Mar 12

Golf Rules are Changing

Golf Rules Changing That Were Set Centuries Ago

I suppose that I am the only person remaining in the golf world who does not want the game of golf to go faster, be a lot more “fun” and less “difficult.” I’ve said it a thousand times, so I won’t elaborate, except to say that the relaxing, deliberate game of golf has always been a welcome contrast to the fast-paced and noisy world for me. I love playing it because it’s so difficult, and I have spent a lifetime measuring my game against the same hard version the pros play (with a little winter rules or foot wedge along the way). I always lose in that comparison, but it’s as fixed as the North Star. On the other hand, some of the new rules under consideration by the USGA are not so bad.

I chuckled without intending to when I read that the present golf rules have been in place since 1744. That’s before my country became an official entity, and Beethoven wasn’t even born yet. I had to think for a second “Aw, c’mon. We can keep up better than that. Tradition is one thing, but c’mon.” I agree that the rule book, if we are to truly play by it, is lengthy, complicated, and penalizes things that are not under our control. In an act of God, God never has to take the penalty – we do. Regardless, the USGA wants to reduce the big ones from 34 to 24, so I’m fine with that.
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Rule change number one? No penalty for a ball or marker that moves before we get there. It’s about time, as it falls under that act of God type of thing. It makes me think of insurance companies. Rule change number two is a really big one for me, the right to leave the flagstick in while putting. I don’t know what the advantage really is. Dependiing on the velocity of the putt, it can hit the stick and bounce 100 yards away instead of falling in the hole. Maybe the flagstick is a little like a pacifier or security blanket. I suppose that there is less chance of an overly helpful or evil opposing caddie pulling it out too late. Third? We can now repair things on the green. If we truly want to speed up the game, are we really ready to unleash a wave of neatniks onto the golf course, and watch them tweak and trim for several minutes before putting? Four – no caddies lining up putts. I used to love it when my brother did that, but that’s ok, let it go. I want to see all those fancy pros line their own up, and take the credit or blame for the result. No more taking a miscalculated putt out on the caddie. You’re on your own.
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Here’s a huge one for the weekender. If you have zero confidence in your sand wedge, you can take the ball out, put it in the rough or further back on the fairway, and incur a two-stroke penalty. There are timid bunker players who, on average, would come out ahead this way. I’ve thought at times that I was going to strike oil if I took many more swings. A three minute maximum search for a lost ball is an idea I heartily endorse. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Spending five minutes looking for a ball can get you a case of poison ivy, knee deep in a bog, or attacked by any number of wild animals. The proposed forty second shot clock is an awful lot like basketball to me, and that game moves too fast for someone relaxing with golf. So, does the forty seconds start as you walk to the next shot, when you arrive, when you pull the club out of the bag, or when you address the ball? These things must be cleared up before I’ll sign on.

I notice that there are still no provisions for mulligans or automatic two-putts. I guess a mulligan runs afoul of the Prime Directive, something about the universe and time getting tangled up. There is no rule that lets us subtract a stroke for any reason. So, some things never change. Golf doesn’t “give” you anything. You still work for it.. All right then, I’ll buy that, but who knows what the next changes will bring, somewhere around the year of 2400?

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