According to Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA, “Throughout the 600 year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball. The player’s challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring alters the nature of that challenge. Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club.” The proposed rule change is expected to be ratified in the spring of 2013 and would not take effect until January 1, 2016. Until then there is no doubt there will be considerable debate over the issue.
One of the major dilemmas is preserving the integrity of the game vs. making the game easier for more people to play and enjoy. When golf course closings began outnumbering openings and the number of people leaving the game for other leisure activities increasing, the golf industry noticed. The keepers of the game have been trying to come up with ways to increase participation while maintaining the essence of the game. Should there be two sets of rules for the game: one for professionals and another for amateurs? Will attempting to make the game easier so more people will enjoy it, in fact lead to the demise of the very essence of the sport that draws so many of us to the game? What can other sports teach us about inclusion and growing the sport while maintaining its integrity?
Change is never easy. The very nature of change makes us uncomfortable as we approach the unknown. We are wired for survival to be on alert when something is different. If we were not on alert that big old wooly mammoth or saber tooth tiger would have eaten us all up a long time ago. Yet, all change is not merely for survival; it can also be a source of growth and improvement. Approaching the unknown has expanded our horizons to a new and improved quality of life. Change rings the alarm for fight or flight. Over the next few months we will surely hear the fighters argue their respective points of view as to why or why not allowing the anchored stroke will be the best thing for golf or the end of time. Others will flee from the mere thought of a debate. No doubt many interesting ideas will surface during this debate, as it did when the stroke was redefined in the past to end pushing, scraping, spooning and the croquet style of striking the ball. After all is said and done playing the great game of golf will still be you, your sticks and the golf course.