Fail of the Week 9

December 4, 2012

Ok, so it’s been a little while since we did a FAIL. Actually…it’s been a long while…like…a day short of one year (see Buuuuuuuut, this is sadly a great, great time to put together this week’s FAIL.

For this week’s FAIL, I turn to no other than the USGA and the R&A. Within the last week, the USGA and R&A have announced a proposed rule to ban the use of belly and long putters in the game of golf. The proposed ban–summarized at–would restrict many types of anchoring, although not all. In an odd twist, the USGA/R&A has determined that it is OK to anchor a club to your forearm to make a stroke, or to unintentionally anchor your arms to your body and prevent their movement. As stated in the article, USGA executive director Mike Davis stated “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.”

One problem with this, however, is that it’s 100% false. Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus all putted with the club somehow anchored to their bodies. Just because they used a regular length putter doesn’t make it any less true. Don’t believe me? Look at the photos:

Or… even better, here another respected member of the tour talk about them: (starting at 1:10)

The PGA of America–and many avid golfers around the globe–has publicly come out against the USGA, urging the USGA to change its stance for the advancement of the game. At the very least, the PGA would prefer to allow beginning golfers to use such clubs to advance the interest in the game.

But none of that really matters as compared to the USGA’s handling of the issue. Long putters have been at issue since the 1970s. Bernhard Langer has been using one for almost as long as I’ve been playing golf. My first experience with a belly putter was when a high school friend started using one and I putted with it for a few strokes…that was 12 years ago. In other words, the cat is out of the bag. The USGA has had over 3 decades to rule on this issue and has done nothing, but all of a sudden has an interest now that a few players have won with them. That’s a sad state of the game–allow something until a player becomes good at using it. What’s more, there is STILL no statistical evidence that using a belly or long putter improves a golfer’s performance above and beyond use of a traditional putter. The USGA’s rule is based SOLELY on the idea that an anchoring stroke is somehow contrary to the game as it was intended to be played.

I’m glad the USGA sees itself fit to decide what is the original intent of the game of golf. Were 460cc titanium drivers, performance golf balls, game improvement irons, or, heck, even golf spikes within the “original intent of the game?” Who knows. I guess it’s only a matter of time before the USGA decides that we all have to play in street shoes because golf wasn’t meant to be played with spikes.

If the USGA showed some proof that the belly ban was due to an unfair advantage in the game, it would be one thing. Heck, even if the USGA just SAID that belly putters were unfair, I would take their actions more seriously. But to publicly come out and say that anchoring is just not how it was meant to be–when millions of golfers have invested hundreds of dollars of their own money buying belly and long putters to make the game enjoyable for themselves–I simply can’t understand the logic.

The USGA, once again, is a FAIL. Let’s hope for all our sake that this turns out better than the groove rules.

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