Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 23, 2013

“Golf is not, and never has been, a fair game.” – Jack Nicklaus
In January, I attended the USGA Equipment Standards meeting in Coronado, CA. A variety of topics were discussed, but there was one that drew my interest. It was revealed that every year since 1986 when rounds of golf are up in the United States, they do down the following year. That raised the proverbial “red flag” for me as a golf course operator because nationwide rounds were up in 2012.
Unfortunately, that prediction is going to be reality in 2013 for golf courses across Central Indiana. Those of us who have been in the golf business for a long time will tell you that this spring might be the worst we have seen in decades. It has become a four month pattern of cold and wet weather. To say that golfers and courses have been climatically challenged is an understatement.
When I drove to Augusta a couple of weeks ago for The Masters, I didn’t see vegetation on the trees until I hit Spartanburg, SC. That is way too far south for that to happen this time of the year. I played the Augusta Country Club on the Saturday before The Masters. This club was founded in 1899 and designed by Donald Ross. The roughs had not been over seeded and they were still very much dormant.
The proper score for a businessman golfer is 90. If he’s better than that he is neglecting his business. If he’s worse, he’s neglecting his golf.” – St. Andrews Rotary Club Member 
On Monday of this week I played Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis at the Senior PGA Media Day. This club joins Oak Hill in Rochester, NY as the only club in the U.S. to host the PGA Championship, Senior PGA, U.S. Open and the Senior U.S. Open. Bellerive had suffered through a real tough summer of weather in 2012. The greens on Monday had plenty of grass on them, but the speed was dreadfully slow. It was a classic case of a club getting turf restored and nursing the conditions through a wild spring in preparation for a championship event later next month.
Most of the roughs at Bellerive had not been mowed this spring. No mower had seen its fairways as the zoysia grass was just coming out of dormancy. The most telling thing about the spring of 2013 in St. Louis was the dandelions at Bellerive. Yes, that’s right- dandelions at Bellerive CC. Your yard and favorite local golf course don’t have a monopoly on those damned yellow flowering weeds.
“It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.” – Mark Twain
As I drove to and from St. Louis, the remnant of last week’s flooding was obvious in Central Illinois. That same flooding extended north of Indianapolis and hammered the towns of Kokomo, Tipton and Elwood in Indiana. But, even the central part of our state was affected by downstream flooding. The Creek Nine at The Legends was closed for a couple days last week due to that flooding.
Most golfers understand what local golf courses have been up against this spring. Occasionally, as operators, we will run into that individual who appears to have been living in a vacuum for the past few months. It’s always amazing when that individual will complain about roughs being too long or dandelions being in full bloom. Or, maybe the greens are too slow and the bunkers are lousy.
The fact of the matter is that up until a couple of weeks ago, courses in this part of the country were still having 4-5 frost delays each week. We have lost 3-4 days each week due to rainy conditions that impact our ability to mow grass and spray herbicides. Not to mention when we get 1-3 inch rains, water stands in the bunkers and it takes a day or two to dry out in order to mow grass.
The cool, wet conditions promote lots of plant growth. Factor in a couple of occasional days when the temperature is actually above 70 degrees and then everything explodes from a growth standpoint. The normal high this time of the year is in the mid-sixties. We are in that weather pattern when it seems like it’s always 15 degrees above or below normal.
“There is an old saying: If a man comes home with sand in his cuffs and cockleburs in his pants, don’t ask what he shot.” – Sam Snead
There is one other component that every golf course deals with this time of the year. While most have their full-time maintenance crews on board, washouts cause the superintendent to send people home because there is nothing that can be done on the course. Ground conditions don’t allow for the heavy machines to be on the course without doing damage. Hourly workers see their paychecks reduced because of this. Some quit and find other employment that is not affected by the weather. It can be a revolving door for many superintendents until the college kids get home in mid-May.
Those of us, who pay the bills at our courses, scramble to balance the budgets when revenues are down due to inclement weather. Hey, what do you do with your household budget when your paycheck gets impacted? You spend less. In addition, real estate taxes are due in Indiana in early May. Every golf course in the area cringes when that property tax bill comes, especially in a spring like this one.
What’s the point of all of this? Golf has been in a tough place for the past decade. Owners and operators of golf courses did not need a spring like 2013. So, cut your local course some slack for a few weeks. Give them a chance to do what they know needs to be done. Your local pro and superintendent are not oblivious to what is out there on the golf course. The sight of anything out of the norm is killing them far more than it is you.
The bottom line is that after a couple of weeks of good weather, area golf courses will probably be in the best shape they have been in for a long time. The grass will be green and lush. Players are itching to get out and play in warm, dry weather. Everybody’s disposition will improve!
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening- and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” – Arnold Palmer

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013 Masters Wrap

My Masters week started out last Monday afternoon seated next to Chairman Billy Payne on the podium in the Media Center at Augusta National Golf Club. We were joined by Glen Nager, the President of the USGA, and the purpose was to announce an exciting junior golf initiative called Drive, Chip and Putt.  Some would call it golf’s version of Punt, Pass and Kick, the NFL’s longstanding competition for boys and girls.
Given the fact that the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will take place on April 6, 2014 on the Sunday before the Masters at Augusta National GC, I would argue that our initiative might have more sizzle than any modern day youth competition. A trip to Augusta National is on every golfer’s bucket list and for kids ages 6-15 to experience this competition where the putting contest will occur on the 18th green at the Masters is incredible.
No doubt that many of the national media assembled on that afternoon were secretly chuckling about the fact that Chairman Payne sat between Nager and me who have been highly profiled as being on opposite sides of anchoring argument. Glen and I made it clear that we were declaring a moratorium on anchoring discussions during the Masters. Payne made it clear that Augusta National had no comment.
Peace prevailed until late Saturday night when Adam Scott used a 49” long putter, anchored against his body and beat Angel Cabrera on the second sudden death hole to capture the green jacket at the 2013 Masters. More on this later.
Ironically, in a week when a junior golf initiative was introduced to the nation, so was Tianlang  Guan. He is a 14-year old boy from China who qualified for this Masters by winning the Asian Pacific Amateur Championship. Guan is young enough to compete in Drive, Chip and Putt. Guan made lots of great impressions last week, but gained ominous notoriety by being assessed a one stroke penalty for slow play on Friday.
In an era when many of us in golf offer lip service about combating slow play, the Masters did something about it. Many in the media defended Guan because he was 14 years old. I commend John Paramore, the English rules official who handed Guan the penalty. More impressively was how Guan accepted it all. He simply said,” I deserved the penalty” and he speeded up his play accordingly on the weekend. Hey, if you drive in the Indy 500 you have to keep up, no matter your age.
On Friday night when I attended the USGA reception, I first heard that there was a possible rules infraction involving Tiger Woods. Honestly, I had a sleepless night Friday and worried that a Tiger DQ would be bad for the Masters and golf. On Saturday, my rules assignment was #16 green, so I spent the better part of the morning hanging out at Tournament Headquarters waiting on a decision.
In the 1960 Masters during the second round, Dow Finsterwald dropped a ball on the #8 green as he walked off and was going to take a practice putt. He was informed by his playing partner, Billy Casper, that practice putting during competition was not allowed.
As Dow approached the #9 tee he spotted Edwin Carter, the Tournament Manager. Finsterwald informed Carter that there could be a problem. He had, in fact, taken a practice putt on the #5 green during round one. Masters officials conferred and they approached Finsterwald after he finished his round. They informed Finsterwald that he would receive a two stroke penalty and it would be retroactively added to his first round score.
Finsterwald had violated the rule that prohibited practice putting and he had signed his scorecard. This is pretty much the same scenario that Woods had encountered with his incorrect drop on Friday and his ensuing scorecard signature. Finsterwald went on to shoot a 72-hole total of 284 losing to Arnold Palmer by two shots. The same two shots he was penalized. There had been a precedent set 53 years ago in the Masters and I support the Committee’s decision on the Woods’ ruling.
When Adam Scott dropped that winning putt in the darkness on Sunday afternoon, he completed a unique Grand Slam for the long putter.  Keegan Bradley got it all started with his PGA Championship victory in 2011. Last year Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and Ernie Els took home the Claret Jug at the British Open. All four players were anchoring long putters.
Some will say that Scott’s victory at the Masters will probably seal the fate of the anchored stroke. Watching him win was probably as painful as swallowing a handful of nails for USGA and R&A officials. Scott is popular, good looking and well spoken. At 32 years old, he is another player that represents the image that golf needs. How will his career be affected if he can longer anchor?
It’s interesting when you consider Scott’s putting performance last week from a statistical standpoint. The field averaged 1.65 putts per green hit in regulation. Scott averaged 1.67, which was worse than the masses. When Els won the Open Championship at Lytham he was ranked 71st in overall putting. So, I would argue that the last two major winners using the anchored putting stroke did so on the merits of their ball striking, not their putting.
At any rate, several hours before Scott won I sat on the green at #10 where my Sunday rules post was located. I thought to myself, the slow play issue with Guan and the controversy with Tiger’s ruling would surely dominate the post-Masters discussion. Maybe anchoring talk would go away for a while. Little did I know around 7:30 that night on this very spot, anchoring talk would start again.
Saturday night I entertained Sweden’s Carl Pettersson and his wife Deanna for dinner. Martin Laird, of Scotland, and his wife, Megan, were potential guests until he missed the cut. The wives are part a partnership we started at the PGA of America with the PGA Tour Wives Association. Deanna and Megan are on the Tour Wives Board. Coincidentally, both Carl Pettersson and Martin Laird anchor long putters.
Early Monday morning I awoke abruptly. I sat up in bed. I had been interrupted by the Navy band playing Anchors Aweigh. Do you suppose Scott, Pettersson, Laird, Fred Couples, Keegan Bradley and others had that same nightmare? In their case it might have been more like Anchors Away………… 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Masters Part 2 2013

In 1984 I attended my second Masters and watched Ben Crenshaw win the tournament that year by two strokes with a score of 277, which is 11 under par. Back then he was known as Gentle Ben. The handsome, young Texan had blonde hair and he was one of the hottest commodities on the PGA TOUR. At 32 years old, Crenshaw was truly one of the stars of that era.
Twenty nine years later, he shows up at Augusta National Golf Club with two green jackets to his name. His second victory came in 1995 just a few weeks after his mentor, the legendary Harvey Penick passed away. Who can forget the image of Crenshaw on the 18th green after making the winning putt? His head buried in his hands, sobbing over the emotional victory he had dedicated to Penick.
Augusta National Golf Club always has a flair for the dramatic and they did not disappoint with the pairings on Thursday and Friday. Crenshaw, the grizzled 62-year old veteran was paid with 14-year old Tianland Guan, the Chinese junior sensation and Matteo Manassero, the 19-year old Italian who was the low amateur at the 2010 Masters at the age of 16.
Consider this. Crenshaw was playing in his 42nd consecutive Masters this year. Guan (1) and Manassero (2) have a combined three Masters appearances. In fact, those kids’ ages combined (34) for the number of Masters’ appearances that Grizzled Old Ben has.
As I watched the threesome play from my rules post on the 8th green Thursday, it was like seeing a grandfather taking his two grandsons out for a round of golf. Crenshaw was grinding a little, but not much. The two kids were grinding their butts off in hopes of making the putt. When Guan hit his third shot on the par five to within five feet, Crenshaw raised his arm and gave the Chinese flash a big thumbs up.
Crenshaw who was one of the game’s great putters of all-time, three whacked the hole from 25-feet for a bogey. As he walked off the green he was outwardly disgusted, smacking his driver on the ground a few times as he approached the 9th tee. He still has that fire in his gut.
But, it was clear on Thursday that it was Gentle Ben again and his primary mission these two days was to pass the torch to a new generation of golfers. Crenshaw ranks fourth all-time behind Arnold Palmer (50), Doug Ford (46) and Raymond Floyd (45) in overall Masters appearances with his 42. There will probably be a day when he hits the ceremonial tee shot from hole No. 1.
As the threesome played the 18th hole on Thursday, Guan dropped a long putt for a birdie three. It gave him a first round score of 73 and a legitimate chance to make the cut. It was pretty impressive for any 14-year old.
Not to be outdone, Crenshaw hit a great second shot to within 15 feet of the hole. He drained the putt and wound up shooting a 78. That was no doubt a disappointing score for this proud Texan. However, I would make a case that short of those two Sunday afternoons in 1984 and ’95, this might have been one of Crenshaw’s finest days on the most hallowed grounds in all of golf.
It was a great gesture and one that no doubt required absolutely no thought from Crenshaw. Spend two days with two rising starts in the game and give something back. Show them the ropes at Augusta and someday when these two kids contend for their own green jackets, they will remember these two special days with Crenshaw and the advice they received from Gentle Ben might make the difference.
In the field of 93 players at the 2013 Masters, there are twelve players who are anchoring long putters. They are: Ian Woosnam; Carl Pettersson; Tim Clark; Webb Simpson; Martin Laird; Thomas Bjorn; Ernie Els; Tianlang Guan; Bernhard Langer; Fred Couples; Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley.
That is a formidable group. Woosnam, Langer and Couples are in the field based on the fact they are all former Masters champions. Approximately, ten percent of the field is anchoring the long putter this week.
The USGA and R&A are expected to make some announcement on the fate of anchored putters soon. You have to wonder what impact it will have on this group of players. How sad to see a 50-something Fred Couples no longer be able to play in the Masters because of the proposed rule change.       

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Masters 2013

Each year at The Masters I look forward to seeing whatever new innovations the members at Augusta National come up with to improve the tournament. This year, Rules Officials were greeted with a revised packet of information that was much more condensed. Included was a 2013 Masters Tournament Handbook and it contained some interesting historical data that I wanted to share with you.
Amen Corner
The name Amen Corner refers to Holes 11, 12 and 13. Amen Corner was first coined in a 1958 Sports Illustrated article by Herbert Warren Wind, who wrote that it was composed of the second half of hole No. 11, hole No. 12 and the first half of hole No. 13. Wind was searching for an appropriate name for the location where the critical action had taken place that year.
Saturday evening in 1958, heavy rains soaked the course. For Sunday’s round, a local rule was adopted allowing a player whose ball was embedded to lift and drop without penalty. Sunday on No. 12, Arnold Palmer hit his ball over the green and the ball embedded in the steep bank behind it.
Being uncertain about the applicability of the local rule, the official on the hole and Palmer agreed the ball should be played as it lay and that Palmer could play a second ball which he dropped. Palmer holed out for a 5 with the original ball and a 3 with the second ball. The committee was asked to decide if the local rule was applicable and if so, which score would count.
At No. 13, still unsure of what his core was at 12, Palmer sank an 18-foot putt for eagle 3. When he was playing No. 15, Palmer was told his drop at 12 was proper and that his score on the hole was 3, virtually assuring him of his first major victory.
Rae’s Creek
Named after John Rae, who died in 1789, Rae’s Creek flows at the back of No. 11 green and runs in front of No. 12 green and No. 13 tee. It was Rae’s house that was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta. The house kept residents safe during Indian attacks when the fort was out or reach.
Eisenhower Tree
Located at hole No. 17, the Eisenhower Tree is approximately 210 yards from the Masters tee and left- center of the fairway. The loblolly pine is approximately 65 feet high and about 100 to 125 years old. The former President of the U.S. and Club member hit into the tree so often he campaigned to have it removed. At a Club’s governors meeting in 1956, Eisenhower proposed cutting the tree down. Clifford Roberts promptly ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting. The pine has been linked to Eisenhower since then.

“The big oak tree” on the golf course side of the Clubhouse is a live oak. It was planted when the building was completed in the late 1850’s, making the tree approximately 145-150 years old. Part of the current clubhouse was the office of the Fruitland Nursery. Several other live oaks were planted on the grounds about the same time. The ‘big oak” is one of the favorite gathering places during the Masters Tournament.
The private hedge at the Club was developed from plants imported from France by the Berckman’s of Augusta who owned the Fruitland Nursery, now the site of the golf course.  The wisteria vine, most noticeable on the tree next to the clubhouse is reported to be the first of its kind in the U.S. It is also believed to be the largest vine of its type in the country.
Surprisingly, there is one palm tree on the golf course and it rests right of the green on hole No. 4. The pine tree is the most abundant tree at Augusta National. There are over 30 varieties of azaleas, along with numerous dogwoods. The color at The Masters should be fabulous this year.
On Wednesday, Chairman Billy Payne held his annual press conference. He informed the media that the number of players to make the cut this year will be expanded from 44 to 50. As always, any player within 10 shots of the leader after 36 holes will also make the cut.
Payne was also asked about the position of Augusta National Golf Club on the controversial proposed ban on anchored putters. Payne’s response was that ANGC is a club and not a governing body. He said it was inappropriate to express an opinion on anchored putters. But, he added he hopes that for the good of the game golf’s governing bodies would come to some agreement on the issue.
My week has included the announcement of the Drive, Chip and Putt contest supported by the PGA of America, Augusta National Golf Club and the USGA. It was an honor to sit with Chairman Payne and Glen Nager, President of the USGA and make this historic announcement.
On Wednesday night, I was privileged to attend Chairman Payne’s Reception and then go to the Golf Writers’ of America  dinner and present John Hopkins from the London Times with the PGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in journalism.
These are truly days that create memories of a lifetime.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Masters Preview

“The modern golf season never ends, but it does begin. When the first contestant tees off at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday morning, golfers all over the world reset their internal clocks. The first page in a golfer’s calendar has just been turned.”
That’s how David Owen opens his book The Making of The Masters. This book presents one of the most interesting stories you can read. It is the life story of Augusta National Golf Club, The Masters Tournament, Clifford Roberts, its founder and Bobby Jones, the inspiration for everything Masters. The Making of The Masters is one of the few books that are actually sold at Augusta National GC. It’s factual, compelling, behind the scenes account of the life and times of America’s most renowned golf club is, in my opinion, one of the great reads of all-time.
For tournament spectators, the Masters is an annual reunion where the passage of time is measured not in years but in the names of champions. My six Masters would be measured by Ballesteros (1983); Crenshaw (1984); Cabrera (2009); Mickelson (2010); Schwartzel (2011) and B. Watson (2011).
The principal viewing areas have the settled feel of old neighborhoods and the course is as familiar as a friend’s backyard. I will never forget the first time I played Augusta National in 2009. It was like I had been on the course a hundred times before. So many rounds in front of a television set over the years had made this place seem like the home course I grew up on.
Each year, in countless gatherings beneath the pine trees, acquaintances are renewed and records are brought up to date: deaths, marriages, children, grandchildren, new houses, old jobs. The dogwood blossoms are compared with dogwood blossoms of previous years.
For distant golf fans, the first glimpse of Amen Corner on TV is proof that winter is actually gone. Northerners who haven’t swung a club since Thanksgiving scrounge an old ball from the garage and roll a few putts across the carpet during commercials.
There is probably no more famous patch of ground in the world than Amen Corner. This would be defined as the walk down the hill to the 11th green and the beginning of Rae’s Creek just right of the green. Next up is the scenic and treacherous 12th hole, which is a short par three with carry across the pond formed by Rae’s Creek. Finally, the 13th is a dogleg left par five that features the most brilliant color in the world with its azaleas and dogwoods along the left side of hole and behind the green. Rae’s Creek guards the front of the 13th green and it waves good bye as it meanders through the woods.
Furman Bisher, the great writer from the Atlanta Constitution, described the origin of Amen Corner. “Actually, Amen Corner in Southern terminology originated in Protestant churches, where the menfolk collected in one corner, womenfolk herding the children into another, and when the pastor might strike a sensitive note, the menfolk would utter an approving “Amen” from their pews. So be it.”
For nongolfers, the Masters is the one tournament of the year that draws their attention.
My best drive of the year? It will be the first one down Magnolia Lane at this year’s Masters. That trip down Magnolia Lane may be the most dreamed about entrance in all of sports. The speed limit is 10 mph and even a lead foot driver like me will abide by the rules, if for no other reason, to prolong the experience of that drive.
Gary Player once said, “The Masters is the only tournament I ever knew where you choke when you drive through the front gate.”
Sam Snead said, “If you asked golfers what tournament they would rather win over all the others, I think every one of them to a man would say the Masters.”
Late at night after Tiger Woods’ record-breaking victory in 1997, Earl Woods looked in on his son and found him curled up in bed, asleep with a smile on his face, his arms wrapped around his green jacket.
The Masters is unique among the four major golf championships because it is conducted by a private club and not by a national golf organization such as the USGA, R&A or PGA of America. Augusta National members chair nearly two dozen committees.
Founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, the club faced financial ruin repeatedly during its first fifteen years. As the club was being formed in 1931, the first business plan called for 1,800 members, each of whom would pay annual dues of $60. Three years later, as the first Masters got underway; the club was 1,724 members short of its goal.
The Masters, which began in 1934 as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, was recognized from the start as an exceptionally well-run event, but it remained an economic burden for years. The club could not afford to pay the first winner, Horton Smith, or any of the other top finishers until seventeen members chipped in for a plaque. When Herman Keiser won in 1946, he was told that his plaque would be forthcoming as soon as the club could come up with the silver.
The club survived its early adversities because of the perseverance of its two founders, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. It is usually said that Jones conceived the club and Roberts financed it, but the roles were arguably reversed. Without Jones’ popularity the club never would have attracted the financing and without Roberts’ vision and determination the club would have folded. Ironically, Roberts later said that if he and Jones would have known how long the Depression was going to last, they never would have embarked on the project.
The Masters is still the competition by which other competitions are judged. That’s a remarkable achievement given its humble beginnings. The credit belongs largely to Roberts. He built the club and tournament against insurmountable odds, and in doing so he probably did as much as any other single person to shape what golfers and golf fans think of as the world of competitive golf.
This week is truly a rite of passage for golf. Who will wear the green jacket on Sunday? Is Tiger primed for his fifth? Will Rory rise from the dead and get his first? There are lots of fearless young guns on the PGA Tour like last year’s winner Bubba Watson. This year’s Masters is guaranteed to be as good as ever.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Conditions of Competition

Last week I sat eye to eye with Arnold Palmer in his Bay Hill Country Club office. If The King and I have one thing in common, and maybe there is only one thing- that would be our offices. Both are cluttered and loaded with memorabilia that reflects golf, friends and family. But, for me it was a hallowed moment in time and it was the equivalent of talking baseball with Babe Ruth. The point of my visit was to bring Palmer up to speed on the PGA of America’s position on the proposed ban on anchoring by the USGA and R&A.
Palmer has been an outspoken advocate of the USGA in this fight and my mission was not to change his mind. He told me that his main concern is that he fears a ban on anchoring could cause bifurcation of the Rules of Golf. He feels that two different sets of rules would be a major setback to the game of golf. He hates to hear the PGA TOUR and the PGA of America talk about another set of rules which would allow anchoring. Palmer is also steadfast in his belief that players who anchor a long putter are not performing a stroke as it was intended when the game was founded.   
Once an advocate of a non-conforming driver for the recreational player, Palmer is now in a different place than he was back in 2001 when Callaway and the USGA went toe to toe on the issue.  With all due respect I had to ask him, what’s different today? Why the change of heart? The 83-year old golf icon smiled with that legendary twinkle in his eye and shrugged his shoulders.   
“That’s just the way I feel,” said Palmer.
Nobody in golf wants a head on collision caused by some silly controversy over a long putter. Palmer will go so far as calling the long putter a contraption, not recognizing it as a golf club. I disagree with that and I also think that anchoring a long putter is a stroke as defined by the Rules of Golf.
On Page 33 in the Rules of Golf,  “A ‘stroke’ is the forward movement of the club with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.” No one can convince me that an anchored putting stroke is anything but a ‘stroke’.
Call this Bishop’s Last Stand if you will. I am going to offer a simple solution to this whole mess. Listen up Mike Davis because this idea was not mine. It was Glen Nager’s, the current USGA President. Glen and I spent a couple of days together in late February at Augusta National Golf Club. We stayed together. I knocked his glasses off as we got out of a van for dinner. But, we teamed up the following day and won our friendly competition among the USGA, the PGA and our great hosts at The Masters.
You heard it here first. Nager and Bishop bonded (at least I thought we did). I have been intrigued by a concept that Nager presented to me on our flight from Atlanta to Augusta. Nager is a guy who has taken 13 cases to the Supreme Court of the United States. I respect him greatly and I want to take his idea to another level.
If the USGA would drop the proposed Rule 14-1b and instead, make the ban on anchoring a Condition of Competition in the Rule Book, all entities in golf could handle it the way they want. Rule 33-1 provides, “The Committee must establish conditions under which a competition is to be played.”
Currently, there are eleven (11) Conditions of Competition in the Rules of Golf. These conditions include matters which are not appropriate to deal with in the rules of the game. They include such matters as Specification of Clubs and the Ball; Caddies; Pace of Play and Suspension of Play; Practice, Advice, Anti-Doping, etc. These Conditions of Competition are options available to any entity who is conducting an event.
Interestingly enough, golf’s four major championships adopt different conditions in their competitions. The PGA Championship elects not to implement the “One Ball Rule” while the other three majors do. The USGA allows for practice putting at the hole last played whereas the other three majors do not. The Embedded Ball Rule through the green is in effect at the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA but not the British Open. Stones in bunkers can be removed in the British Open, but not the other three majors.
By creating a 12th Condition of Competition dealing with anchoring, the USGA and R&A could ban the stroke from their competitions. The Masters and PGA Championship would have to decide how to handle it. The PGA TOUR could allow anchoring in all of its events, including the Champions TOUR. The PGA of America professionals who run events nationwide could let the recreational amateur continue to anchor the long putter.
To Arnold Palmer’s point, the world of golf would continue to exist under one set of rules. What about the confusion of having major championships “looking” different because players are anchoring a long putter in some, but not another. Well, sports fans that’s not unprecedented in golf history.
Prior to 1975 and subsequent to 1921, players used any sized ball to their liking in the British Open, provided its diameter was not smaller than 1.62 inches. The “small ball” or “English” ball was widely used across the pond because it went farther and was more workable in the wind.
Over the years, a desire grew to standardize the rules on golf ball size. In 1974, the R&A outlawed the small ball in British Open Championships, but it wasn’t until 1990 that the R&A adopted the USGA’s 1.68 inch minimum diameter rule, relegating the small ball to history. But, for decades players actually had the option to play two different sizes of golf balls in a major championship.
Is a 12th Condition of Competition a perfect solution? Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Tim Clark, Adam Scott and Carl Petterson will say no. At least, they would get to anchor their long putters in all but maybe three events each year- the U.S. Open, the British Open and maybe The Masters. They could still compete in these majors with another putter. It would allow them to play the PGA TOUR every week just like they do now. Recreational amateurs would be able to continue and enjoy the game using their anchored strokes.
The 12th Condition of Competition could be golf’s great compromise. Every stakeholder in the game gets what they want. Arnold Palmer keeps one set of Rules.  Doesn’t all of this sound way too simple?