PGA of America says tougher rules could hurt game

NEW YORK Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Limiting how far the ball travels and the type of putters players can use could do more harm than good for golf, the PGA of America said on Tuesday.

The PGA of America, who is opposed to a proposed ban on players anchoring long putters to their body, feels making golf easier would grow the game and is ready to resist a possible move to reign in 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," PGA President Ted Bishop told reporters on Tuesday.

Golf's rulesmakers have not formally proposed dialing back how far a golf ball can go, but it has been something the United States Golf Association (USGA) has long pondered.

Bishop, whose eye is trained on increasing the popularity of the game, said he worried about the average player if such a rule were to be passed.

According to Bishop, the 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," Bishop told Reuters. "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 January 1, 2016.

The PGA reacted quickly, 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 percent 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, for 20 years 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, the new 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," Bevacqua told Reuters. "(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.

"I think it's great that you see what the elite players are doing and get to judge their performance or the performance of their friends against them. That's part of the charm of golf."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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