• Golf’s rules: Why change?

    Rules changes in golf
    Changes are coming

    Golf’s rules are set for a swift, modern change, but while there’s some good, there is also some bad.

    Golf is hard – always has been and always will be. For some, this is even the reason they play. The thrill of attempting to control the little white ball better than their friend, and once that’s achieved, bettewr than the person they are paired against.

    The battle within the battle, it’s a true test of skill and patience, and it’s what makes the game so revered and loved
    the world over.

    Golf has been played a certain way since its inception, so why change it?

    Is pace of play – which no one will disagree is a problem – really the soleand overriding criteria for the need to amend the rules?

    Next year you’ll be allowed to look for your ball for only three minutes.

    That’s a good move, but, in all honesty, I can’t remember the last time anyone I played with took the full five minutes
    to look for a lost ball.

    Now comes the huge change: you will be allowed a far more beneficial drop should your ball be lost out of bounds, provided your club adopts the local rule. This rule allows you to drop in the vicinity of where the ball crossed the line.

    The new rule regarding losing your ball off the tee, which reduces the stroke and distance penalty, is going to be abused.

    I’ve played enough golf with all sorts of handicap levels, but also with differing levels of rules appreciation, and I can’t see the rule being upheld in the spirit in which it was written. Golfers have proved to be poor when it comes to playing by the rules. What lies ahead?

    Imagine seeing your wager going the wrong way as your opponent wanders down the hazard line and drops ‘in the vicinity’ of where he believes his ball crossed – 30m, 50m past the mark. You feel you can’t say anything because you’ve either just met, the infringing player is your boss or a member of your partner’s family you are playing with for the first time. Talk about a rocky start.

    Yes, you are playing against the course and your handicap, but you are also playing the people in the golf day or club competition. As you abide by the strictest rules, where there is no place for subjectivity, others will lean on the border of what is allowed under the new rules.

    And all in the name of pace of play? Golf is too slow, but, as discussed in a previous issue, it’s rarely got anything to do with losing a ball off the tee. If you don’t hit a provisional, walk out the hole. You should be punished for making that error, not riding on your new advantage – with very little time saved.

    There is no punishment for a double hit; rather you only count the second hit as an extra shot. That’s a rule I can get on board with, while I’m also relieved the new height for a drop is not a few inches but a compromise to knee height. The game is all about the breaks – good and bad – and the bounce of the ball; it’s part of the unknown aspect so many love.

    Golf needs its traditions protected, now more than ever, as the T20 cricket generation seems to spread its way into every aspect. No penalty for putting with the flag in? What game are we even going to be playing?

    – This article first appeared in the May issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!

    Article written by