The new rules of golf come into effect only in two years’ time, but already people are celebrating, writes ANDY CAPOSTAGNO.
Many are delighted at the forced removal of the petty-minded attitude (and penalty strokes) concerning a ball moving 2mm from its original position. Personally, however, the highlight is the inclusion of the word ‘anger’.
For many years the rule stated, ‘A player may use the damaged club only if it was damaged in the “normal course of play”.’ Now it says,
‘A player may keep using any damaged club, even if the player damaged it in anger.’
It is perhaps unique in the annals of organised sport for a rule to admit that people are prone to anger. Even in a contact sport like rugby, the laws assume that players pumped to the eyeballs with testosterone will behave like gentlemen at all times. But anyone who has ever tried and failed to hit a golf ball will know that anger is a constant companion.
It is over a century since PG Wodehouse pointed out the following truism: ‘The only way of really finding out a man’s true character
is to play golf with him. In no other walk of life does the cloven hoof so quickly display itself.’ And yet since he wrote that, the rules have assumed golfers will be of equable temperament at all times.
If that were the case, where did Tommy ‘Thunder’ Bolt come from? The apocryphal story goes that the great club thrower asked his caddie what he should use for his approach to the 18th. ‘It’s either a 3-wood or a 7-iron,’ came the reply. ‘Those are
the only two you’ve got left.’
As much as everyone would like the temperament of a Jordan Spieth, the reality is that we all have a ‘thunderbolt’ in us trying to get out. The fact the rules now acknowledge same should encourage us all.
I am not suggesting you should break a club on the 1st tee, or shout obscenities at the greens committee; far from it. I am arguing, rather, that a game which acknowledges that human beings are subject to the basest of emotions is a game that has grown up.
Practically speaking, if you hit your approach to two feet and then watch in stunned disbelief as your ball is carried away by a monkey, you no longer need to bottle up your emotions. Instead you may say, in a calm and clear voice, ‘Caddie, hand me my 5-iron,’ and then hurl said club at the simian miscreant, safe in the knowledge that any damage to the club has been predicted and condoned by the rules of the game!
If it comes back bent into an S-shape, there is now no reason at all why you may not continue to use it, damaged as it may have been, not in the ‘normal course of play’, but in ‘anger’. The fact it is now entirely useless for its intended task is irrelevant. It remains in the bag, a badge of honour, ready to be used again in the unlikely event that its owner should be so provoked as to lose his temper for a second time.
– This article first appeared in the April issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale