufacturers at Outdoor Demo Day at Orange County National, the one-day prelude to the 61st PGA Merchandise Show, which runs Jan. 22-25.


photo.JPG
Some of the hardest working folks at Demo Day: Volunteers and staff from Orange County National cleaning and redistributing range balls.

Related: Why there's a positive vibe expected at this week's PGA Show

Of course, you have traditional the equipment rollouts with every major manufacturer having its latest line of clubs to try out.

Yet in this first hour of the Demo Day, it's hard to miss the enormous social-media push from many of the major equipment companies hoping to get attendees not only to try their products but help promote them.

Specifically there are a handful of social-media campaigns reaching out to golfers to tweet or Instagram about a specific product. While it was prevalent the last two years, it's an even bigger push this time around.

Some quick examples:

-- Ping is introducing a new glove, the Sensor Cool, which Bubba Watson will wear on the PGA Tour. There's a cardboard cut-out of Watson at Ping's Demo Day setup, where you can take a photo and use the hashtag #FeelTheGlove to get a Ping T-shirt. It's a great cause, too. Ping will donate a portion of all sales it generates from its three models of the Sensor Glove to the Bubba Watson Foundation, Ping spokesperson Pete Samuels said.

-- Cobra/Puma, like it did last year, has an enormous station with a DJ blasting loud music and drinks started being served at 10 a.m. (You know, because it can.) Jesper Parnevik and Blair O'Neal are slated to mingle with fans, too. By using the #GoLong hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook you're entered into a contest to win a Bio Cell driver.

-- Fujikura has one of the most innovative promotions at Demo Day. Taby and Christine, two Florida natives, are dressed as police officers--complete with handcuffs and Aviator shades. If you take a photo with these girls, and tag it with #Fujikura on Instagram, you're entered to win tickets to all four majors this year. The 10 posts with the most likes are eligible to win, and the Fujikura folks with pick the best photo. You win a free hat by participating.

Other events going on:

-- Peter Jacobson and Dave Pelz are giving a show at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Srixon/Cleveland setup.

-- Former Re/Max World Long-Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski is demonstrating his driving abilities with the new Callaway line of drivers at 11 and 2.

-- TaylorMade's "Loft Up+" campaign features a gigantic leader board onsite. The highest differences in driving distance--from your old loft to a new, higher loft--are featured in an electronic leader board. It's all in an effort to educate golfers on the benefits of playing a high launch, low spin driver like TaylorMade's SLDR line, spokesman Dave Cordero said.

The hardest-working folks on the expansive 360-degree range at Orange County National have to be the team of 20 who are sorting and distributing golf balls from the range. There are 15 volunteers helping a team of five employees from Orange County National. They have an assembly line of loading, sorting and shipping out balls via large garbage cans.

"We'll go through 80,000 golf balls, and that's probably low," said Brian, one of the employees from OCN who deserves a golf clap from everyone demoing the new clubs here.

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Gear & Equipment

The President's new putter

By Ashley Mayo

barack-obama-putter-2013.jpg
New deal: One of three putters made for Obama.

When Scott Gardner saw recent photos of President Obama using a TaylorMade Ghost Manta putter, his first thought wasn't, "What'd he shoot?" It was more like, "No. 44 needs an upgrade." The president's putter, which Gardner built in 2012, is a face- balanced, 36-inch model that has a standard double-bend hosel and a standard 58-gram grip. This time, TaylorMade Golf's supervisor of tour putter operations made three counterbalanced options, all 37 inches and with heavier, 130-gram grips: a toe-balanced Spider Blade (pictured), designed to help the president release it through the stroke; a face-balanced Spider Mallet, similar to the model he uses; and a Daddy Long Legs, the heaviest, most stable option for more forgiveness. The putters were shipped to Gene Mulak, head professional at Vineyard Golf Club, who will pass them along to Obama.


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Gear & Equipment

Shaft stiffness isn't just for drivers and irons, it can affect your putting too

By E. Michael Johnson

corey-pavin-equipment.jpgCorey Pavin has been using his old Bulls Eye putter since 1984 and although he has taken a break from it every so often (including during his 1995 U.S. Open victory at Shinnecock Hills), he always returns to the club he has dubbed "old faithful." The putter was in the bag at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, and Pavin was asked how many times he had changed the shaft in the nearly 30 years since first wielding the thin-blade putter.

"Never," he said. "It has a soft shaft, and I've been putting with it for so long I don't know what I'd do if I had to reshaft it. It just wouldn't be the same. Not even close."

A soft shaft? True. Although most recreational golfers (and probably some top amateurs and tour pros as well) don't know it, putter shafts have different flexes. Unlike Pavin, most professionals don't really give much thought to the flex in a putter shaft -- until they put something different in. Then they notice immediately.

Is there really that much to notice? The answer is yes, depending on the putter. Ping's putters, for example, come with a shaft with a step positioned either six or nine inches from the hosel. The closer the step is to the hosel, the firmer the flex -- most pros prefer the more rigid feel.

Related: Hot List Putters

Headweight also plays a role in putter-shaft selection. A putter with a smaller, lighter head (a Bulls Eye such as Pavin's or an old Cash-In) will likely have a shaft with considerably more "play" than a shaft in a large mallet that needs something a little firmer due to the heavier head. Even the same model of putter wouldn't always have the same shaft. The shaft in an original Ping Anser wouldn't work as well in today's similar style because the headweight is approximately 30 to 40 grams more in the more recent model, requiring a firmer shaft to support it.

John Daly has long been an exception. The two-time major winner is one of the few tour players who uses a graphite shaft in his putter. Daly uses graphite because of the feedback it provides. But in order to achieve the feel he wants, an additional 40 grams has to be added to the clubhead to counterbalance the lightness of the shaft.

And what about long or belly putters that have drawn a lot of attention the last couple of years? Because of their length there actually isn't as much variety in the flex, especially in the long putters that tend to be extremely rigid.

Related: Working on his game never gets old for Pavin

As for Pavin, that "soft" shaft worked plenty well once again at the Dick's where he finished T-2, ranking ninth in putts per green in regulation. The finish was Pavin's fourth straight top-three, proving that a familiar feel on the greens can be the best putter technology there is.

NEW STUFF

PING_S-55_IRON.jpgPing S55
PRICE: TBD

Ping's latest players iron will debut at The Barclays. The S55 features a multi-material construction (17-4 stainless steel and a tungsten toe weight) and a thinner face than the S56 to enhance ball speed.

Ping.com

footjoys_rain_grip.jpgFootJoy RainGrip
PRICE: TBD

Designed for use in wet or humid weather, the RainGrip features an "AutoSuede" material that conforms to your hand for a better fit and enhanced grip.

FootJoy.com


BAG ROOM

Wyndham Championship winner Patrick Reed had an interesting addition to his bag at Sedgefield CC, using a second 2-iron (both Callaway X Forged models). Reed had the new club bent to 15 degrees loft and requested more bounce to the sole to make it play like a 1-iron. Reed's other X Forged 2-iron had 18 degrees loft. ... All pro golfers need golf shoes and newly crowned PGA champ Jason Dufner will soon have some new stylish ones. That's because FootJoy has debuted a "Design Jason Dufner's Shoes" promotion in which people can go to footjoy.com and design a pair of MyJoys for Dufner. When the promotion ends, Dufner will pick the entry he likes best, and the winner will receive the same pair. Hint: Lots of Auburn-themed entries already. ... Robert Garrigus tied for first in driving distance at the Wyndham Championship with an average of 313.6 yards after boosting the loft of his TaylorMade SLDR to 10.5 degrees and switching the shaft to Aldila's new Rogue model -- the same shaft used by Reed.


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Gear & Equipment

Even before the anchoring ban was announced, PGA Tour long-putter usage was on the wane

By E. Michael Johnson

tim-clark-long-putter.jpgDuring the May 21 announcement that the USGA and R&A were enacting Rule 14-1b, USGA president Glen Nager was asked about the potential for a legal challenge to the decision.

"Our mission is not to avoid legal challenges," said Nager, who has argued 13 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. "Our mission is to determine the appropriate rules for the game that make the game strong for the long-term. ... We have looked at this from the legal perspective, as well, as we feel confident of our position."

That confidence, however, may be tested. Nine PGA Tour players, including Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson and Masters champion Adam Scott, have retained Harry L. Manion III, a founding partner in the Boston law firm of Cooley Manion Jones, to represent them. Although readying for a fight, Manion said the players are waiting to see the PGA Tour's response and that no legal action is imminent.

Related: Golf's notable rule changes

"Nobody wants to litigate, so you hope for the best and prepare for the worst," said Manion, who first met with players at Torrey Pines during the Farmers Insurance Open. "I am optimistic that the [PGA] Tour will not follow this rule."

Certainly players who will be affected by the ban come Jan. 1, 2016 are holding out hope that the tour will break from the governing bodies on anchoring.

"We tried during that [comment] period to reason with the USGA and the R&A and come to some sort of a favorable decision for ourselves," said Clark, who was an All-American at North Carolina State using a conventional putter, but changed to an anchored stroke halfway through college because of a congenital problem that doesn't allow him to supinate his wrists. "Now we are going to have to explore our options. I planned to play until I physically no longer could play. Now I've been told I'm going to have to change the way I putt in a few years. Now my future is uncertain."

Things also are unclear for Carl Pettersson, who has used an anchored long putter for 16 years. "I think it is grossly unfair for somebody who's been using the long putter for a long time to have to play catch up," said Pettersson. "I've refined 16 years of practice with it. If I change to a non-anchored putter, I don't know if that's fair but sometimes life's not fair.

Related: What is permitted and what is prohibited by the anchor ban

"I still think we still have a battle with the PGA Tour. They stated their case that they are against it. Hopefully, they stay with that opinion."

Although Clark and Pettersson have steadfastly used anchored putters for some time, usage on the PGA Tour and sales at retail of long and belly putters have dropped, perhaps indicating a resignation that the rule will eventually go into effect. Sven Kessler, VP of retail for Edwin Watts, said long and belly putters accounted for nearly 25 percent of putter sales at the height of their popularity in late 2011 and early 2012, but now account for less than 5 percent of putter sales. Tour research conducted by TaylorMade through the first 21 events of the season showed an average of 13.6 long or belly putters in play per event. Of those, about 11 anchor (players such as Matt Kuchar and Angel Cabrera use belly putters without anchoring). That's about half the number anchoring at this time a year ago.

USGA executive director Mike Davis is acutely aware of the impact the ban will have. "We have genuine empathy for golfers who are struggling with nerves and anchoring has been something that has helped them out," Davis told Golf World. "That's been the hard part. ... But we're not taking away any of their equipment [long and belly putters will remain legal, they simply cannot be anchored against the body]. There are other ways to help them. There was strong support for moving forward with this proposal."

Along with the support Davis cites, the governing bodies may be on firm legal ground as well, said Matthew Mitten, professor of sports law at Marquette, director of the National Sports Law Institute and the author of Sports Law in the United States.

Related: Reaction to the anchor ban

"It would be a difficult legal challenge for [the players] to win," said Mitten. "Historically, courts have been very deferential to sports governing bodies to regulate what they determine to be the rules of the game and to regulate playing equipment. There's a recognition that sports are unique, and you've got to have uniform rules and there needs to be an independent governing body that has to take the necessary steps to preserve the integrity of the game and competitive balance."

Zach Johnson, however, isn't sure the ban is accomplishing that.

"I don't see the need," said Johnson, a non-anchorer. "That's just my personal opinion. I'm all about maintaining integrity. I'm all about the tradition and that sort of thing. However, we are so deep into it. I don't see how you go cold turkey. I know the tour will do what's in the best interest of the tour and the game of golf."

As for what the tour will do, a hint may come as early as Tuesday of Memorial week as the Player Advisory Council (a group made up of 16 players) will meet. The next scheduled meeting of the tour's Policy Board isn't until the the Greenbrier Classic the first week of July.

Although emotions currently are running strong, Davis believes come Jan. 1, 2016 things will have simmered down. "We're 2.5 years from this happening," said Davis. "You'll hear people make comments saying they're not going to follow the rules or they're quitting the game, but they are the people you want to talk to 2.5 years from now to see what they actually do. Are they really going to quit the game over this? Are they really going to defy it? I think over time, my personal opinion, that things will calm down."

Which would be a big change from where things stand today.

Additional reporting by Mike Stachura and Ron Sirak.

NEW STUFF

nike-vr-forged.jpgNike VR Forged
PRICE: $130 (Lofts: 48 to 60 degrees in standard)

Forged from 1025 carbon steel, Nike's latest wedge line offers three grinds: standard, dual narrow (high bounce) and dual wide (low bounce).

nikegolf.com

BAG ROOM

Crowne Plaza Invitational champion Boo Weekley had prototype Aldila RIP graphite shafts in his Cleveland 588 MB irons at Colonial. The shaft is designed with low torque and is expected to become available later this year. ... Martin Laird had two 3-irons in the bag at Colonial -- a TaylorMade Tour Preferred 08 model he used during his win at the Valero Texas Open, as well as a new Tour Preferred CB 3-iron. Each provides a different ball flight that Laird felt would be valuable in Fort Worth. ... Hunter Mahan switched to Ping's Scottsdale TR Anser2 at Colonial. Mahan -- who finished T-26 for his second solid showing after a four-tournament stretch in which he finished no better than T-73 with two missed cuts -- ranked 15th in strokes gained/putting with the new club.


[Photo: Darren Carroll]

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Gear & Equipment

The End of an Era: USGA/R&A ban anchored putting

Golf's ruling bodies announced this morning that the anchored stroke, the method typically employed by players using long and belly putters and the method that has been used by the most recent winners of the game's two oldest professional championships, will no longer be allowed, beginning in 2016.

AdamScott1.jpgIn a joint announcement, the U.S. Golf Association and The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews cited the definition of the stroke as "freely swinging the entire club" to explain their rationale for instituting a ban on anchored putting, which has been used by the winner of four of the last six major championships, including Webb Simpson's and Ernie Els' wins with anchored belly putters at last year's U.S. Open and British Open and Adam Scott's recent Masters victory with an anchored long putter.

The announcement comes nearly six months after the ruling bodies proposed a rule banning anchoring, and, in unprecedented fashion for a playing rule, after a 90-day public comment period. The rule, which will be known as 14-1b, will go into effect beginning in 2016. Its language is unchanged from the proposed wording announced last November:

"In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either 'directly' or by use of an 'anchor point.'

Related: The anchoring rule in pictures

"Note 1:  The club is anchored 'directly' when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

"Note 2:  An 'anchor point' exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club."

USGA President Glen D. Nager called the decision "necessary." 

"Our best judgment is that Rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game--that the player freely swing the entire club," he said. "The new rule upholds the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf."

Peter Dawson, R&A chief executive, echoed Nager's opinion, and acknowledged its controversial nature. "We recognize this has been divisive issue but after thorough consideration we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf."

Though they sought public comment on the proposed rule to ban anchoring, the ruling bodies were impressed by both the volume and passion of the responses they received. The USGA took in approximately 2,200 individual responses, while the R&A received 450 from 17 countries.

Related: Notable rules changes in golf

In a 40-page explanation, the USGA and R&A outlined responses to a laundry list of objections to the proposal. The document reads almost like a legal treatise or amicus brief, not surprisingly perhaps given that current USGA President Glen D. Nager has argued 13 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. It could also be seen as a first strike against potential anchored putting lawsuits in the future.

Among the most telling words in that document:

On why anchoring is a problem: "Rule 14-1b is based on a judgment that anchoring the club, rather than freely swinging it, might assist the player by altering and reducing the challenge of making a stroke."

On why the rule did not need statistical justification: "The playing rules are definitional: individually and collectively, they reflect what the game is and how it should be played. For example, a player may not pick up the ball and roll it into the hole. That is not because the rulemakers assessed through statistical or other empirical analysis whether players rolling the ball by hand are more successful than players using a club to strike the ball; rather, it is because rolling the ball with one's hand is simply not 'golf.'

On whether it was unfair to ban a method that has been in use for more than 25 years: "It is only recently that a non-trivial and recurring use of anchoring methods emerged--an extremely short time in the history of this 600-year-old game and not reflective of any established tradition."

On why anchoring is not golf: "The concept of immobilizing one end of the golf club  against the body ... is a substantial departure from the traditional understanding of the golf swing."

On why allowing the long and belly putter previously did not stand as tacit approval of anchoring: "No one who chose to use this technique was promised that a rule prohibiting anchored strokes would never be adopted. ...[I]nsisting that any emerging issue of play either be resolved by immediate rule change or  be set aside and permanently ignored would ... place an untenable burden on the rulemaking bodies and be to the severe detriment of the game."

On why banning anchoring will not hurt the growth of the game: "[T]here is a difference between possibly not playing as well and playing less or not at all; and there is a difference between expressions of possible future intent made well in advance of the rule's effective date and actual behaviors that will only later occur as players adapt to the rule." 

On why players will not face extreme hardship because of the ban: "Just as golfers did not need years to transition from making non-anchored strokes with a shorter putter to making anchored strokes with a longer putter, they should not need years to transition to a non-anchored style. The 2016 effective date provides more than enough time for whatever transition steps are deemed desirable and necessary."

On bifurcation: "The history of golf is actually a history of movement toward unification of playing and equipment rules--and this is more than ever true today, as golfers of different abilities from myriad geographies and cultures seek to play the same sport on a national and international basis, and soon in the Olympics."

A GolfDigest.com poll suggests the general public's initial perception of the rule may be as divisive as the leaders of the ruling bodies affirmed today. To the question, "If anchoring is banned by the ruling bodies, would you still do it if you felt it made you a better putter?" slightly more than half (54 percent) answered "yes." 

The leading organizations that play by golf's rules have been just as divided on the issue. The European Tour and LPGA Tour have supported the rulemakers' authority to ban anchored putters, while PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem made it clear that his players "did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour."

Whether the PGA Tour would choose to adopt the rule if it went through, Finchem said at the Players earlier this month: "When they complete this, we'll turn around and have a conversation with our players and our board about the position we should take." 

The most strident opposition came from the PGA of America and its president Ted Bishop, who cited a poll of its membership conducted before the language in the proposed ruling was announced in which 63 percent opposed the anchor ban. Bishop maintained that imposing the ban would have a detrimental effect on the growth of the game. "Enhancing the enjoyment of the game is a personal thing to every golf professional," he told Golf Digest Stix in February. "We can't afford to lose one round of golf or one golfer."


The ruling bodies' explanation concludes with what in that light now sounds like an almost solemn wish: "We understand the concerns expressed by those who feel disadvantaged by this decision. We hope that, when the rule takes effect more than two and a half years from now, the lengthy transitional period and the vast variety of clubs, methods of stroke and playing styles that remain available will enable all golfers to move forward and continue to enjoy the fun and challenge of the game as before."


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