November 27, 2012

Long And Short Of It

The golf world reacts to the USGA/R&A's proposed ban on anchored putting

Keegan Bradley was the first player to win a major by anchoring a putter at the 2011 PGA Championship.

Keegan Bradley was the first player to win a major by anchoring a putter at the 2011 PGA Championship.

Industry reaction to Wednesday's announcement of a proposed ban on anchored putting:

Mark King, President and CEO TaylorMade-adidas Golf: Does it mean the demand for these kinds of putters would drop? Maybe. But at the end of the day I don't think we would sell one more or one less putter.

It's definitely possible to use a broomstick putter without anchoring it, and I speak from experience. I use one and I hold my left hand in a stationery position a couple of inches away from my sternum.

There will be plenty of amateur golfers who won't give up anchoring the putter. It will be hard to give up anchoring if your putting is a lot worse without it.

However, golfers who continue to anchor the putter would be breaking the Rules, which would exclude them from holding a legitimate, USGA-sanctioned handicap, which means they couldn't compete in tournament or event where the Rules of Golf apply. Because of that I think we would see a lot of golf leagues and golf clubs making their own exception to the anchoring rule.

But the truth is that most golfers don't play strictly by the Rules of Golf when they play with their friends, anyway. I don't mean they cheat, I mean that they often go ahead and flatten spike marks even though the Rules forbid it. And how many golfers are okay with hitting a mulligan off the first tee? And that's fine, because the game is about having fun for 99 percent of the golfers who play it, not grinding out a score in tournament play.

Chris Koske, Global Director Odyssey Golf: Odyssey has long held the belief that confidence with the putter is good for the game, particularly regarding player retention and growth potential. But one of the beauties of putting is that there are so many ways to do it.

Notwithstanding the final ruling in 2013, it is Odyssey's pledge to ensure golfers have the same level of confidence when they line up a putt with one of our products regardless of the putting technique. We have anticipated this proposal for some time now and have been busy exploring several alternative options.

It should be noted that Odyssey will continue to offer belly and long putters in the short term for golfers who want to continue using them recreationally.

We'd like golfers everywhere to know that Odyssey has an optimistic approach to the proposal regardless of the outcome. As the #1 Putter in Golf, we have more tour players around the world playing and winning with Odyssey putters than any other company, and we will continue to work with those players to innovate new products and new, alternative methods to putt at the highest level.

Joe Naumann, executive vice president, corporate and legal, Acushnet Company: We intend to review the announcement regarding anchoring issued today by the USGA and R&A and, as a matter of process, appreciate the opportunity to provide comments to them during the comment period.

Stephen Boccieri, President and CEO of Boccieri Golf (maker of the Heavy Putter): Statistics indicate there is no clear advantage with anchoring. There are too many other variables required to make a putt than to insinuate that anchoring is contributing to more putts being made.

You could bring an Iron Archie putting robot out to a green and you are not guaranteed to make more putts. You still have to read the break, know the speed and the grain, so even with a perfect stroke you would not make the putt unless all the stars aligned properly.   Golf is hard enough and right now we need more people playing and enjoying it, this decision will only reduce the number of golfers playing the game, not grow it. Hopefully golfers will continue to use whatever makes them play better and enjoy the game more.

Now that golfers know or have been told a belly or a long is illegal I think it will spark sales in that category. We have four years to make money on what is perceived to be an unfair advantage. Golfers are not going to steer away until they have to.

Ted Bishop, PGA of America President:The PGA has long supported the USGA in its role of establishing the Rules of Golf governing play and equipment. We have representation on the Rules of Golf Committee and we have tremendous respect for the USGA in regard to their critical role in writing and interpreting the Rules of Golf. As our mission is to grow the game, on behalf of our 27,000 men and women PGA Professionals, we are asking them to seriously consider the impact this proposed ban may have on people's enjoyment of the game and the overall growth of the game.

PGA Tour: While the USGA and the R&A have kept us updated on this proposed rule change, we only recently have been able to review the final language and have not until now had the opportunity to share it with our Policy Board and membership. As with any rule change, we will go through our normal process of evaluating the potential impact this will have to all our constituents. It will be discussed at our next annual player meeting on January 22 in San Diego, and it is anticipated that it will be reviewed by our Policy Board during its March meeting. During this review process, we will provide periodic updates to our stakeholders.

Kraig Kann, chief communication officer, LPGA Tour: The LPGA has consistently conducted our official events in accordance with the Rules of Golf as defined by the USGA and the R&A. We certainly respect golf's governing bodies and their long standing desire to protect and promote the best interests of the game.

The proposed new Rule 14-1b prohibiting anchoring the club in making a stroke is not yet final and the LPGA will wait with interest while the USGA and R&A consider further comments and suggestions from the golf community.

In the meantime, we will continue to discuss this proposed change with our players and provide our input and thoughts directly to the USGA and R&A.

Mark Cokewell, president of Rosemark Golf (maker of primarily belly and long putters): When I went through the conforming process with the USGA, I got invited to the USGA and R&A Rules Symposium with manufacturers in November of 2010. I was the only small manufacturer at that conference. All the big manufacturers were there with their R&D and legal teams.

At that conference, the subject of long putters was brought up and if they were planning on any rules changes with the long putter and belly putter. They said, 'No, we've looked at the statistics and there doesn't seem to be any advantage to the long putter and we don't anticipate any rule change.'

In December of 2010, my wife and I pretty much put our life savings into launching this company. We made an infomercial, production, the whole thing.

This ruling today from the USGA, we're almost exactly two years from the time I sat in his conference with these guys, now I don't know what the future of my company is. I think it's pretty much done.

We already saw our sales at Edwin Watts and Golfsmith online drop about 40 percent once the talk got serious this year that they were thinking about a rules change.

The pressure is going to be so great I don't think any professional player will use it. If the players don't use it I can't sell it.

I'm pretty disappointed with the USGA.

Brandt Snedeker: This rule has not been made because three guys won majors; this rule has been made because there's a generation of golfers who have never had a short putter and is that the way the game of golf is supposed to go? That's not up for me, Keegan Bradley, me, Brad Faxon to decide. I wish it was because it would be an easy decision for me. So I think, I say this all the time, we as Tour pros, we all think we're very, very smart. We're not when it comes to governing the game of golf. We have no clue how to do that. The USGA and the R&A do. Peter Dawson and Mike Davis are extremely intelligent people. They know what they're doing when it comes to the game of golf. I trust them implicitly, 100 percent, whatever they decide to do, and I think that's the way the game of golf should be. And I think the guys on Tour should fall in line with that rule.  I don't think there should ever be two sets of rules. The PGA Tour has never done that. I don't see that happening any time soon.

Keegan Bradley:It affects me a lot. I'm going to have to in the next couple years try to figure out a way that's going to be best for me to putt. I've had success in the past with the short putter, so hopefully I'll be able to do that again. There's part of me that realizes there's not much I can do personally. I just want to make it obvious that I respect what the USGA is trying to do. I don't want to say the wrong thing. I think there definitely will be and that's pretty sad for players like myself and Webber (Simpson) and others. I think we're looked at differently now after this ruling and I don't know that that's exactly fair. It's difficult for me to 100 percent understand this. I do understand the USGA is trying to protect the game. I know they're not doing it to maliciously hurt me or the other guys. I see myself finding a way to putt as similar to what I do as possible. 

Webb Simpson: It's something I expected. I knew they were going to do it so it didn't surprise me. I've got three and a half years to adjust, hopefully I'll be in a short putter before that.

Matt Kuchar: I think it's in the best nature of the game. I think the game was not intended to be played that way. You control both ends of the club with every shot.

I was very confident that the way I do it was going to continue to be legal. The butt end of my putter is not at a fixed point. It is moving. I'm still in control of both ends of the putter. I think that was what the USGA was looking to do. With every other shot you hit you control both ends of the club. In the tradition of the game I think they made the right ruling.

Dustin Johnson, via Twitter: Anchored putter ban makes no difference to me. Didn't care for 'em in the first place!!!

Nick Faldo, via Twitter: #R&A #USGA...good simple proposed change #NoAnchor #NoHinge...now can we crack on! #GrowGolf

Graeme McDowell, via Twitter: Careful and considered from the USGA/R&A on rule change banning anchoring of a golf club to the body. Only decision that could be made #2016

Peter Kostis, via Twitter: Wow! I think they just said the stroke that Billy Casper used for his 51 tour victories is no longer allowed. Hands&arm against the thigh

Arron Oberholser, via Twitter: USGA, USGA, what do you see? I see lawsuits looking at me!!! PGA Tour, PGA Tour, what do you see? I see OUR OWN RULES looking at me!!!

Gary Player, via Twitter: The R&A and USGA have made the right call on not allowing anchoring whilst still leaving all players to use long putters.

Steve Flesch, via Twitter: Enough with the 90 days and actual rule change in 3 yrs. USGA just needs to implement the rule and move on.

Compiled by Mike Stachura, E. Michael Johnson, and John Strege.