Cut the crap. Just claim they were 'worm casts' and move on.
Matt Kuchar allowed to repair an irregularity on the putting surface? - Page 4
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In reading through the comments about this incident, all the discussion centers around various interpretations of the applicable rule, even to the extent of trying to determine WHAT rule actually applies and why. The very purpose of rules and regulations is to provide specific instructions so that subjective judgments are eliminated to the maximum extent possible. They must possess a logically rational purpose so that disagreements based on subjective judgments don’t arise BECAUSE the intent of the rule is either unclear or absurd.
Trying to determine what is “normal” damage that is NOT repairable and “abnormal” damage which IS leads to just such subjective judgments. They can lead to arguments among recreational golfers obsessing over a putt to win a $5 Nassau as well as professionals for whom a single putt could mean a $30,000 difference in winnings for a tournament.
In the days of Old Tom Morris, when sheep grazed on golf courses, footprints on the greens made by the sheep were played as rub of the green. At some point, that was judged to be “good” repairable damage. Why? Apparently it was decided that it made the game fairer and more enjoyable.
The game of golf was played allowing the Stymie until 1952 when it was eliminated. Why? Again, it was apparently decided that it was basically unfair and served no useful purpose.
At some point in time, the USGA/R&A decided to declare ball marks on the putting green as “good” damage, allowing repair. Yet, at the same time, spike marks were (and still are) deemed “bad” damage that cannot be repaired. The advent of soft spikes has reduced the incidence of spike marks. But, you still encounter patches around the hole where someone has “scuffed up” the grass by not lifting their feet. We see this on our home course on a daily basis.
If the course is to be played “as it is found”, then it should be played that way with NO EXCEPTIONS. No brushing dirt or sand or leaves off your intended line of putt. No fixing of ball marks or ANYTHING you find on the course. If, on the other hand, loose impediments can be moved and some kinds of damage may be repaired, then make ALL type of damage repairable and remove the ambiguity and subjectivity.
Why should any player run the risk of losing a hole because of the carelessness of another player? And, why should a professional like Matt Kuchar be forced to place his livelihood in the hands of an amateur golfer who probably has trouble breaking 80 but who, because he is a “Rules Official”, gets to impose his judgment.
To those who say the Rules of Golf need not be simplified, I say Rubbish. There are simply too many instances where the reason for a particular rule is completely unclear, makes no sense, and serves no useful purpose. Even the USGA and R&A can't (or won't) explain why ball marks can be repaired and spike marks can't. This is probably because even THEY can't articulate a clear, compelling reason for maintaining the rule as it stands. Their attitude is "We're in charge here. WE make the rules based on OUR preferences. YOU just play by those rules and keep your mouth shut".
USGA Position on Spikemarks
Q. What is the USGA position on spikemarks?
A. The Rules of Golf are based on two fundamental principles: (1) play the ball as it lies and (2) play the course as you find it. Permitting the repair of spike marks on a player`s line of play or putt would be contrary to these fundamental principles. Rule 16-1c permits the repair of old hole plugs and ball marks but does not permit the repair of spike damage or other irregularities of surface on the putting green if they are on a player`s line of play or putt or might assist him in his subsequent play of the hole. The distinction lies in the fact that old hole plugs and ball marks are easily identifiable as such, whereas it is impossible to differentiate between spike damage and other irregularities of surface on the putting green. Permitting the repair of spike marks would also inevitably lead to a slower place of play. Please note that proper etiquette recommends that damage to the putting green caused by golf shoe spikes be repaired on completion of the hole by all players, just as a player should fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by him before leaving a bunker. We feel that improved education and players` consideration for others rather than a change in the Rules of Golf is the proper solution to the problem.
I'm not sure how tamping down spike marks would lead to slow play but brushing sand and dirt, or picking leaves and other loose impediments off the intended line does not. If the course is to be played as you find it, then the player should not be able to touch the intended line for any reason.
If players do NOT follow proper etiquette and tamp down spike marks after the completion of the hole before leaving the green, the question still is why should a player in a following group have to risk losing a hole because of a previous player's negligence? What USEFUL purpose is being served?
FWIW, last year I was officiating at a high state level tournament when a deer pranced on the green as a group was making their approach shots.
I declared the damage GUR and enlisted the help of next two groups to help repair the damage. I gave GUR relief where full repair was impractical.
IMO, significant damage to a green by a player in a previous group should be handled the same way.