In 1930, the year Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam, there was no limit on the number of clubs a golfer could have in his bag. However, in 1936, when the Walker Cup was held at storied Pine Valley Golf Club, Scotty Campbell, a member of the U.S. side, reportedly had 32 clubs in his bag, including a few lefthanded ones and seven niblicks. Following the competition, Jones had a conversation with Tony Torrance, a top European amateur and a Walker Cup mainstay, and, as the story goes, because Torrance used 12 clubs and Jones 16, the two decided that the maximum number of clubs a player could carry should be 14. They proposed that number to the USGA, and in 1938 the 14-club limit was entered into the Rules of Golf. A year later the R&A followed suit, agreeing that allowing an unlimited number of clubs gave a player an unfair advantage.
This year another equipment debate appears to be coming to a head. Traditionalists argue that alternative putters—specifically, belly and long putters—give players an unfair advantage. Do they? The Gecko Pro Tour, a mini-tour in Europe, thinks so. It outlawed alternate putters in 2011.
What is the end game? Although I don't think alternative putters are an unfair advantage, I do believe we'll see a rules change that will address how they, and all other clubs, are used. I predict that the act of anchoring any club to any part of the body other than the hands will be deemed illegal. No anchoring the putter grip against the forearm like Bernhard Langer did in 1991 when he missed the six-footer that would've won the Ryder Cup for Europe. No anchoring the grip under the armpit, like Johnny Miller did when he won at Pebble Beach in 1994. And certainly no anchoring to the belly (sorry, Keegan) or the chest (too bad, Carl).
Some say there's no going back, but I say we'll soon be seeing all golfers making and missing putts the same way they did in the 1860 British Open. Why is this change absolutely necessary? Because the essence of our great game has little to do with the club you use to hit the ball at the target. Golf boils down to the ability to control your mind and body well enough to allow yourself to hit the ball at the target.
September 24, 2012
Michael Breed, host of The Golf Fix on Golf Channel, was recently named 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year.
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