Originally Posted by Fourputt
Do me a favor and explain your thoughts on the phrase I put in bold. I want to know what's different today from 30 years ago, 50 years ago, or 200 years ago.
Our rules of golf had their birth on the links courses of the Brirish Isles a couple of hundres years ago (R&A), where quite frankly, the only hazards were sand and water. The US courses built in the last 120 years incorporated water and sand to make them challenging in a traditional way, but never adapted to the variety of terrains that most of us play on. For example, a ball hit off a steep ravine for all practical purposes cannot be played and the penalty is stroke and distance. The same for inpenetrable woods and thick brush that you cannot enter. So I can hook the ball off the Grand Canyon and must take a stroke and distance penalty, but slice my ball into a small pond and take a drop using the lateral hazard rule, which applies to water. So the Grand Canyon is not a hazard but the little man made pond is.
I firmly believe that the USGA should re-visit the definition of "hazard" for US courses. Courses should, under supervision of the USGA, be able to define lateral hazards for any terrain where the ball usually cannot be retrieved or found (and yes you can hit it if you find it and choose to). Some courses are adding red stakes for areas that are just too difficult or dangerous to go into, which is of course technically not compliant with the USGA Rules of Golf.
The original R&A rules, subsequently adopted for the most part by the USGA, in my opinion were always inappropriate for most terrain that was not similar to the links style courses played on hilly, sandy, fields near the coast. I suspect that the founders of the organized game of golf did not intend to set the rules for the entire world, but had their local courses in mind. What we have is a parochial definition of hazards that causes severe penalty unless the hazard happens to be water or sand.
Some have said to me that to re-define what a hazard is would allow for too much interpretation which is why I would have the inclusion of hazards as part of the USGA course rating where an independent authority can apply the rule. As for the definition itself, I would be glad to volunteer to come up with precise wording if the time ever comes.
That being said, I still play by the rules and love the game, but would make some changes.