NISKAYUNA – I recently had opportunity to attend another rules seminar put on by the New York State Golf Association at the Mohawk Golf Club. The opening part of the seminar discussed a major set of “proposed changes” to the current rules of golf that have been jointly put forward by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A (formerly the Royal & Ancient Golf Club).
Some of the proposed changes will officially be put into place at the beginning of 2019. The groups have two guiding themes:
1. “Even far-reaching Rule changes should be open for discussion, but golf’s essential principles and character must be preserved.”
2. “Revisions should be assessed with all golfers in mind, so that the rules are easier to understand and apply not only for professionals and elite amateurs, but also for beginners, high-handicappers and typical club and recreational golfers at all levels of play around the world.”
“Essentially, this is an effort to simplify the wording of the rules; make great effort to use more graphics, photos and videos; clarify the purpose underlying each of the main rules; and include a version of the rules from the player’s perspective and what the typical golfer needs to know; and to use technology to make it easier to search and review the rules.”
These are lofty goals and could bring about the most dramatic changes to golf as we know it in the past half century. The USGA and the R&A are actually asking golfers to try out some of the proposed new rules “in casual play” this season in during the next few months and to provide input to the USGA and the R&A.
They are currently creating a feedback mechanism for comments and will have it available soon. They plan to implement some of the suggested rule changes by early 2018 and to officially put selected new rules into place on January 1, 2019.
I thought it a good idea to overview some of what I feel to be the more popular rules up for amendment. I think following will be supported by most golfers and could ultimately be implemented by the USGA/R&A:
REPAIR SPIKE MARKS: at the top of my “recommend list.” How many times have we thought about this rule when we followed “big foot” around for 18 holes. I would definitely recommend this be implemented.
HITTING FLAGSTICK WHILE PUTTING: If you currently hit the flagstick when putting it is a hefty two-stroke penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. A putt that hits the flagstick will either carom back, sideways, or drop in the hole. The same thing happens without penalty if you chip or putt from just off the green. I feel it is an unnecessary rule and recommend it be changed.
MOVING A LOOSE IMPEDIMENT IN A BUNKER: If you encounter a loose impediment (brush, leaves, pine cones, for instance) and the object moves it is a two-stroke penalty. (Stones are also loose impediments, but are often given exception by “local club rules”).
However, if you encounter a “moveable obstruction” (anything artificial such as bunker rake, cigarette butt, plastic bag, etc.) you are allowed to move it. I feel the “loose impediment” is an unnecessary rule and recommend it be changed.
TIME LOOKING FOR LOST BALL: Recommendation goes from the current five-minute search time to three minutes. We have been trying to “speed up” the game of golf and this is one way to do it. I’d recommend approval.
NO PENALTY FOR MOVING A BALL BY ACCIDENT OR BY SEARCHING: I feel the small movement of the ball in these situations would have little negative impact on the game and would also speed up play because you don’t have search quite as carefully. I would also recommend this change.
MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE STROKES ON ANY ONE HOLE: It certainly would speed up the game if golfers could take no more than a quadruple bogey (for example) on a hole. It should be noted that this and many of the possible new rules would not apply to all golfers in every situation.
For example, several of the recommended changes would not apply to tournament play at the club and professional level. They would mainly be in place to make the game more fun and to speed up the pace for the average or beginning golfer.
As stated before, this is a major effort to bring change to golf as we know it. There are other rules under discussion that are a bit more complicated and I will deal with them in future articles.