The R&A and the USGA have announced a series of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, to be implemented on Jan 1, 2019.
We must also consider that various organizations have their own rules for their events. For example, the PGA Tour is only testing the use of distance measuring devices during play at selected events on the has certain policies they enforce one of which is no distance measuring devices during play.
They are using select events on the Web.com Tour, the Mackenzie Tour and the PGA Tour Latinoamerica as a testing ground before considering them for use on the PGA Tour. In the best case scenario, this is moving at a snail’s pace – in the worst it is draconian.
The general public has been using range finders for about 20 years and every touring professional calculates the exact distance prior to each shot anyway. It isn’t rocket science and it isn’t a secret.
Ever since the introduction of the modern ball in 2000, golf ceased to be played the way it had been played for almost 400 years. Nobody plays by feel and judgment.
They figure out how far they are from the desired landing point, consider elevation changes, wind velocity, temperature, sea level relativity and lie. From this information, they calibrate a shot using an equation called the projectile motion formula (applied when firing a rifle by sharpshooters), determine which club to use and wail away.
Use of a range finder provides zero information to what a player and his/her caddie already has figured out. Mechanical measurement can’t possibly take as long as making all those calculations with a pencil and paper.
One of the key responsibilities of the R&A, USGA and our own Golf Canada is to provide a handicapping system. A lot of time, energy and money goes into maintaining a person’s handicap.
For what purpose?
I worked as a head professional at private clubs for over 40 years and found that other than official club events, a member’s handicap ultimately was only a beginning point for negotiating a match on about 95 per cent of matches.
Players would start on the first tee proclaiming their slope and the expected deliverance of their handicaps. Then the fun began – you beat us by five the last time we played, you just won the club championship, I have a bad back etc.
In short, a handicap means absolutely nothing unless it is a club match. Many times, we have players alongside those who have a handicap and those who don’t and the first question is what kind of scores do you shoot?
After one round, everyone begins to develop an image of who can shoot the score they say they can and those who can’t and that, my friends, begins what is called negotiation or stupidity.
Stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Maybe the first time you play together, the results are based on circumstance (weather, luck, exceptional play, poor play etc). So, you lose on the first day and make the same bet on the second (maybe) and you lose again. Do it three times and you have been out-negotiated or you are (need I say it again?)
As a club professional, I was amazed how often the same players won the member-guest, the club handicap and the weekly ball sweep. If a handicap is a true equalizer, how is such a thing possible?
Not only that, but how does a handicap of any number shoot any net score lower than the course record? On that subject, I think the average difference between the lowest net score ever shot at any club and the course record is between five and six shots lower.
So much for equalization.
Why do we even need a handicap with all its mathematical compilations and complications? Why not, “What do you shoot on average and let’s get at it?” Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame, on me unless for some reason, I want a certain result to occur like playing with your boss or a friend who “needs to win.”
Course rating? Who cares?
What’s the yardage and I will be playing from the one that suits me. In fact, I’d love to see everyone go as far forward as they need to go until they shoot 72.
If everyone played where they could shoot 72 from regardless of where that might be, there would be no need for handicaps because everyone would be equalized. Shoot higher and up you go. Shoot lower and back you come. You win on ability, not some numerical equation that determines the winner before the match begins.
Handicaps are for mathematicians and those seeking an advantage. Shooting a number is the only thing that is important, not trying to outsmart everyone.
While I’m on this soap box, forget about tee markers. All you need is colour-coded disks, indicating 10 yard increments and a total yardage from each on the scorecard. I’m tired of players standing on the first tee telling me they should play from 6200 yards and then shooting 85, but their handicap gives them a net 72.
This is false. They didn’t shoot 72, they shot 85. What would they do if a tour player showed up and played from 6200 yards and shot 65? Before you ask, how many times do you play with a person who can shoot lower than a gross score of 72 and we spend thousands of dollars to equalize them with a handicap system?
Back to the rules changes. Imagine after 400 years, if you move a ball accidentally, there is no penalty. Just put it back. The public has been doing this since the sun first came up in the east.
Currently, there are drops allowed within one and/or two club lengths with certain penalties applied or not. The new rule is that the ball must be dropped within a relief area of 20 or 80 inches. What if you forget your tape measure? Can you use body parts to determine the size of the relief area, a hand or a foot?
I can’t imagine the average person now being attracted to play golf because he/she no longer must drop within one club length. I know the rules are written so they can be applied in all circumstances, but this is doozy.
Dropping the ball used to be done by standing at attention, facing the hole, holding your breath, no crossing of fingers or toes, eyes directly forward, grasp the ball in your non-dominant hand, reach across your chest and drop the ball behind you from shoulder height.
This method was eventually deemed unfair because of the variance in height of golfers. The conclusion was that given a presumed flexibility of a tall golfer over a shorter person, the tall player could twist their shoulders enough to have an advantage over a shorter person and therefore, the rule was changed.
It came to pass that a drop could be taken by simply standing at attention with your arm extended in front of the player and the ball dropped from shoulder height. You no longer had to hold your breath or keep your eyes focused straight forward.
Strangely, this rule is once again being changed.
In the newest version, a player can drop the ball from a height of at least one inch. Once again, I ask if you can use body parts to measure the one inch? Some people are adequately equipped to do so. Some can use the distance from the end of their thumb to the first knuckle to determine the one-inch requirement.
Fortunately, the part about dropping behind you was removed before introducing dropping from one inch.
I have two questions about this change. Isn’t this very close to placing the ball and secondly, what if a players drops from a height inside one inch? How will that one inch be enforced exactly? Will they be forced to re-drop? How many times can they re-drop before they can place it?
Naturally, the ruling bodies are concerned about slow play. In an effort to speed things up a player is no longer allowed to look for a lost ball for five minutes. He/she must apply a rules procedure within three minutes.
The theory is that on any given day, approximately 125 to 150 people play a round of golf at a club. On average, approximately one ball is looked for by every person which means every foursome will now play in eight minutes less time under the new proposal.
Expanding that to the whole day, 150 players will play in 300 minutes less time or five hours. We currently expect a round of golf to take between four-and-a-half to five hours. This should attract thousands of new players who think golf takes too long to play and many more tee times will come available because it will now add time to your day to play, instead of taking it away.
In the new proposals, there is no penalty for hitting the flagstick with your ball, even if it is on the green. All serious players will welcome this change because they can now putt at a flagstick in the hole without that nagging fear of a penalty.
The average golfer doesn’t even know what, why or if there is such a rule. They remove the flag to putt because it’s easier to retrieve your ball from the cup.
Every article ever written about the rules always includes a statement that suggests the rules are there to help you to hurt you, which is probably true. Many of the changes have been necessary for about 100 years and are welcome, but the one that stands out to me and I adamantly object to is the determination of where a ball last crosses a hazard.
If the player has done everything within his power to ensure the correct place was selected, he/she cannot be overturned later. This is ridiculous. What about all the thousands of people who call in?
Has no thought been given to the satisfaction officious little weasels get when they can determine the outcome of a major championship and not even be a participant? How will we replace the venom spewed forth when a tour player learns she/he is not eligible for the trophy because someone viewing in another country can prove they took an improper drop?
The proposed changes to the rules are welcomed. Some have been due for decades and some still aren’t right, but at least steps have been taken in the right direction, but to non-golfers and those who dabble playing the sport, golf can be a target for jest.