A new day may be dawning in golf: a kinder, gentler rule book, beginning 1-1-19. The reason? The game takes too long and the rules are too confusing…and at times too penal.
That’s fine motivation but as I digest the new rules, some of them work, others don’t. Some of the rules will make the game more fair and equitable, some rules will speed up the game, and some rules only affect Tour players. But most interestingly, some new rules open the door for creative cheating and the “You did, I didn’t” arguments that will naturally result. Why? Because suddenly the objective – “did you do this?” which resulted in a strict liability penalty is replaced by the subjective – “did you mean to do it?”
And that opens a door that this writer thinks should remain shut.
In this 2-part series, we’ll look at the good, the bad, the “meh,” and the headscratching changes that may be coming in two years. Today’s piece: the changes we like.
THE GOOD CHANGES
1. If the wind blows your ball, you can put it back with no penalty. THANK YOU! Never again will we have to hear arguments over “oscillating” golf balls.
2. You can putt with the flag in. (Anyone who plays by themselves does this all the time anyway…) Fine, no problem, and if you’re game enough to try to let it play backstop on a severe downhill putt, that’s your decision, as long as a guy can’t lay his club on the ground and “accidentally” using it to funnel the ball to the hole.
3. You can remove a loose impediment in a bunker. Thanks. That’s sensible. You can also take free relief from an embedded ball anywhere. That’s fair too. It’s nice not having to take a penalty or gauge it out. And – finally! – you can fix spike marks in your line. Again, thank you. What took you so long?
4. Lost ball? You get three minutes to look, not five. Personally, I’d prefer four, but this sure beats dealing with your friend who spends all day searching like he’s trying to find Private Ryan, the Roanoke Colony, Dr. Livingston, the Marie Celeste, and Amelia Earhardt, (they actually just found her, by the way…)
5. Along the same lines, you don’t have to play the provisional from the tee, but must announce it within 3 minutes. Okay, I guess it’s fair, but it will actually slow down the game for a player to search and then go back to the tee.
Best of all…
6. READY GOLF! This needs no explanation. Now can we please stop with the 3 minute pre-shot routines? People look like baseball players, fidgeting and swinging and waggling.