Rules Tsar: Easy Fixes I’ll Make When I’m in Charge
It’s one of those quadrennial golf years, the one-in-four moment when golf’s Moses descends from Mt. Sinai in Jersey — for we rebellious colonials — with the newest commandments. Frequently, the pronouncements are lightly noticed: the tweaks are subtle, of scant notice let alone import to any but the most devoted aficionados of rules arcanum. Sometimes they move the needle, as with this year’s farewell to anchoring.
Now it’s my turn. By a fortunate shift in the temporal fabric, I’ve been put in charge. No committees, no compromises, no discussions; it’s as if I’m the Tsar and the Official Rules of Golf are my Russia.
Finally, changes that makes sense to me, and of course to you, my people.
The Dark Side of White
Sure, it’s a ball field, and ball fields – rinks, gridirons, courts – have boundaries. Save a gerrymandered right-field fence here or there, however, they’re also uniform. Several Merions could fit inside the Grand in Del Mar. Our white lines? They’re NEGATIVES, ours is a game of pre-assumed guilt and retribution, and that’s bunk. The foul pole in baseball is fair. A ball on the line in tennis is good. Hell, in skiing you don’t have to go around the gate, only your skis. We need less negative reinforcement in golf.
I’m not saying cede the castle because the infidels so demand, but you gotta be practical, at some point, when the numbers are trending the other way. Walking back to the tee is nuts, it wastes time — the provisional so often is misplayed and that, too, adds time. If I snap one in a lake, I might get to walk a couple hundred yards closer to the target, drop and add 1. If I snap one over white, I essentially drop and give you 50. I haven’t exactly performed up to the standard of the game — getting a ball in play — in either situation, now have I?
MY RULE: OB is now lateral.
We rake bunkers, which are supposed to be penal places from which to play yet center-cut drives that find a crater in the fairway — where we’re supposed to be, the fairway, I mean — must be played from said moonscape?
Not any more.
Stop with the brogue-inflected play-it-down blather and hair-splitting paranoia. Casual water; impediments loose or not, natural or not; line-of-sight; lift, clean and place; “winter rules;” cart paths and sprinkler heads; the Byzantine putting rituals of mark, clean, mark, clean and re-mark — the game is stuffed with exceptions to playing it as it came to rest. Still not buying it? OK, the ProV1 is deemed an allowable evolution of the featherie … times change.
MY RULE: Divot equals relief.
It’s a Waste of Energy and Time
I’ve done an exhaustive study and the results, in a nutshell, point to the fact that most of us suck at this game. For 15-20 years now we’ve been given the chance annually to plink down hundreds and thousands on new gear, each iteration of which is going to make us straighter, breathtakingly longer — so when you add up all the advertising claims we’re all hitting 432-yard drives and always between the pipes, right? Yet we still suck. We don’t hit it that much farther. We don’t hit it straighter. Grandpa still gives us strokes.
OK, so what? So we suck. As such, no practice swings or strokes on the course. Show me 10 players who employ a practice swing and I’ll point out nine players whose practices look nothing like their applications. Same game on the green: textbook rehearsal, over-the-ball seizure.
MY RULE: Step up, take a peek, fire. You will play better. More importantly you will play more quickly. We all like that.
A Dozen Will Do
Our brains are cluttered and our bags are too busy. Instead of wasting time pondering between throttling back on a gap wedge or really leaning into a lob wedge — and then laying the sod over one or blading the other — grab a club, hit the damn ball; sensing a trend here? Options make us think and thinking is bad. The same goes at the other end, that part of the ensemble where most typical players hit their two or three fairways and that hybrid or three and whatever suffices as the longest iron with a yardage differential of about 1.4 yards per club.
While I see the rules purists loving this idea, OEMs would scream bloody murder, so this idea has zero chance of seeing the light of day, and that’s too bad for us.
MY RULE: Oh, wait, I’m in charge … 12 clubs max.
Bye Bye Buggy
It is a SPORT. For years we told our sweat-sports friends that we’re athletes not chess-club geeks with Texas Instruments calculators, inhalers and no dates, and yet we get about in carts. That’s embarrassing. (Blue-flag allowances granted.)
The ban won’t be uniformly embraced as it plays against middling real estate development interests, nominal pieces of property, rental revenues and it would put a whole lot of existing clubs in a pickle, routing-wise. To those gripes I say: Too bad, conduct better due diligence, I’ll pay more for a better, faster playing experience. As for that last bit, stage a cart and one of your paid-with-golf marshals who don’t actually marshal at the march points and ferry players back and forth just like they do on TOUR.
We will play better, we will play faster and we will get healthier. Can you think of three things better (excluding acts involving nudity, a fast car, good Pinot)?
MY RULE: We’re walking.
Lost No More
Three hundred spectators see a ball go into a tree and not come out. Golf Channel catches it in HD for a million whatever folks at home. If that’s me, I’m not going up the tree to identify and then try to hit it, I’m not going to spend five minutes glaring through borrowed binoculars to make a positive ID, and I’m most certainly not doing the walk of shame.
If there is a reasonable expectation — we dispense justice on lesser standards, at times — that a ball has been lost where it can’t be found (kinda the whole idea behind the concept of lost, by the way) let’s just use logic, nuke the return trip and drop with a stroke.
MY RULE: Lost ball is now a quick drop with a stroke.
The Most Needed Form of Relief
Joe Buck sticks with baseball, Gary McCord retires the long-tired shtick, Johnny Miller goes three straight tourneys without once opining, “Well, Roger, that’s not quite Oakmont in ’73,” and CBS is done doing The Masters until the network remembers it is a news outlet, a journalistic institution, not the Augusta National public relations department.
MY RULE: C’mon guys!
What’s that you say? Is that dissent, I hear? I have my own unique Siberia, just so you are aware. It’s a dried out muni where pace is measured with a calendar, Elk is your playing partner and Stevie is on your bag.
I thought you’d see it my way.