Sitting on my couch eating ketchup chips and crushing pints of Triple Bogey beers should not give me, or anyone else outside the ropes, the authority to influence a golf tournament. It doesn’t pass the common sense filter. And while it’s been nice we’ve had a nice stretch of a few weeks without a serious rules incident in golf, allow me to wade into the murky waters of rules in golf. Because like everyone else, I have an opinion on this and it needs some unpacking.
Rules matter. I like the self-regulating nature of golf and I like the principle of play the ball where it lies and I like that many golfers will tell their partner they got a 6 instead of a 5. In competitive play this becomes even more important. But I also play for fun with family and friends and we don’t get all caught up in stroke and distance penalties, putting out 18” putts and we may even allow ourselves a chance to remove a ball from a bunker which resembles a parking lot more than a sand trap. Relaxed rules, at times, are appropriate and keep the game fast and fun.
And that matters. I can’t imagine what would happen if during the two or three times a year my wife plays that I went all ‘USGA’ on her and told her 6 holes later that her 8 was really an 12 because she didn’t place her ball appropriately back on the green after marking it. You can kiss her participation goodbye from that point on. And this is not to be hypocritical, she wants to play well and play properly but within the context of an afternoon out with friends. I am a huge proponent of Relaxed Rules which I first saw on Golf Channel some time back. The game is meant to be fun and played appropriately. To her and our group, what is proposed here is most appropriate.
Now, getting back to the USGA…and the official rules of golf; I still believe we can allow for a greater filter of common sense to govern rules. Pace of play and participation are issues facing the game. For sticklers of rules a couple suggestions:
Stakes – more red stakes on courses. Let’s simply take a stroke, drop a ball and be on with it. The humiliation of going back to the tee to hit again does nothing positive for the game (and I know we should all be more mindful of hitting a provisional but you get my point).
Penalties – all one stroke, easy to understand and avoids confusion.
Phone-in rules infractions – Eliminated. Simple as that, we’re liberated from this in my world. Once a scorecard is signed, it’s good. Phew, solved that one easy enough.
Common Sense – if in doubt…after all, very few of us have mastered the rules book, let’s use consensus among our playing partners and common sense prevail.
In closing, I love the game of golf. But I am finding myself watching some tournaments with an impending sense of doom that my HDTV lacks the clarity of someone’s 80” 4D to see the most subtle of infraction which had zero impact on the integrity and outcome of the hole but cause a player to lose a tournament. Golf is a game. Golf is fun. Let’s keep it that way. And when appropriate, let’s honour the full set of rules but more so the integrity of the game which the rules are built upon.