Achenbach: This anchor drops quietly
FAR HILLS, N.J. – This was not the blockbuster occasion that some had envisioned.
In a modest auditorium at the U.S. Golf Association’s Golf House, a small group of two dozen people gathered Tuesday to hear the announcement that Rule 14-1B had been adopted by the game’s two rulesmaking bodies: the USGA and R&A.
This ends all the speculation. The use of the anchored stroke – whether it be for putting, chipping or any other attempt to hit the ball – officially will be prohibited as of Jan. 1, 2016.
The atmosphere was strangely quiet. It felt like a library.
As it turned out, there were no changes to the rules proposal first presented on Nov. 28, 2012. Tuesday’s tranquil gathering got underway at 8 a.m. Eastern time and ended at 8:29 after a few predictable questions from journalists.
One influential person who operated largely behind the scenes was Mark Newell, chairman of the USGA’s Rules of Golf Committee. Newell is a retired litigation attorney who lives in northern Virginia and plays to an 11.6 handicap.
Newell’s personality fit nicely with the serenity that permeated the gathering. He is articulate and soft-spoken.
After stating that the USGA and R&A are careful to reach independent decisions on the Rules of Golf – something that doesn’t always seem to be the case to the casual observer – Newell explained how Rule 14-1B evolved.
“The USGA and R&A early in the process agreed that a serious look at this was important to take,” he said. “They asked their rules committees to work on the drafting of a rule. That took many months. There were many different potential definitions of anchoring. There were many different strokes that could be affected. There were a lot of different ways to write it.
“Although there has been a good deal of disagreement (among golfers) about whether the rule should or shouldn’t be adopted, there has been relatively little said about the rule itself – its scope, its words, its intended effect. Therefore we didn’t see any need to change what we had proposed (in November).”
The USGA and R&A each have its own Rules of Golf Committee. There also is a Joint Rules Committee that includes members of each organization. These committees operate in an advisory capacity. They make recommendations to the boards of the governing bodies.
In the case of Rule 14-1B, the USGA and R&A boards separately approved the provision to outlaw anchoring.
“Over the course of 2012,” Newell said, “there were probably six to eight, maybe 10, meetings of one or the other rules committees, or the Joint Rules Committee, where this subject was discussed."
After months of work, the anchoring ban is a done deal. And golf's governing bodies soon will move on to the next rules or equipment pursuit.
If we can be sure of anything in this game, it is this: Changes in the sport always seem to occur in a parallel fashion to changes in our world, making golf a fascinating amalgamation of the past, present and future.