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By Mike Stevens

If 12 holes becomes the new 18, then it’s time to bifurcate the rules

Several people in golf are calling for golf to become a 12-hole option to adapt to changing lifestyles. Jack Nicklaus is one. He recently conducted a 12-hole event at his course in Columbus which included a larger diameter cup. As a traditionalist, the idea goes against my nature, but I am also a realist, and making the game more friendly for the average Dick and Jane is not a bad idea. Let’s be honest – the professional game now is so far removed from what everyone else plays that the time for a bifurcated rule book has come. People should be able to play golf any way they like. Serious players are always going to play by the USGA rules. Most people, however, just want to escape the office or enjoy some time with friends or family. They couldn’t care less about stroke-anddistance or penalties for grounding a club in the sand or hazard.

For centuries golf has insisted that playing by the rules is absolute, labeling anyone that doesn’t as slackers or cheaters. – someone who should be drummed out of the game. Well, in tournament play, absolutely. But, less than 2% of golfers play for a living or in serious events. Why not let everyone else have fun? Golf has spent to much time catering to the small percentage of good players. In present times, that will be a dead-end road. It is time to start paying attention to today’s society. We have raised a generation of people who want instant gratification. Most no longer have the patience required for becoming good golfers. I wish this was not the case, but the reality is we need a rule book that says, for tournament play, follow these 34 regulations. For recreation, play any way you want.

By Mark Harman

If 12 holes becomes the new 18, then it’s time to bifurcate the rules

Keegan Bradley won a major with it. Bill Haas won the FedEx Cup with it. Webb Simpson had a career year with it.

Of course, we’re talking about belly putters. And, they’ve caused quite a stir. Many of golf’s greats and other observers make the case that using a belly putter isn’t a “real” golf stroke because the end of the putter is anchored against the body. They also decry the use of the long putter, where the left hand anchors the putter near the sternum. Bernhard Langer is the most noted user of this method.

Are these putters really a problem? If you look at the year-end statistics for the PGA Tour, no one who uses a belly or long putter is in the top eight of the “strokes gained” category, the most accurate way to measure putting success on Tour. Scott McCarron, who uses a long putter, is ranked ninth. What about those young guns who are causing traditionalists much consternation over their use of the putter? Bradley is ranked 97th; Haas 84th; Simpson 57th. Doesn’t seem to be much of an overall advantage to those guys, does it? How about Adam Scott, who claims the long putter has revitalized his putting? He’s ranked 143rd. Some revitalization.

We can see statistically that using such putters is no magic elixir. So, let’s go to the next question: Is a stroke with a long or belly putter a “real” golf stroke? No less than Ben Hogan considered putting not even a part of “real” golf. He proposed a new scoring system where putts only counted as 1/2 of a stroke, thereby emphasizing the tee-to-green game.

This writer agrees with Hogan. Putting is simply different than other golf shots. The technique is completely different, the ball is rolled instead of elevated, and the instrument itself has its own set of rules apart from the other clubs. One example: Want to use a 52” driver? Can’t do it. Want to use a 52” putter? Have at it.

If even one touring professional would separate themselves significantly from their short-putter-using peers statistically, then we might agree the issue needs to be revisited. But for now, we say belly up to the bar...er, green...and putt away.

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