I count five. How many do you see?

Given that I am somebody who writes about the game, I feel an obligation to say something, anything, about the USGA and R&A’s colossally historic and significant decision to ban anchored putting.  And I will, but first I should examine why this issue doesn’t get my juices flowing.  What has struck me the most as I watched the buildup to Wednesday’s announcement was my apathy about the whole controversy.  I had an opinion, but that’s not the same thing as really caring.

Having given this a moment or two of thought, I think my indifference is just masked aversion to the topic of putting itself.  I think putting is fundamentally the most misleading and ultimately the most embarrassing thing about the game.  And of course, as every golfer reading these words is no doubt thinking, it is also the most decisive determinant of success when playing.  But, even acknowledging the critical importance of putting, I still think the less said about it, the less people see of it, the better.

Here’s what I mean by that: I would hope that even the most jaded non-golfer out there would appreciate the athleticism of a Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy as they uncoil and launch a ball a distance of over three football fields towards a target area the size of half a tennis court.  But, let’s face it, the last ten feet or so of their ball’s journey to the bottom of the cup just doesn’t look all that impressive.  What the non-golfer sees when he sees putting is some guy doing something that any slob can do, just not that well.  In a world that generates a daily barrage of video images of improbably phenomenal athletic feats, the footage of some guy in red slacks rolling a ball fifteen feet into a little hole seems, frankly, pretty lame.  We may all know that it’s a good bit harder than it looks, but that doesn’t change the fact that the image undermines the argument that golf is a demanding sport.

And so, I found our little civil war to be just a tad embarrassing.  I don’t blame the rest of the world for eavesdropping on the conversation and then voicing a skeptical “Really?” to the proceedings.  To the outsider it must seem like the modern equivalent of those medieval debates about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

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