The 2013 Masters Showed Us the Rules of Golf Need Change

…and the purists roll their eyes once more


Golf is a game that virtually all of his participants (and watchers) have no real idea as to what the rules (as written) actually are and how they should be interpreted by the players. Ask any professional player (including Tiger, as the Masters clearly showed) if they are unsure of any rule in the book. If the pros are confused (at times) by the rules, then how do we expect the everyday golfer to “play by the rules”? Which governing body has jurisdiction here as well—the PGA, the USGA, those guys in the Royal and Ancient?

As a former employee of a golf course (that few professionals ever played since it was open to the public and affordable by the average golfer), I often viewed players who were trying to play by the rules in the spirit of the game as intended by the originators at the Royal and Ancient over there in Scotland. They were confused and only ended up playing even slower since they wasted time arguing over the ruling instead of just moving on and enjoying the game.

The key item here is the opening 4 words of the first paragraph—Golf is a game! The rule writers need to remove about 80% of what is written in the rule books and consolidate them into something that brings into play the concept of common sense and reasonable fairness.

Removing a couple of leaves during a practice swing should not result in a penalty. Instead players should work towards being ready for the shot and making it in a short amount of time so as not to slow down the players behind them. Dropping a ball to fall within the old two club rule takes too much time since so many players drop it twice and then place it by hand and then ask for a ruling.

Simplify the rules in an effort to speed up the game so it is more about fun for all. The average golfer should not be playing by the same rules as professionals since the former is not playing for huge stakes (except maybe around Las Vegas, but one could argue that Vegas golfers aren’t average since the greens fees are so high).

I really think it might be a good idea to rewrite the rules of golf so that we can still play a game on the weekend while there are still affordable courses around that haven’t become part of the land grab for housing developments. That’s why I don’t work at a course anymore. It got sold to a developer who turned it into a bunch of oversized ego boxes that only a few can afford. I stopped playing golf because it was no longer as much fun as it used to be. In order to compete, I needed better clubs (especially the driver) which are extremely pricey. I proved that by occasionally borrowing a friend’s expensive club and found it was good for at least 50 additional yards. As an employee of the course, the greens fees were waived so not playing had nothing to do with the cost of a round. It stopped being fun and the rules were not helping although we often used common sense over the correct rule. Moving the ball was OK (in our eyes) if it reduced the chance of breaking a club or injuring oneself.

I also noticed that a lot of the junior players didn’t really seem to be having much fun which was strange to me. Kids and games go together like puppies and sloppy kisses. I think it was because there were too many rules while they were on or around the course. I guess it takes a certain kind of person to play a game with too many rules. Maybe that is why golfers are seniors at the age of 50 while the rest of the world seems to think that you don’t become a senior until age 65.

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