with Robert Bicknell
Why does the jingle for "Doofenschmirtz Evil Incorporated" keep running through my brain whenever I think of the latest fight over the long putter, which is set to be banned by the R&A and the USGA in 2016?
Ah ha… the launch of the "Three-putt-inator" which will cause golfers to three putt every green, resulting in them needing putting lessons… giving me control over the Tri-State Area…
Excuse me, but my daughter's cartoons seem to be warping my brain. Sorry.
The recent fight over "anchored" putters has been around for quite a while. When they first came out in the mid-late "80's, many players complained that they should be illegal and did not meet the conditions of "make & form" as required by USGA equipment rules.
Unfortunately, this was also the time frame when Karsten Solheim launched his famous lawsuit against the USGA for their upcoming ban on "square groove" clubs (PING Eye 2) which were claimed to give players an unfair advantage. This was sort of highlighted when Mark Calcavecchia whacked a six-iron out of the rough in The Open, which stopped on the green within two bounces.
Shots from the rough are not supposed to stop like that. Ergo, square grooves were blamed.
At that time, the USGA pretty much stood on its own as the R&A didn't have equipment testing labs worth talking about. Yes, they have made up for that over the years, but at the time, it was the gurus at the USGA who provided the test data and took the heat.
As some of you might remember, PING won the fight, forcing the USGA to grandfather in approval of the PING Eye 2 irons and delaying the ban until a future date where those clubs would already be replaced by newer and shinier models.
In short, Karsten didn't sue the USGA because he felt the clubs did not provide an unfair advantage, but rather to protect his profits and bottom line.
Here's the dirty secret which most of the world is slow to realize… The R&A / USGA only have power as long as the golfers themselves allow them to have it.
Sure, the R&A claims they are the "governing body for all golf worldwide (except for the USA, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean), but what happens if someday, all the players simply say "Go screw yourselves?"
Some organizations in Asia, many years ago, threatened to set up their own governing body of golf with differences in the rules from those of the R&A / USGA. If that were to take place, what's the worst that could happen?
Well, first off, the R&A / USGA would blow a gasket and ban any player following that rogue organization from competing in a R&A / USGA sanctioned event until the end of time. But, in reality, that is all they can do. Claim the organization has no authority and go back to their over-stuffed armchairs while puffing on their pipes and cigars.
But, what if the entire WORLD rose up against those two organizations?
The result is the R&A / USGA would have to change their rules, or go down in flames because what good is a "governing body" if nobody accepts their governance?
So, what happens if the R&A / USGA ban the long-putter and the rest of the world doesn't agree? This is a very tricky slope for them to be gambling on.
There is currently a movement within the PGA Tour to not accept the R&A / USGA ban, but on the other hand, the European PGA Tour says they support the ban. Will we have different rules for the two big tours?
The worst thing that could happen is the R&A / USGA retaliates by placing sanctions on PGA Tour players in the US and British Opens.
When golf's "governing bodies" cannot enforce a rule, it creates problems for everyone. They have to be allowed to govern the game as they see fit or there is anarchy. Here at home, the Vietnam Golf Association has been trying, with minimal success, to govern play in the country. Yet, many tournaments still flout the rules on prize limits with impunity.
For better or for worse, we should support R&A /USGA decisions or the game, just like Doofenschmirtz's whatever-inators… could blow up in our faces. — VNS