Bifurcation?

In light of the forthcoming anchored-putter ban, there's been a lot of talk about a bifurcation of the official rules of golf. This means having two sets of rules--one for the Tour pros and one for the rest of us. Is this a good idea?

People who argue for bifurcation say that all other sports use different sets of rules for amateur and professional play. The NBA has a longer 3-point line than college and high school courts, amateur baseball uses metal bats and professional baseball doesn't, and the list goes on. Arguments against bifurcation state that this is one of the attractive features of golf--that amateurs can play the same courses, using the same equipment and the same rules as the word's elite players.

One thing that is neglected and I haven't heard in this debate is that amateurs are already playing by a different set of rules that the pros. As someone who has played competitive and recreational golf, I can say that there is little similar between the two. Mulligans, breakfast balls, gimmes, beverage carts, winter rules, do-overs and extra balls are all very common in recreational golf. I see amateurs that may only putt out a couple times a round! And there's nothing wrong with these things when you're out to have a good time. But when the competition starts, the stroke-and-distance penalties begin and every stroke counts. Why do your club championship, or city tournament rounds take forever? That's simple--people grinding over putts they regularly pick up and playing from areas where their usual mulligan would not have been.

For amateurs, having fun and encouraging the growth of the game should be paramount for the golf industry, and if that means making the Tour pros play by a stricter set of rules, so be it. We should be trying to make golf faster, easier and less expensive for everyone.

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Brant Kasbohm, PGA