If you're a golf fan, it has been an "interesting" few months. If you're a high-end player who uses an anchored putting stroke, a golf executive, rules official or an equipment manufacturer, "chaotic" is probably a more accurate word.
The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club -- the former governing body calls the shots in the U.S. and Mexico, the latter elsewhere in the world -- will go ahead with their ban on an anchored stroke, starting in 2016.
Tuesday's announcement (wasn't it kind of the tall foreheads to take into account our Victoria Day holiday and not do it Monday?) is the latest episode in golf's grand traditions smacking head on into the realities of our world, namely rapidly improving technology that has juiced balls and given us HD television pictures that allow people who didn't have enough toys when they were young to call in penalties on players who had no idea a rule was broken and, more importantly, neither ill intent nor advantage in breaking them.
The mess that is golf's rules morass is a column for another time. For now, here's a breakdown of the anchoring ban in layman's terms: Large swathes of the global golf community have been concerned, for at least a few years now, that anchoring the putter against a player's body is an unfair advantage. To be fair, you can understand why eyebrows were being raised, especially with the run of major championships being won recently by players who anchor their putter to their body.
That's because an anchored stroke reduces the role that nerves, ie. shaky hands, play and that it's easier to make a nice, fluid stroke. Achieving a silky, consistent action is something that everyone from touring pros on down strives for.
In the leadup to Tuesday, there was a fear that the PGA Tour and the rest of the world's golf circuits would go their own way and introduce their own rule allowing anchored strokes once the ban comes into place. That fear now appears unfounded after the announcement. But it still could become an issue in the coming three-plus years as players seek to adjust and/or decide to contest it, legally or otherwise.
The bigger point remains how golf has been transformed permanently by the ball. Simply put, the bloody thing flies too far.
Put in purely Canadian terms, consider what happened last year at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. Located in Ancaster, Ont., just outside the city that gave it its name, the course designed by Harry Colt is an absolute gem, a bucket-list layout. But at just 7,000 yards, it was taken apart by the PGA Tour players at last year's RBC Canadian Open.
Scott Piercy's winning score of 17 under-par 263 was nine shots lower than Bob Tway's tournament-winning score from nine years earlier and was achieved without nearly as much worry about Hamilton's natural defences. Piercy, along with most of the field, merely pinned his ears back off the tee and bombed it.
A similar scenario played out at St. George's in Toronto's west end through the first two days of the 2010 Canadian Open, though Carl Pettersson's eventual winning score of 266 was stunted somewhat by poor weather over the weekend.
Hamilton and St. George's represent two-thirds of Canada's Top 3 layouts, the other being The National in Woodbridge, Ont. But the Canadian Open won't be played there anytime soon because the course doesn't want it. Nor would the tour allow it because The National has no women members. It is worth noting, however, that The National did undergo renovations several years ago, in part to counter the effect of improved ball technology.
Hamilton will host one more national championship, likely in 2019. It's hard to imagine St. George's doing it again, due to the logistical challenges of conducting a PGA Tour event amid an urban metropolis and because the course could barely contain the length of the players' drives the last time around.
The Canadian angle illustrated by Hamilton and St. George's is not unique. The modern golf ball flies just as far wherever it's hit and is rendering many courses obsolete for the purposes of the world's best players.
Traditional strategy and shot-making are less and less of a factor every season on the PGA Tour because so many players can simply hammer the ball off the tee -- outdriving trouble in the process -- and take the chance they will get a decent lie if they mishit it, which seems to happen more now than when the ball didn't travel as far.
It's more than a bit ironic then that the USGA and R&A took decisive action on anchored strokes in order to regulate shots that travel the shortest distance when perhaps the biggest problem facing the game is off the tee.
And it's not going away, no matter whether players anchor their putters or not.
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