A day after the governing associations announced the ban on anchored putting would become law instead of just a proposal, the final paragraph of my Tuesday contribution sticks in my mind and not because it was a particularly clever piece of writing on the part of your humble blogger.
It was, instead, a quote from USGA president Glen Nager when asked about the backlash he expected from the controversial decision.
“We can’t speculate about what others are going to do. We can only try to do the right thing for the game, which is what we’re trying to do now,” he said.
“Two, we’ve been writing the Rules of Golf and setting the gold standard in the Rules of Golf for over 100 years and all of the other organizations that you’ve referred to have chosen to play by our rules because they know they’re the gold standard,” said Nager.
The first reaction to that boast is that you need something to measure against if you’re going to set a gold standard. The USGA and R&A can only back up that arrogant claim because they haven’t had any competition in the rule-making department.
The governing associations of golf may have let a good thing go in the buffoonery that has surrounded anchoring.
The least that will happen as PGA Tour, PGA of America and PGA of Canada officials disappear behind closed doors to discuss a ban they oppose is that they will send the USGA and R&A a loud and clear message about the arbitrary manner in which they conduct themselves.
The real blow to the collective ego of the gold standard rule-makers will be if the PGA Tour elects to ignore the ban and go in a different direction on the matter, which will cause all kinds of chaos in respect to uniformity of the rules.
If that’s the case, the tour will join the masses of recreational golfers who use gimmes, foot wedges and mulligans in their own fly-by-the-seat-of-their-shorts rule-making.
They will also continue to anchor their putters if they see fit, but the governing associations choose to overlook that because it’s nothing official. Their focus is on competitive golf, which is why recreational players don’t pay a lot of attention to what the USGA and R&A decree.
It gets serious, however, if the most high profile organization in golf elects to play by it’s own rules and tarnish the gold standard that Nager talks about. Even if the gold-standard rule-makers get off lightly and have a loud and clear message sent to them, will they listen?
They allowed for a 90-day comment period when the anchoring ban was just a proposal, but that process came off as more as a mechanism to formulate their arguments when it was passed into law than it was an opportunity for other stakeholders to change their minds on the subject.
If the gold standard rule-makers did enter the process with an open mind, consider if you will the way R&A chief Peter Dawson reacted to PGA of America president Ted Bishop’s vocal stand on anchoring. Tim Rosaforte of Golf Digest explains here.
Now that Dawson has his way, at least in his mind, he’s conveniently forgotten about that dust-up, put on a smug happy face and urged golf to unite behind the gold standard ban. You can read more here.
A few in the media have also said opponents should go along with the ban, pointing out that within a generation, the anchoring controversy will be forgotten.
If you go by that theory, add in the roughly 40 years that anchoring has been allowed and it took almost a century for the rule-makers to make it go away. Now, that’s gold standard rule-making that we should get behind.
Dawson will be the centre of controversy again at the British Open when the all-male membership at the R&A and the host site at Muirfield is debated, which has nothing to do with rule-making but, like this issue, paints golf’s governing bodies as unable to keep up.
The gold standard claim by Nager is more about insecurity than it is about reality as other associations within golf become more vocal than they have in the past. The days of automatic compliance are over.
Instead of taking an arrogant attitude, it might be better to listen to them than get defensive. It’s that gold standard attitude that has brought us to a point where the organizations that claims to be doing what’s best for the game play a role in consequences that will damage it.
If it’s only a loud and clear message they eventually get from their opponents, and I expect the pushback to be stronger than that, the gold standard rule-makers had better listen to the changing dynamic of golf, rather than condescending to it or lashing out at it.