An­chor­ing, slow play and hand­i­caps

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - By Stu­art McLean, Edi­tor stu­art.mclean@new­me­di­a­pub.co.za

ne of the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of golf, and which con­trib­utes to its rep­u­ta­tion as a some­what ec­cen­tric pur­suit, is that the game’s rul­ing bod­ies will go to a great deal of trou­ble to ban a small mi­nor­ity of golfers from an­chor­ing the long put­ter, but take few steps to elim­i­nate the two scourges faced by the game to­day – hand­i­cap ma­nip­u­la­tion and slow play.

An­chor­ing a put­ter will be out­lawed from Jan­uary 1, 2016, and this ap­plies to all golfers, not just tour pro­fes­sion­als. The long put­ter and its shorter sib­ling, the belly put­ter, can con­tinue to be used, but with­out any an­chor­ing point.

I am sure we will con­tinue to see long put­ters be­ing used in club golf, but these golfers will face much closer scru­tiny from fel­low com­peti­tors. Old habits die hard in golf, and the oc­ca­sional lapse into an­chor­ing could oc­cur and cre­ate un­nec­es­sary un­pleas­ant­ness.

Former USGA tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Frank Thomas, a lead­ing ex­pert on putting, has been op­posed to Rule 14-1b since it was first ap­proved by the R&A and USGA. He says there is no ev­i­dence that “an­chor­ing has detri­men­tally af­fected the game.” The former South African makes the good point on his web­site Frankly Golf that this is the first time that the Rules of Golf have dic­tated how to hold an im­ple­ment.

I’ve never used a long put­ter my­self, and also never thought that those golfers who em­ployed one were “cheat­ing” in any way. I’ve al­ways be­lieved that the long put­ter has been ben­e­fi­cial to golf in keep­ing in the game many golfers who suf­fered from the yips. If it wasn’t part of the game, we wouldn’t have seen Adam Scott win the Masters, a ma­jor this fine player so thor­oughly de­served.

If an­chor­ing the long put­ter has seem­ingly made scor­ing that much eas­ier for

Otop golfers like Scott, Bern­hard Langer and Tim Clark, among its most no­table pro­po­nents, why hasn’t the R&A and USGA thought about ban­ning the 64-de­gree wedge, large-headed 460cc driv­ers, and golf balls that fly fur­ther than ever. They have also con­trib­uted to a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in scor­ing by elite play­ers.

And, while we’re at it, let’s pe­nalise golfers for not be­ing able to play 18 holes in less than four hours. Slow play is cited as one of the main rea­sons golfers are be­ing turned off the game. It be­gins with the pro­fes­sion­als, and it was re­fresh­ing to hear the Euro­pean Tour’s new CEO Keith Pel­ley pro­claim­ing that “slow play drives me mad.” He has vowed to make his cir­cuit the “lead­ers” in deal­ing with the is­sue at all lev­els. Slow play­ers on tour could very well be named and shamed.

Un­for­tu­nately, slow play and hand­i­cap ma­nip­u­la­tion re­quire more di­rect en­force­ment from golf­ing of­fi­cial­dom and golf clubs if it is to be curbed. It is tol­er­ated by too many. Here in South Africa, “fix­ing” one’s hand­i­cap has be­come as much a part of the game as our reliance on “plac­ing.” It’s all very well want­ing an ex­tra shot or two, but how do you ex­plain the Kemp­ton Park golfer who re­cently scored 43 and 46 in­di­vid­ual points off an 18-hand­i­cap in the 36hole grand fi­nal of the Turk­ish Air­lines World Golf Cup Am­a­teur Se­ries? It was en­cour­ag­ing to see him be­ing lam­basted on so­cial me­dia. I don’t know what his fel­low com­peti­tors thought of this per­for­mance – although the cynic in me bets that next time they won’t be bring­ing a knife to a gun­fight.

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