At the PGA Merchandise Show in January, PGA of America President Ted Bishop observed that his organization now “has a seat at the table” with the USGA concerning rules issues. While that may be, it seems clear that the USGA retains rm control over the discussions.
Bishop and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem attended the USGA executive com-mittee meetings in February to lobby for the in-clusion of a “grandfather” rule in Rule 14-1b that would permit amateurs to use an anchored putting stroke beyond January 1, 2016, the effective date of the anchoring rule. Recently, the USGA announced that it has declined to enact such a grandfather rule.
The PGA of America had strongly opposed the anchoring rule on the grounds that it would undercut its efforts to attract and retain golfers and make the game more enjoyable. While it ultimately acquiesced in the adoption of Rule 14-1b, Bishop pushed for the grandfather rule in order to allow amateurs more time to adapt to playing without an anchored stroke.
In a statement, the USGA explained that “the USGA’s judgment continues to be that it is in the best interest of the game for Rule 14-1b to take ef-fect for all golfers on January 1, 2016. The USGA is committed to working with the PGA of America and its members, as they will be instrumental in supporting golfers through the transition and imple-mentation of the Rule.”
After hearing of the USGA’s decision, Bishop sent a letter to the PGA of America members stating “while we are disappointed with the USGA’s decision not to extend the implementation date beyond Jan. 1, 2016, I know that all PGA Profes-sionals are committed to helping amateur play-ers choose a permissible putting stroke that will help them continue to enjoy the game well into the future.” Despite the USGA’s decision, Bishop observed that the discussions involving anchor-ing contributed to “enhanced communication” among the various golf organizations that is “es-sential to the long-term viability of golf.”
In comments to the Golf Channel, Bishop added that “I can’t say I was surprised. I’m going to give them the benet of the doubt; it was about a month from the time we made the presentation and I felt they gave it fair consideration.” He also said the PGA of America has established a com-mittee to look at alternatives to anchoring, such as counterbalanced putters.
The reality is that no one expects long putters to disappear from golf on January 1, 2016. A sur-vey found that as many as 30% of amateur golfers who use an anchored putting stroke will continue to do so after the rule takes effect. This will cre-ate issues for club tournaments and the handicap system. It might also put PGA professionals in the difcult position of endeavoring to accommodate the needs and preferences of their members while still promoting an adherence to the Rules of Golf.