Putting ban ‘would deter average players’

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LIMITING how far the ball travels and the type of putting style players can use could do more harm than good for golf, according to the PGA of America.

The group opposes a proposed ban on players anchoring long putters to their body and feels making golf easier would grow the game. It is also ready to resist moves to reduce the ­distance golf balls travel.

“If you do anything that’s going to cause the rank and file amateur player to not hit the ball as far, there’s no way you’re going to enhance their enjoyment of the game,” said PGA president Ted Bishop. According to Bishop, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has said controlling the distance of golf balls is something that may be worth exploring to help improve golf course maintenance costs and potentially lessen the amount of land required to build golf courses.

“I’m not so sure that’s the greater issue we have to deal with,” said Bishop. “This game is a hard game and anything we do to make the golf course play longer, play more difficult, is certainly going to deter from the enjoyment of the game for the average player.”

A review process on the proposed anchoring rule by the USGA and the Royal and Ancient is set to continue through next February and, if approved, would be enforced from 1 January, 2016. The PGA reacted by ­issuing a statement calling on the rules bodies “to seriously consider the impact this proposed ban may have on people’s enjoyment of the game and the overall growth of the game”.

A survey of PGA members showed 63 per cent were against a ban of anchoring, a putting style used by three of the past five major champions – Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els.

“I’ve already had players in my club that are using long putters saying ‘are you going to make it a local rule that’s going to allow me to putt this way?’” said Bishop, the general manager and director of golf at The Legends Golf Club, in Franklin, Indiana.

“It puts us in a tough position as club professionals trying to administer events at our club level.”

Some have suggested two sets of rules, one governing professionals and another applied to more ordinary players, referred to as bifurcation.

Pete Bevacqua, chief executive the PGA of America, did not think split rules were a good way to go.

“Everyone wants to see where the rules go,” said Bevacqua. “But I tend to agree with the USGA, I don’t think bifurcation is the ­answer. It would be crazy if we all played by different sets of rules.”