It may be time for the PGA Tour, European Tour and all the other professional organizations to adopt their own set of rules. Obviously this is easier said than done.
The Rules of Golf are more complicated than the tax code. The USGA and the R&A will tell you that the rules are unified for the first time ever across the world, and that is a good thing. But the Rules of Golf continue to run contrary to the professional game.
The USGA has failed to rein in equipment. The amount of research and technology, as well as money, that goes into making a golf ball travel farther and spin more is astounding. If Exxon put that much effort into finding alternate forms of fuel, our cars would run on old banana peels.
And now the USGA and the R&A are aiming their magic darts at “anchoring.” If there ever were a time for the professional organizations to step in, that time is now. All indications are that sometime later this year, the USGA and the R&A are going to announce that “anchoring” – and by extension, long putters and belly putters – will be banned starting in 2016. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable amount of time for players to adjust, but when you consider all the factors, you realize that there is far more to the story than that.
We are not just talking about players like Webb Simpson and Ernie Els being affected. We are talking about dozens of PGA Tour and European Tour players – not to mention the Champions Tour – where the number of players using the longer putter approaches 50 percent. We are talking about players making a living.
I should interject here and explain that I don’t care one way or the other on the long-putter debate. I tried the belly putter for a few weeks and got absolutely no benefit whatsoever from it. But if I had found the promised land with it, I would fight to keep it.
The USGA will use a word such as equity and a phrase such as spirit of the game when it discusses a potential change. The more pragmatic approach should use words such as mortgage and making a living. Inevitably if the rules are changed and adopted by the PGA Tour, there will be players – high-profile players – whose careers will be extinguished. That is a fact, and it would be bad for business. Ernie Els and Webb Simpson are good for business.
The PGA Tour (and the other organizations) has shown reluctance to step in and adopt its own set of rules, but it could and it should. It would give the professional game the ability to govern far more than the length of a guy’s putter. It then easily could handle some of the other aspects of the game that have been ignored by the USGA and its counterpart, the R&A.
The Tour, with its own set of rules, could mandate that the ball be dialed back a few percentage points so that players hit it 340 instead of 355. This is just one example that would be good for the game. Long-driving players still would be long, but maybe we wouldn’t have to rebuild every great golf course in the world to make it a challenge for the best players in the world.
The possibilities here are endless. There is no other sport that even attempts to have the same set of rules for professionals as it does for amateurs. Furthermore there is no other sport in which the governing body for the professionals is an amateur organization. I have the utmost respect for the USGA and the R&A. What I don’t understand is how it would cause any problem for the professional game to govern the professional game.
I have heard all the tired, old arguments before about how golf is the only game with one set of rules for all. What I don’t understand is the thinking that it is a good thing. You don’t play like Bubba, Ernie, Webb or Tiger. Their organization should make their rules. The rest of us, those who play for the love of the game, will continue to ignore the rules on Saturday mornings like always.