Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why the USGA and R&A still don't get "it"

This morning the governing bodies of golf, the United States Golf Association (@USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club moved forward with a ban on a putting stroke using any sort of "anchored" position (Information can be found here Once again these two organizations have shown they simply don't get "it" when it comes to the future of the game of golf.

Over the course of a year I teach some 300 adults and kids who are new to the game of golf. At the beginning of each instruction program I ask these groups what they think are some of the reasons the number of golfers in the United States is declining. Nearly every single one of them says it's because the game is too difficult or frustrating along with being too time-consuming for today's much more fast-paced society.

So if I was someone considering learning the game of golf why in the world would I want to make an effort to play a game that is continually becoming more shackled by its rules? Most beginners don't even know what "anchoring" the putter means, but they don't need to, because all they take away from this sort of thing is that the game is now being made more difficult for them.

After teaching for nearly seven years well over a thousand juniors and adults I can without a doubt say the USGA should be doing everything it can to make the game of golf easier if it wants to sustain or encourage some kind of long-term growth. Allow manufacturers to make drivers as hot as possible, or wedges that spin like a top, and any other way to provide more fun to the average golfer. Don't force them to stop making clubs that generate interest and excitement. At the same time limit the restrictions that are currently being levied upon all golfers to just those on professional tours (sans anchoring of course which is just a knee-jerk reaction).

I could go on and on about all the statistics showing that belly and long putters in fact have no real advantage yet just provide a different method for making a stroke at the golf ball, but that's not what this post is about. What this is about is the USGA creating the appearance of a much more restrictive game of golf, one that does not get the average golfer excited to play. Golf is no longer a game of growth, it is a game of decline and has been for the past several years (see: Would it be so bad if everyone felt like they could shoot 70 without being handcuffed by the type of club they can use? What if the belly putter got 10 golfers this week so enthused about trying something new that they each went out and played a round of golf they otherwise wouldn't have? Wouldn't this be good for the game? Conversely, what if this rule change turns someone away from the game by making it more difficult for them?  This rule change is without a doubt bad for the future growth of the game. The governing bodies of golf have lost touch with the average player and this is why they simply don't get "it."

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