Don't expect USGA, R&A to blink on anchoring
History says the primary responsibilities of the two ruling bodies are to:
- make rules;
- conduct national championships.
There is nothing in the charter of either organization about growing the game or making golfers happy. Rulesmaking in golf never has been a popularity contest.
Golfers who secure long putters against their chests or stick belly putters into their stomachs probably will be unhappy when the final ruling is announced.
The USGA and R&A carefully have staked out their position and articulated their proposal to golfers around the world. There is no doubt how they feel and what they believe is best for the long-term health of the game.
Here in the United States, we pay too little attention to the R&A. The two ruling bodies have pledged to reach a mutual conclusion on anchoring. There will be no split decision. Thus it is imperative to look closely at the R&A.
The notion of the R&A capitulating to pro-anchoring advocates is unthinkable to many international observers. Over the decades, the R&A never has been frightened by the specter of criticism. For example, having survived women’s liberation and several generations of feminist rhetoric, the R&A still limits its membership to males.
Much has been made of the public stance adopted first by the PGA of America and then by PGA Tour. Both organizations oppose the anchoring ban.
There is one thing wrong with this picture: It doesn’t project a worldwide view. Outside the United States, anchoring has meager support. It is largely viewed as an adulteration of the golf stroke. Influential groups such as the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and the PGA European Tour have expressed their unwavering support for the R&A.
For the record, the jurisdiction of the USGA includes just two countries – the United States and Mexico – while the jurisdiction of the R&A encompasses the rest of the world, including at least part of every continent on earth where golf is played (Canada, in North America, is part of the R&A's domain).
Those closely following the USGA in recent months have noticed a flurry of activity from the communications department. The USGA has responded with “thank you” messages to friends and foes alike in the anchoring debate.
It is a strategy designed to make all golfers feel as if they are part of the conversation. The USGA wants everyone to believe it is listening. Knowing USGA executive director Mike Davis, widely viewed as one of the most compassionate leaders in all of sports, the USGA probably is listening.
This perception is exactly why Davis hired Joe Goode as managing director of communications. Goode is a member of the senior management team established by Davis, and he spent 15 years in the cauldron of public relations for Bank of America. After that, the USGA must seem like a piece of cake.
Still, the odds are against the ruling bodies changing their minds. They might alter the manner or the time frame in which the rules change takes place, but somewhere down the road anchoring probably will become a disappearing part of golf history.
Here is one possible ending to the anchoring scenario: The USGA and R&A once again will thank everyone who submitted comments. They will talk about the family of golf. They will make it clear we’re all in this together. Then they will discuss the sanctity of the rules – history has shown us that the rules are the foundation of the game; we cannot disturb that bedrock without shaking and agitating the game itself.
Then it will be over. Except for the details and the method of implementation, anchoring will be done and gone. And we will move on, as we always do.