Two news items have piqued my interest this week. The Royal & Ancient Golf Association, in conjunction with the Links Trust, has commenced minor redesign work on the Old Course at St. Andrews. In a joint teleconference on Tuesday morning the 28th of November, the United States Golf Association and the R&A are expected to issue a statement on the anchoring of golf clubs to the body.
These two news items certainly don’t qualify as sexy by any stretch of the imagination. Few golfers beyond the aficionados of golf course architecture will notice a difference between the old Old Course and the new Old Course. If folks are fortunate enough to return and play the Old Course a second, third or tenth time, the changes might be so subtle after grow-in that a golfer on the ground might not notice. Or she/he might.
If the two ruling bodies (USGA and R&A) rule the belly putter (anchored) illegal, as most suspect, will golfers give up all of golf because they simply cannot putt with a standard or unanchored putter and technique? I suspect they won’t. They might grumble a bit and recall the glorious years when they putted well with the belly putter, but they will adapt (putting worse or better in the process) and continue to play the game they love.
On the surface, if I defend the place of the anchored club while I call for a halt to the work at St. Andrews, it might appear that I support tradition in the latter instance, yet support innovation in the former. That would be an accurate assessment. I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive. From my perspective, the Old Course should remain as unique and original as it can. No manned effort to alter its playing characteristics, regardless of size, should be encouraged nor executed. If a small alteration is made in 2012, what’s to stop a more sizable one from taking shape in 2015? Peter Dawson gets vilified by architecture aficionados in 2012, yet he might be a drop in the bucket compared to the next secretary of the R&A, right?
I used the belly putter, anchored, in 2011 and 2012 with intermittent success. When I putted well with it, I was deadly. When my timing or rhythm was off, my target did not live in fear. Interestingly, I have the same pattern with a non-anchored putter and expect that I always will. Putting is dependent on nerves, timing and connection to the putting surface and no method will ever eliminate nor minimize those three critical elements. I don’t expect an exodus from the game if a rule is created that prohibits anchoring. Those in the know who oppose it will ask, what rule will be invented next? What will the impetus be for such a rule?
I have no answer beyond my own opinion. I know that I will be saddened if the work at the Old Course continues, just as I will be saddened if the anchored putting stroke is ruled unlawful.