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July 3, 2013

Rule change presents a huge challenge for golf pros

OK, so the Great Debate of 2013 has ended, pretty much.

This week the PGA of America and the PGA Tour both announced that they will fall in line and follow Rule 14-1b, which when implemented in January of 2016 will ban the anchored putting stroke. Golf’s professional bodies did ask the governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, for one thing and that was to extend the implementation date for recreational amateurs past 2016.

The mentality behind the extension for amateurs was simple. The feeling by the PGA and the Tour was that there was no pressing reason to force the ban on the amateur body so that older amateur golfers might conceivably be able to phase out of their careers by anchoring. Many of these golfers have resorted to anchoring as a defense against the yips, which is a nervous condition that results in consistent misses of short putts. Some players in this group have also developed tremors with age and anchoring has been their only salvation for staying in the game.

How many people among the 26 million golfers in the United States will be effected by Rule 14-1b? No one can accurately answer this. The USGA has said the number is 2-4 percent and the PGA Tour estimates it could be as high as 10 percent. Let’s pick a number in between and say its 5 percent. That would be 1.3 million golfers in the U.S. who currently anchor the long putter.

“Anchorers” are typically golfers who play a lot of rounds each year. Rarely, if ever, do you see the occasional player who tees it up once or twice a year show up with a long putter. Never do you see a beginner have the long stick in their bag.

There is an adage in golf that says “20 percent of the golfing population is responsible for driving 80 percent of the revenue at golf courses.” So, if you take the 26 million total golfers in this country, approximately 5.2 million of those account for the vast majority of golf course revenues each year. The “anchorers” are clearly in that group of spenders and are classified as part of the avid or core golfers by operators.

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