Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bifurcation? Is that the new Furby?

                I promised in an earlier post that I would not say another word about the new proposed anchoring Rule until there was actually news to report.  So I won’t.  I will, however, discuss the issue of bifurcation.  For those of you who don’t follow golf news on an hourly basis like myself, bifurcation the term being used for having two separate Rules of Golf.  The PGA of America President Ted Bishop is vehemently arguing in favor of two sets of Rules, one for amateurs and one for professionals, in order to avoid alienating new and aging golfers with the new anchoring ban.  This article will go over the pluses and minuses of bifurcation, hopefully with as little bias as possible.  However, since I do have an opinion on the subject, I will tell you that straightforward before reading the analysis.

                I am against bifurcation as it is being described.  The Rules of Golf should be one and the same for everybody.  That is part of what makes this game more special than other professional sports.  With that said, I want it noted that we already have a form of semi-bifurcation in place with the groove specifications Condition.  Currently, professionals are limited to the groove specifications put forth by the Condition of Competition effective January 1, 2010.  Amateurs, including amateurs in USGA championships, are not bound by this unless they attempt to qualify for or play in those professional events.  It is currently a recommendation that regional golf associations adopt the Condition of Competition no later than 2014.  The USGA will adopt it for their amateur competitions no later than 2014.  It will not be until at least 2024, however, that the new groove specifications will officially be part of the Rules of Golf.  For 14 years, we have different Rules for professionals and amateurs except when amateur tournaments adopt the Condition of Competition.  I’m surprised this hasn’t been brought up before.

                And I make my judgment based on that.  I have colleagues who disagree with this, but I propose introducing a Condition of Competition for the anchoring ban.  If the USGA and R&A so badly want the Rule in effect, let them do it for their own championships first.  At least that way, the new Rule won’t alienate new players who are just trying to find a way to play the game comfortably.

                Another option would be to introduce an Exception to the new 14-1b – a medical exception.  We see this kind of medical exception for Rule 14-3, why not in this case?  Tim Clark and most seniors would be exempt under the Exception and the ruling bodies would still get their way as far as how a stroke should be made by those who are physically able to do so.  I’m not as much in favor of this option, but it’s better than nothing.

                In the end, I am a PGA Professional with my allegiance to the game of Golf.  For 22 of my 28 years, this game has been a part of my life.  For 20 of those years I have been a competitor.  For 12 of those years I have been an employee and for 6 of those years I have been a professional.  I do not agree with my organization’s President and the brinksmanship he is using against the new Rule, even if I do agree with some of his points.  What’s best for this game is for everyone to work together to solve the real underlying issues:  the game takes too long, it is too expensive, it has not been considered welcoming to new golfers and there is a definite racial and gender gap that needs to be breached.  The turmoil surrounding bifurcation may bring attention to the game, but it is not bringing us together.  It is my profession; it is the majority of my life, my hobby and my passion.  It is also, just a game and games should be fun.

Bifurcation – The Good Side

·         Like College vs. Pro football, allows for a gradual increase in difficulty, with pros bound by the strictest Rules.

·         New golfers would not be turned away by the harsh nature of the Rules and their difficulty.  The focus could be on making the game easier and more fun to play.

·         Complete bifurcation would allow the Tours to remove Rules professionals have complained about that do not give players any advantage when breached. 

·         Potentially, bifurcated Rules could be simplified to seem more welcoming for amateur golfers


Bifurcation – The Down Side

·         A game that has been governed by the same set of Rules for nearly 260 years would be split in two.

·         Potentially, different professional championships could be played by different sets of Rules (i.e. US Open and Open Championship would obviously be governed by the USGA/R&A Rules of Golf, with the PGA Championship and PGA Tour using “Tour Rules").

·         In efforts to appease some professionals, professional Rules could actually become simpler than amateur Rules, further alienating new golfers from an already complicated game.

·         The USGA and R & A, organizations that believe it or not, have the game’s best interests at heart, would have some of their influence diluted.  That influence is part of what allows them to implement youth and educational programs throughout the country.

Like any divisive issue, there are far more points that could be made by either side.  Tim Finchem’s comments this week and PGA President Ted Bishop’s fiery remarks make bifurcation seem far more likely than it may actually be.  Only time will tell. 

Now it’s time for you to decide.  Comment below with your opinion on bifurcation.

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