As expected, the USGA and the R&A proposed a new rule that would ban anchoring of the club, most applicably the putter, to the body when making a stroke on Wednesday morning in a joint teleconference (see below for video aired on Golf Channel).
While golf’s governing bodies call it a “proposal,” it’s pretty much been decided that the rule will be implemented — but of course, to cover their bases, there will be a 90-day thorough review, so the members of the USGA and R&A rules committees can hear every side to every argument possible (as if this hasn’t been discussed enough) before the next approval in Spring of 2013.
However, the new anchoring ban will not go into effect until January 1, 2016, the next official review in the four-year rotation where the powers-that-be make such tweaks and changes or implement controversial new rules.
The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf’s governing bodies, today announced proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that would prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke.
The proposed Rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by The R&A and the USGA, would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player’s body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.
The proposed new Rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke. The proposed Rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer’s ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style.
Prior to taking a final decision on the proposed Rule, The R&A and the USGA will consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community.
“We believe we have considered this issue from every angle but given the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A.
Proposed Changes to Rule 14-1
The proposed change would relabel current Rule 14-1 as Rule 14-1a, and establish Rule 14-1b as described below:
14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”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.
The proposed Rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf. This timetable would also provide an extended period in which golfers may, if necessary, adapt their method of stroke to the requirements of the Rule.
For more information about the newly proposed Rule, as well as additional information including videos and images of strokes that would be allowed or prohibited by the proposed changes to Rule 14-1, visit RandA.org/anchoring or USGA.org/anchoring.
New Rule Would Define and Preserve the Nature of the Stroke
In proposing the new Rule, The R&A and the USGA concluded that the long-term interests of the game would be served by confirming a stroke as the swinging of the entire club at the ball.
“Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “The player’s challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge. Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club.”
New Rule Would Address Recent Developments in the Game
This proposal reflects The R&A’s and USGA’s responsibility to define how the game is to be played. Aspects of how a player must make a stroke have been addressed in past Rules changes, such as the century-old Rule codifying that the ball must be fairly struck and not be pushed, scraped or spooned and the 1968 prohibition on the “croquet” style of putting.
“As governing bodies, we monitor and evaluate playing practices and developments in golf, with our primary mandate being to ensure that the Rules of Golf continue to preserve the fundamental characteristics of the game,” added Davis.
Although anchoring the club is not new, until recently it was uncommon and typically seen as a method of last resort by a small number of players. In the last two years, however, more and more players have adopted the anchored stroke. Golf’s governing bodies have observed this upsurge at all levels of the game and noted that more coaches and players are advocating this method. The decision to act now is based on a strong desire to reverse this trend and to preserve the traditional golf stroke.
“Anchored strokes have become the preferred option for a growing number of players and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game,” said Dawson. “Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the longstanding character of the sport.”
Review Process and Timetable
Earlier this year, The R&A and the USGA announced that they were reviewing the subject of anchoring. There has been widespread discussion of the issue throughout the international golf community which has been noted by the governing bodies.
Here’s the detailed infographic the USGA provides to help explain the anchoring ban:
Next, the full transcript of the teleconference (with all due respect, I wouldn’t try and tackle this reading if you’re the least bit tired. It’s meaty, and err, very detailed, as expected. (I highlighted the section where Mike Davis explains trends and percentages on Tour.)
JOE GOODE: On behalf of the USGA and the R&A, golf’s governing bodies I would like to welcome media and other guests from around the world for today’s live teleconference which marks an important step forward in defining The Rules of Golf and in a fundamental part of the game.
I would also like to welcome those listening in on PGA TOUR Radio and those watching at home on the Golf Channel. My name Joe Goode, Managing Director of Communications for the United States Golf Association, and over the course of the next 45 minutes, we’ll hear from Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R&A. We’ll discuss the year‑long review of Rule 14‑1 and the changes being proposed today. We will also hear from USGA Executive Director, Mike Davis, who will explain in detail these particular changes and how they will be applied to the game. Mike will be using a number of visuals in his opening remarks, and these same materials are provided on our respect web sites.
Mike and Peter be joined this morning by David Rickman and Thomas Pagel who oversee The Rules of Golf for the R&A and the USGA respectively. It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A.
PETER DAWSON: Thank you, Joe and I echo your welcome to all parts. Thank you all for being with us.
Earlier this year, the R&A and the USGA announced that we were both reviewing the subject of anchoring. As you know better than anyone, there’s been a widespread discussion of the issue throughout the international golf community, which has of course been noted by the governing bodies. Each organization indicated that an announcement would be made before the end of this year, and that is exactly what we are here doing today.
The R&A and the USGA are announcing a proposed rule change that would prohibit the anchoring of the club in making a stroke. The proposed rule, 14‑1b would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club, being held directly against the player’s body; or with a forearm being held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.
Anchored strokes have very rapidly become the preferred option for a growing number of players, and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game. Our conclusion is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes, which with all their frailties are integral to the long‑standing character of our sport. Our objective is to preserve the skill and challenge, which is such a key element of the game of golf.
The R&A and the USGA will use the next three months to listen to any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community before a final decision on the new rule is taken by each organization in the spring of 2013.
We believe we have considered this issue from every angle, but we do recognize the wide‑ranging interests in the subject, and we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration. The proposed rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in line with the normal four‑year rules cycle.
I’m now going to hand it over to Mike Davis, who will give you more detail on the proposed rule and other surrounding matters.
MIKE DAVIS: Peter, thank you, and thank you for everybody who is joining us, both on the webinar and on the teleconference. I’m going to take several minutes here to go through what the rule is about, but before I do that, let me take a little bit of time just to explain some additional things about why we are doing this.
First of all, it’s very important to note that this is a purposely very narrow band, the proposed rule change that we are talking about. This is going to be focused just on anchored strokes. In no way does the R&A and the USGA want to stifle creativity in making strokes by golfers.
And therefore, you are going to see that the way this rule is written, we had an intent to allow many different types of strokes. That’s the way golf has been done for many years. I’ll also note, it’s very important to understand, this is not an equipment change.
We are going to continue with long putters and we are going to continue with the belly putters. In 1989, we made a statement saying that we thought long putters were okay for the game. We stand by that statement today. This is all about the stroke.
And if you think about it, the stroke and the rules, in the playing of the game, is one of the most fundamental things about the game of golf. We believe a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely; whether it’s a putt, a chip, a pitch, a bunker shot, an iron shot, a recovery shot or a shot played from the teeing ground. We think this is integral to the traditions of the game. Golf is a game of skill and challenge, and we think that’s an important part of it.
And if you think about golf that’s been around for 600 years, the vast majority of the game has been played, by all golfers, not anchoring. And for those golfers that anchor today, I think we would say virtually every one of them; that the 60 million golfers in the world, some of which anchor right now, we suspect that at some point in their golfing careers, they did play the game without anchoring.
So what this change is really going to do today is it’s going to clarify the game. It’s going to define what the stroke should be. And we have gone roughly three decades with a fairly controversial and divisive issue, and we really think this is good for the game moving forward to make this change.
Looking forward, when we do make rules changes, it’s important to note what we go through it, we look back at history and we also look at the present, but really, ultimately by definition, rules changes are ultimately about looking to the future. That’s what this is about. We think this is the right thing for the game moving forward.
So for those of you joining via webinar, I would ask you to look at that, and the first thing I’m going to go through is actually the proposed rule. And so it starts out saying: “In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club either
“directly” or by use of an anchor point.
And if you look down under Notes 1 and 2, it really defines what ‘”directly” an anchor point’ means.
Before I get to Note 1, it’s important for everybody to understand that this proposed rules change is a change to what we are going to allow a stroke to be whether it’s on the putting green, or off the putting green.
So this would prohibit anchoring if you are using some type of longer putter from off the putting green, or, we have been seeing some cases fairly recently where players are starting to anchor chip shots. Maybe they are taking a hybrid club and sticking the club in their belly. So this would prohibit all anchored strokes.
So getting to Note 1, it says: “The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body.
And I’m going to stop there. The key to this is what we are talking about indirectly is you will not be able to take the club, or a gripping hand, and intentionally hold it against any part of your body. So that means: Your mid‑section, your chest, your chin, your armpit, your thigh. You also can’t take a gripping hand to do that. So it’s about both those things.
The other thing, it uses the word ‘intentionally’ in there. It’s very important to know that there will not be a breach of this rule unless there’s intent to anchor it. So if it’s accidental, there would be no breach. And we see that throughout many of the rules where the intent of the player does matter.
Then you get to the exception still in Note 1: “To except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.”
I’m going to get to that when we get to the pictures and really explain what that means.
When we get to Note 2, it says: “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.”
And I’m going to really help paint that picture of what that means when we get to a picture of a player using a long putter.
The reason Note 2 is in there because ultimately under Note 1, we said, you just can’t take a club, anchor it against your body, or you can’t take a gripping hand; the reason Note 2 is in place is because if we didn’t have it, we would feel that players could take a forearm and essentially circumvent the intent of the rule.
So let’s get to some of the strokes that first of all, that are permitted under this new proposed rule. First of all, here you have a player with a traditional‑length putter, traditional grip, obviously there’s no anchoring going on. So this would be permitted.
Next you have a player using the same putter but he happens to be using a claw grip. No problem here because the player is not anchoring in any fashion.
Next we get to a player who is essentially almost doing the same thing but in this case, he’s got his elbows kind of tucked into his side. No problem there. We would not consider this anchoring the club, and therefore, it would be a permissible stroke.
Here we have a player using a mid‑length putter, some people call it a belly putter, but there’s no anchoring going on. So this would be permissible. We are not taking away use of any long club. This was a stroke that was used by Angel Cabrera when he won the 2009 Masters. Recently, we saw Davis Love using a mid‑length putter at a PGA TOUR event in Sea Island.
And here you have a player using a chest‑length, or a long putter, and note here that the putter is not up against the player. The gripping hand, in this case his left hand, is not up against his chest; nor, is his forearm against the chest.
So in this case, the player can use a long putter, and can virtually make the same‑looking stroke, as if it was anchored up against him.
But I think that, you know, one of the keys to this whole thing is we think by anchoring, when you restrict the movement of the club partially by having it anchored, you create some stability. You create some support. And in this case, the player is having to control the whole club. And we think this is an important slide to show that for those golfers who just don’t feel like they can use a short putter, they can’t putt conventionally, or maybe they have a bad back and they just don’t want to lean over, this is a stroke that we are allowing.
While it may look the same as an anchored stroke, it is a much different stroke, and one that we are perfectly comfortable with. And we think some of the people currently using long putters in an anchoring fashion will actually gravitate to this type of stroke.
Here you have a player using a cross‑handed method. No problem here. The player is not anchoring.
And here you have a player that actually has the end of the club resting against his left forearm. We would consider this not an anchored stroke, even though that the club is resting against him. We are viewing this, we are deeming this to be really the way the player is gripping the club. For those that follow the PGA TOUR, this is a stroke that Matt Kuchar has used the last several years. This would still be allowed.
This stroke right here is essentially another way of gripping the club. So in this case, the player‑‑ and this is where I noted before, the exception under Note 1, these things are permitted because the club or a hand can essentially rest or grip a forearm. So as long as it doesn’t go above the forearm, the player in this case is okay. We feel this is okay, even though some people may view this as hey, wait a minute, he is still anchoring the club, we don’t view it that way. This is just a form of gripping the club. The player is still controlling the whole club and still swinging it.
Now let’s get to some prohibited strokes. First one is really, you know, a player using what we are seeing so much now in golf, is a belly putter anchored directly into the mid‑section. This would not be permitted.
Here you have a player, also, intentionally anchoring the club but in this case, using a long putter and anchoring it onto the chin. Would not be permitted.
And here is a player using a long putter, but not necessarily taking the putter itself and anchoring it to the chest, but holding it in a gripping hand so that the gripping hand is anchored to the chest. In this manner, we don’t believe the stroke should exist because the player is not controlling the whole club. There is extra support, stability to this, and you can see these two hands are not working together and we don’t think this is a free‑swinging stroke and therefore we just don’t think that it’s the right thing for the game moving forward.
Here you have a picture that really illustrates in Note 2 what we are talking about using a forearm for. In this case, we didn’t want to see a player just lift his left hand off his chest and really circumvent the intent of this rule. So if you place a forearm in such a manner where you create a stable point around which the club may be swung, that, too, would be a breach. So you can’t take a forearm, anchor it to any part of your body, if you are creating a stable point; in this case, the left hand is working very much differently than the right hand.
And here is just a further illustration of that point that clearly these hands are not working together. There’s not a free swing of the club.
Okay, here you have a player that actually has both hands anchored up against his thigh, and this, too, would not be permitted. It’s made during the stroke.
Okay. I’m going to move on, and Peter and I can certainly entertain any technical questions you’d have, and as Joe Goode mentioned, we have David Rickman from the R&A as well as Thomas Pagel from the USGA that would be available for real technical questions.
But the next thing I want to touch on is the question of, you know, why are we doing this now, when anchoring has been around for the last three decades. We have seen evidence of long putters going all the way back to the 1930s and those are very logical questions and certainly questions a lot of people are asking themselves.
Essentially it boils down to two things; that in the last 18 to 24 months, we have seen a significant increase at all levels of the game of people using anchored strokes. I’ll start out with the PGA TOUR.
For years, we saw two, three, four percent of players at PGA TOUR events using anchored strokes. Mostly with the long putters back in the 80s and 90s. And all of a sudden, we get to 2006 through 2010, and then it jumped to an average of six percent. Then all of a sudden, 2011, so last year, it almost doubled, and it goes to 11 percent. This year, it’s jumped to 15 percent. And in some events, have even over 20, 25 percent of the players in the field using anchored strokes.
This, like so many things with the elite game, has transferred to the elite amateur game, the elite junior game. So we are seeing increases at elite amateur events, elite junior events, and that, too, has translated to the recreational game.
So in the last couple years, we have seen a definite increase in the sales of long putters, belly putters, and while there’s no way for the R&A and USGA to know worldwide of the 60 million players that play, how many players use anchored strokes, we can certainly deduct from that that, you know, trends do follow the professional tours and we do think and we see it ourselves anecdotally, with recreational golf.
The other thing, the other big reason, is that for years, people that use anchored strokes, that use the long putters, seem to fall into the category of those that it was their last stroke, kind of a last resort thing, because they just couldn’t putt conventionally. Maybe it was a nerve problem; they couldn’t bend over. But most golfers who anchored fell into that category.
We also had some golfers who maybe they were older and just said, I can’t lean over, it hurts my back, I can’t practice with something shorter. And what’s changed in the last couple years, is that we now are seeing a growing advocacy of players who are using it.
But also, instructors saying that this is a more efficient way to make a stroke. It alleviates certain inherent challenges. It stabilizes the club and gives extra support and stability.
I think the difference now is we are seeing golfers who no longer see this as a stroke of last resort. They see it gravitating and ultimately, ladies and gentlemen, that is why we are making this proposed rules change today. This is all about the future of the game. It’s about us defining the game, defining a stroke, clarifying a very controversial and divisive situation.
And ultimately as we said, golf gets back to holding the club with two hands and swinging it freely. We have seen changes before with the governing bodies where we said, you know what, it may be fun to putt billiard‑style, but that’s not golf. It may be good, effective, enjoyable to putt croquet‑style. That’s not golf. Shuffleboard‑style, spooning, scraping, pushing, those are not considered strokes in golf, and that is why we are making this change today.
We feel strongly it is in the best interests of the game moving forward, and we certainly would acknowledge that some golfers will be not happy with this. But we would hope everybody understands that the R&A and the USGA are doing what it feels or what we feel is in the best interests of the game moving forward.
Q. Were there any studies that concluded that any of the anchoring methods that are no longer going to be acceptable for play in 2016 actually produced better results on the greens or that people actually made more putts using them?
PETER DAWSON: In actual fact, I think we have to make it very clear that this proposed rule change is not directly performance‑related. This is about defining the game and defining what is a stroke in golf.
If you think about it, it would be extremely difficult to gain any meaningful performance data, because there is no control experiment as to how a particular player might have putted had he been using a conventional stroke as opposed to an anchored one on a particular day.
In terms of comparing players that are using anchored strokes with players who are using conventional strokes, there is no compelling data to say one is better than the other. It’s an individual thing for individual players.
But I emphasize the reason for proceeding with this rules change is not performance related. It is about defining what is a golf stroke.
Q. You made a comment here that the stroke is a last resort by a lot of teachers today and we are looking at the fewer of the game. In this economic climate that we are weathering, we are losing a lot of golfers per year and your counterparts at the PGA are constantly saying growing the game. Was any consideration given for this maybe impeding progress of growing the game, the R&A traditionally known as the tradition of the game, or the USGA then says, for protection and for the good of the game. Can you chime in and give me a little bit of that, and let us know your thought process.
MIKE DAVIS: Sure, absolutely. That’s a very good question because it’s such an important topic.
And I can assure you that no one with the R&A and the USGA doesn’t want to see the game grow and doesn’t want to see it healthy, and we care about that greatly. And candidly, with what we do on a daily basis, we are doing nothing but trying to do everything we can to help the health of the game.
But let me clarify something you said. You said that the game is shrinking, it’s not growing. But that would be true in the United States, and certain parts of Europe, Japan, but the game is growing in other parts of the world. Clearly in the U.S., other parts of the Europe, we are in a deep recession.
And when you look at study after study, you quickly find that golf’s participation has much more to do with the cost of the game, the time the game takes to play, the accessibility of the game.
Skill and challenge are such an important part of golf for so many golfers, that’s what brings them back to the game. That’s why they play the game, and we don’t feel that‑‑ and again, this would be backed up by The PGA of America’s own Golf 2.0 study that says, the participation levels have much more to do with cost and the time it takes. Difficulty is way down the list, and anchoring would only be a very, very small part of that.
So ultimately, we don’t think quitting the game or not playing the game is really an option when this comes to this anchored stroke.
PETER DAWSON: I agree very much with what Mike has said. We do find in many many surveys that the challenge of golf, that is what attracts people to the game, and what keeps people in the game. It wasn’t me who said this, but I think the quote that anchored strokes are not being used as an alternative to quitting the game, it’s fundamentally what we believe.
Q. Have you had any discussions with Tim Finchem regarding the proposed rule and if he gave you any indication that the PGA TOUR was okay and on board with this.
MIKE DAVIS: Well, yes, we actually have.
The PGA TOUR, like the LPGA, The PGA of America, happen to be consulting members to the USGA Rules of Golf Committee. Just like The European Tour, for example, is a member, consulting member, of the R&A Rules of Golf Committee. So absolutely we have discussions with Tim and the PGA TOUR policy board.
I think it would be fair to say this question would be better answered by Tim himself or a member of the Policy Board, but certainly the TOUR is aware of what’s going on and they have a process they have to go through. So really it would be inappropriate for me to comment any more beyond that.
PETER DAWSON: Speaking for the European side of things and other parts of the world, we, too, have representatives of The European Tour on our Rules of Golf Committee.
But I think Ken Schofield perhaps won’t mind my quoting him when he was Executive Director of The European Tour, he said The European Tour are rules followers, not rules makers.
I think from some remarks attributed over the past two or three days to George O’Grady, that sentiment lives on on The European Tour.
Q. Many of the rules change in the past have been based on scientific fact and evidence, i.e, the grooves. Is there any science involved in this or is it totally a philosophical decision?
MIKE DAVIS: Very good question. This is a plain rule. This is not an equipment rule. And the equipment rules are based on facts, research. There’s a formal notice and comment period that we go through with manufacturers. In this case, this is simply us clarifying what a stroke should not be.
So we have hundreds of rules changes on a four‑year cycle, and those are not based on any type of performance type thing. They are based on what we think is based for the game moving forward, and for all golfers.
Q. I wonder if there is any concern over comments that were made by Keegan Bradley and others suggesting that they may fight this kind of move.
PETER DAWSON: Well, we obviously are aware of some of the remarks or some of the comments that have been attributed to Keegan and to other players. I think they had the opportunity yesterday at their press conferences in California to clarify their position, and both he and Webb Simpson did so.
Whilst neither perhaps agree with the change, they both said that they accepted the governing bodies’ authority, if you like, and were already practicing, in Webb’s case, towards the new rule being implemented and Keegan seemed to accept that if this was going to happen, he would have to do the same.
So whilst we accept that the new rule affects certain players, we very much hope that those players will put the governing bodies view of the good of the game at the forefront of their consideration.
Q. How thin was the line that put it over the top that this was necessary? Was it a wide margin? Did it go right down to the wire? Can you give us some feel for how overwhelming the decision was in this direction?
MIKE DAVIS: I will tell you this is an issue that’s been looked at for decades. Clearly this goes back to the 1980s when the R&A and the USGA looked at it. I can tell you that we were not keen on anchoring then, but as I mentioned before, when we make rules changes, we have to look at things‑‑ we have to look at everything. At that point, the rules makers did not feel that a rules change was necessary.
But it was this recent increase, it was this recent advocacy of players, instructors to move towards the anchored stroke that really, I will tell you got us to the point where we said, we need to act in the best interests of the game moving forward.
So there is absolute alignment between the R&A and the USGA on this one. We feel strongly. The leadership feels strongly that it is in the best interests of the game.
Q. You mentioned that in the last 18 to 24 months that this really became a pressing matter, yet players like Webb Simpson and Adam Scott have mentioned that distance increases, larger drivers, things like that have really been a bigger issue for the game for some time and changing the way skill is determined. I’m wondering if you can discuss why this was more pressing perhaps than that issue, especially as the Old Course at St. Andrews is needing to be modified to keep up with this changing game.
PETER DAWSON: If I can just address the Old Course issue very quickly, that’s not the subject we are here to discuss directly. Under the proposals, there’s been quite a bit of hysteria about recently because I think they have not been well understood. There’s absolutely no distance or lengthening of the golf course being proposed whatsoever; it’s for other quite detailed reasons and I’m quite happy to discuss that with you separately.
As far as the distance issue is concerned, clearly that is very germane to the future of the game. 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.
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.
MIKE DAVIS: Just to add to that, Peter mentioned 2000 two, 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.
Q. You had mentioned the percentage of PGA TOUR players who were anchoring. I wanted it know if you had any information on Champions Tour players and what impact do you think this will have on that tour?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, good question. I didn’t have that at my fingertips right now. There’s certainly a higher percentage of players anchoring on the Champions Tour, just like there is a lower percentage of players on the LPGA Tour that are anchoring. And we believe, and I don’t have that in front of me, on The European Tour it’s less than the PGA TOUR.
But one of the things that’s consistent an all of those tours is that we have seen an increase recently. In terms of the effect of it, I think the important thing to again restate is that this is a very narrow band.
We think we are giving plenty of options, plenty of creativity to golfers to figure out other methods. We are just simply saying, we do not think anchored strokes should be a part of the game moving forward.
Q. You guys have been very careful to make this not an equipment rule change, but a playing rule change. Has it become too costly in terms of possible litigation to even make any equipment rulings at this time?
PETER DAWSON: Frankly, no. As governing bodies, we take our role extremely seriously to do what we think is right for the game, and I can honestly say for the R&A, and I’ll leave it for Mike to speak to the USGA, that litigation is not something that we consider in any depth or with any seriousness when we are trying to do what’s right for the game of golf.
MIKE DAVIS: I agree with what Peter said, and I would furthermore say that we are in the governance business. We are here to do things that other groups, golfers, cannot do. They don’t write and interpret, whether it’s the playing rules, the equipment rules, the amateur status rules, and we need to do what we think is right. And shame on us if we are scared of litigation for doing the right thing.
So we are always going to try to do the right thing and it would be unfortunate if we get involved in litigation, but we can’t make that part of our decision making. It just simply is not the right thing for the game.
Q. David, when we spoke at Lytham in April about the work that was going on in crafting the rule, you had discussed the difficulty in trying to get the wording correct. This is only 20 words in the rule itself. Could you talk a little about what it took to get the rule to the point where it is, No. 1. And No.2, as we discussed then, this is going to be one of the first times, if not the first time in the history of the rules, a rule that’s going to be very visual to understand as shown by today’s presentation. Could you talk a little about the efforts that the bodies are going to have to put together in the next few years to get people to understand what the rule actually is?
DAVID RICKMAN: Certainly the drafting of the rule has been an interesting challenge for the governing bodies. Fortunately we have very good people on our respective rules committees that have helped us in that process.
But the challenge has been to try and produce a short, simple and clear rule. I think that we have achieved that, but of course it will only work if golfers truly understand the new proposed regulation, and of course, it will take some time to establish that.
I think as we move forward, in addition to the written word, we are increasingly trying to use visual methods to explain all of the rules, and this one in particular, I think does lend itself to visual imagery; and therefore, we will certainly use that to help explain the rule going forward.
Q. Did you consult your lawyers and with you consider defending this all the way through the American legal system to the Supreme Court?
PETER DAWSON: The answer to that is we do consult and we do take legal advice whenever we are doing something like this, more to ensure that our process is robust than any other defensive reason.
We believe very strongly that the governing bodies have the authority in the game to make rules changes. But we obviously need to do so responsibly. Once we are convinced we have done that, we would defend our position all the way up the legal system I’m quite certain.
Our advice at the R&A of course tends to be under Scottish law and the USGA advice I’m sure is from the United States, but it’s not for me to speak to that. But yeah, once we have decided we have done the right thing, we are ready to defend it all the way.
Q. You mentioned you were going to have three months to receive comments before the final decision is taken. What, if anything, do you think you might hear in that three‑month period and can anything be said that might change anything you are proposing today?
PETER DAWSON: Well, as we said earlier on, we do think we have thought this through from every angle. But there may be things that people have to say that we haven’t considered, and of course, by definition, I can’t tell you what those are because we haven’t thought of them yet.
So we are genuinely open to what people have to say and we will listen to that. But I think everyone should realize that most of the matters that have been debated in the media and so on already have already been taken into account in our thinking. But we remain very open to comments on new ground.
Q. You said, “Shame on us for not trying to get it right.” Must question then is: What if you’re wrong? What happens if those 60 million golfers that you say have to have a dramatic increase following the PGA TOUR, what if they do want to walk away from the game, and what if you find that the game is not growing? Then what?
MIKE DAVIS: Just to clarify, my comment was, shame on us if we think there’s a right move to make in the game and we don’t make it because of threat of litigation. I just want to clarify, that’s what I meant to say if I didn’t say that.
With respect to looking at the future, sure, we understand there’s going to be certain players that are unhappy about this. But as we said before, we think there are options on this. We think this clarifies and actually helps the game long‑term.
So would there be some players that maybe decide that, you know, I’m not going to play quite as much? We think that golfers are a resilient group of people. They figure out things. They are creative.
And if you look at the history‑‑ and furthermore, what I would say is that, you know, the game has been around for 600 years. And we have seen anchoring for 30. And that’s to suggest that for 570 years, golfers who didn’t do it, I mean, all of a sudden human beings have changed now.
And back to the point, we do think that virtually every golfer that’s played the game at one point played without anchoring, and we think they can find, you know, we haven’t taken long putters away, we have given them choices, so we just do not see that premise as one that is going to continue or to come through.
Q. Is the penalty for the violation of this proposed change disqualification?
MIKE DAVIS: Yes, good question, because I forgot to cover that.
In match play, if there is a breach of this, it would be loss of hole. Just like if you breached the rule that says you can’t push a ball or you can’t spoon it. In stroke play during each occurrence of it if there is a breach, it would be a two‑stroke penalty.
Q. When a player as decorated as Tiger Woods and hits the ball as far as Tiger Woods, says that we swing all 13 other clubs, I think the putter should be the same, does his opinion carry more weight or more influence in this event?
PETER DAWSON: Gosh, I don’t think so. Obviously Tiger is one of the top players in the world and top player opinion is one factor here. But what has driven us forward in this rule change has been the growth of the number of people using anchored strokes at all levels in the game.
Whilst it’s very heartening to know that some of the top players support that view, I wouldn’t say it was a driver for the rule change by any means.
Q. You both indicated that this is not a performance issue, and therefore, it must be purely an aesthetic issue and I think it is a very complicated rule for the individuals to try and adopt and call themselves on infractions. Is it really worth it just because it’s sort of a non‑traditional method?
PETER DAWSON: I think as a fundamental role of the governing body to define, and this would be true of any sport, to define how their respective sports are to be played. And just because something may be complicated, is not a reason I feel to shy away, in the case of golf, from defining a stroke.
That’s what we have done today and I think I echo what Mike said earlier that this is actually going to clear up quite a lot of confusion and speculation in the game, and once things are settled down, it will be good for the game, which, in essence, its strength is in its skill and challenge.
MIKE DAVIS: The only thing I would add there is we would not necessarily agree that this is a real complex rule that people can’t understand.
We worked language and hard to make this clear. We are going to do everything we can in the next three years, whether it’s video, photos or just explaining the language to make sure that golfers understand, PGA members understand, and furthermore, it has nothing to do about the look.
As I explained before, we are not taking away long putters. So the look had zero to do with this. This was all about the free swing, not restricting part of the club.
Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, the poster-boys for young players who have had success as the first two to win majors using belly putters, said on Tuesday at Sherwood Country Club that they would not pursue lawsuits if anchoring is banned. Naturally, this doesn’t mean they agree with the ban. I reckon they’re kind of pissed.
“I’m obviously not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA, and especially Mike Davis,” Bradley said. “They make the rules, and I’ll adjust appropriately. But I’m going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it.”
“My argument the whole time is to change something that drastic, it needs to be based off facts and not what certain people think the tradition of the game looks like,” Simpson said. “But look, I’m not going to be one of those guys that says this is a terrible decision. I’m just saying to make a change this big, show me the facts. And hey, they’re the governing body, so we’ll see what happens.”
Simpson already has been practicing with a conventional putter, preparing for such a ban. He said if there is a ban, he would use the conventional putter at home, and then in pro-am rounds and make the switch when he’s comfortable with it.
“I’m just going to take it one step at a time until my comfort level gets better and better,” Simpson said. “If I feel ready by Hyundai (the start of the 2013 season), I’ll be putting with a short putter. And if I don’t feel ready for two years, I’ll wait.”
There’s been a lot of chit-chat amongst industry insiders and Tour pros on how Webb will fare with a short putter because his stroke with the belly is already “jabby,” as it’s commonly described. Being able to use the conventional putter won’t be the issue — rather it’ll be hard to fight the nerves like they did with the putter anchored to their belly.
My main issue is why must we waiting until 2016 to put this rule in effect? I know that’s how the USGA does these things — every four years, but I can see things getting murky as 2016 gets closer and guys are still anchoring even though they know it’s been deemed illegal. That could start accusations of players “cheating” or considered “against the spirit of the game,” etc.
Can’t the governing bodies make an exception and just move it up to 2014?
Please discuss and fire away with your opinions. Let’s try to be civil. I feel like this controversy makes people very angry. It’s almost as vicious as talking politics! *shudder*