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Nov 15

Golf Rules for the Birds

Some Golf Rules Just Need to Go, While Others Need to be Enacted

Josh Sens of Golf.com wrote an article this week entitled the 8 Supidest Rules in Golf, and boy howdy did he ever nail it! Weekenders like me watch the pros go through these terrible trials, in which they are sometimes unjustly punished for being brilliant, or for just having good sense…or for being innocent bystanders. It is then that I realize we poor hacks are playing by the same rules, at least if we’re doing it right. All right then, here’s a little commentary on Mr. Sens’ catalogue of good sense and his succinct analysis of certain rules for which I owe him eternal gratitude.

redneck-golferFirst, there is Rule 8-12, the DJ rule, causing or not causing the ball to move even a milimeter from its resting position. For the pros, it’s affectionately known as the Dustin Johnson Rule, after some butterfly or poultergeist breathed on the ball in this year’s U.S. Open before he reached it, and it quivered – 1 stroke for Dustin. It doesn’t matter if it’s an act of God. God doesn’t get the stroke – you do. I grew up playing at Laurelwood in Eugene. It’s one of my favorite munis, but I can remember long irons within three feet of the hole beginning to run backward at the slightest natural provocation, almost ending up back at my feet. Can you calculate how many penalty strokes that would be with such a thing happening all over the course?

Sens makes a great point about no relief from sand-filled divots. You can send an errant drive to Mars, but if it lands on ground-under-repair, no problem – you have “relief.” If you smoke the drive of your life down the middle and land on a patch of sand three inches across left by another golfer, no way. Of course, I grew up on some courses that were 97% ground-under-repair, so relief was in short supply anyway, but really. This just proves my long-held suspicion that the universe doesn’t want us to succeed, and if by chance we slip through the cracks and succeed anyway, it demands payment. Three hundred yards down the middle, then penalize him in any way you can.
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A player sends a putt too far, and it hits the flagstick lying on the ground – your penalty. Wait a minute, your partner put it there – penalize him! Ah, but you should have known where he put it. You should have instructed him to put it somewhere else. Oh no no, I was concentrating on the putt, head down, that sort of thing. “Partner? What partner? He’s not my partner – you take the penalty.”

Dropping the ball – If it goes closer to the hole twice, you get to place it. Why don’t you just let me place it now? It will save an awful lot of time, and we’re big into that these days. We get penalized twice for a lost ball, stroke and distance. I don’t know how Canadian jurisprudence sees it, but in the U.S., that’s double jeopardy. You can’t even be tried twice for something that might send you to the gas chamber. This is just a bad drive, so cut me a little slack! I’m despondent enough already.

There’s a sprinkler head in my putting line, another man-made obstacle. Local rules might save you, but the USGA won’t, even though a straightaway putt could go off at a right angle. Searching for a lost ball called off after five minutes? Ah, how leisurely the game used to be. If I took seven minutes, I could find at least 20 balls. Ball on a footprint in a bunker? Thanks, colleague in the foursome just ahead – thanks a lot. So, am I to understand that the fathead on the next hole determines my score? Where’s the nearest lightning bolt?

This is what the golf ghouls that rule the roost say you have to jump through, just like Tiger does. How about updating the whole mess by removing or easing a ferw of these, and adding fashion and booze rules? Now, football has a taunting penalty – there’s a good one. Giving a sneering partner a stroke for gloating would be nice, although we’d need a referee, and there are too many of those in life already.
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But thanks anyway to Josh Sens for speaking so well for all of us. If we were to add recommended reading to his article, such as Leslie Nielson’s Stupid Little Golf Book, we’d have a much clearer idea of what  rules are being concocted by golf’s dark forces before we even get out of the parking lot.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.