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PGA of America still mulling anchoring position

June 24, 2013

While the main attention this week at Sunriver Resort is the annual PGA Professional National Championship, there were some important discussions taking place behind the scenes of the tournament.

Specifically, the PGA of America conducted a board meeting today to discuss the issue of anchored putting and the recent decision by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to ban the anchored method of putting beginning in 2016. PGA of America president Ted Bishop has questioned the need for the rule and whether it would hinder participation. Upon conclusion of today's board meeting, Bishop issued the following statement:

"The PGA of America Board of Directors met on June 24 at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort, where we discussed Rule 14-1b, which the USGA and R&A recently announced would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, as well as the entire rules-making process in detail. "As we have seen over the past few months, the Rules of Golf can affect recreational golf in addition to play at the elite level. The PGA of America will continue to confer with the PGA Tour on the subject of Rule 14-1b, and The PGA of America will reserve any public comments on this matter until after the PGA Tour Policy Board meets on July 1."

USGA managing director of communications Joe Goode declined comment on Bishop's statement, but did refer to the full explanation of the ruling bodies' reasoning behind the decision that is available on the USGA's website.

When I interviewed him after the anchoring announcement was made by the ruling bodies last month, Bishop indicated the process had only just begun.

"We commissioned our directors to go out and get feedback from the people in their 41 sections and bring that feedback with them to the board meeting and we'll digest it all and in the meantime we'll confer with the PGA Tour and we'll see how it plays out.

"You never know which way it's going to go."

Last month, Bishop said he had hoped before the decision was made that anchoring could have been added as a condition of competiton to the Rules of Golf. (If an event plays by USGA rules currently, anchoring could not be added as condition of competition.)

"The compromise that we hoped happen was to make it a condition of competition. It would be added to the rule book as the 12th condition of competition, and you have a situation where every entity in golf could choose to deal with the condition in the manner in which they wanted to," he said. "That was a way that maybe the recreational amateur and even the competitive amateur at the club level might be playing by a different set of rules that players at the elite level might be playing by. Now that player would have to change when he played in national events. But we deal with it in our national professional championship qualifiers."

He did concede, however, that multiple sets of rules presents certain difficulties.

"In the state of the Indiana you have 400 golf courses, you can't have 300 playing by one set of rules and 100 playing by another set of rules," said Bishop, president of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind. "That's certainly the downside to why two sets of rules is ultimately going to make it very difficult to manage and run the game."

A month ago, Bishop still wasn't sure how or if the PGA of America was going to implement the USGA's anchoring rule.

"The tough part of this is that we as an association still need to figure out what direction we're going to go," he said then. "It's going to be based on the feedback we get from our membership.  Like everybody else, we're going to sit back with some interest to see what the PGA Tour does and where they might head. I guess if there's a bad side to this it's that I don't think at this point anything has really been resolved. The announcement's been made, but it's not really over with yet."

It seems today's statement from Bishop doesn't really move things any closer toward a clear conclusion.