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2019 Rules Changes - Observations After a Season

bkuehn1952

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One of the big changes in 2019 was the USGA/R&A overhaul of the Rules of Golf.  Our Club runs a series of net tournaments for our members.  Our members range in age from 50 to 94 with handicaps of +1 to 36.  I was a bit pessimistic that our members would be able to accommodate all the Rules changes.  After a season of watching our members play in our Tournaments, here are a few of my observations.

  • The option to leave or remove the flagstick has turned out to be a bit of help on pace of play. In almost every instance, we have left the flagstick in when putting or chipping from a significant distance.  We no longer need to tend or remove the flagstick for a long putt and then replace the flagstick for a chip.  Unless a ball gets in another player’s line, we all just putt or chip without delay.  Once close in, many of us are ambivalent to the flagstick being in or out so if someone wants it in, we all putt with it in, or vice versa.  The few times we have had an “in-out” situation, the first player to hole out serves as the caddie.
  • Most players have gotten used to the knee height drop.  There is a tendency for some players to crouch a bit when dropping.  Whether this is an accommodation for aging backs and legs or a bit of an unconscious “cheat” is unknown.  Unless someone squats down while dropping, I don’t think I am likely to make an issue of this.
  • We have had a bit of confusion over whether the new Local Rule related to lost or O.B. balls was in effect for our events.  It was not.  Still, I have heard anecdotal accounts of some of our higher handicap groups using the Local Rule during our Tournaments.  We will need to make that a point of emphasis next year.
  • Almost nobody uses the term “Penalty Area.” Old habits die hard.  Also, there is still some confusion as to whether a red marked penalty area allows the “back on a line” option (yes) and the yellow marked penalty area the 2-club length option (no).
  • Accidentally moving a ball on the green never happened in my groups.  I am sure it happened during the season but not when I was present.
  • I still have an involuntary twitch when I see someone tamping down scuff or spike marks and other non-pitch mark damage.  I will learn eventually.  Also, I have not witnessed anyone spend an inordinate amount of time repairing the green so my concern that this Rule change might slow things down has not come to pass.
  • A couple likely double hits were seen and it was a relief to not have to ask the player whether they thought they made a double hit. I like this change.
  • Some players are likely not following the “relief area” limitation when a ball rolls after a drop judging from what I have seen.  Under the old Rules a ball could roll 2 additional club lengths. We may need to review that with our club members.
  • The ability to move loose impediments in a penalty area or bunker is used by our players.  No one has made an issue thinking this was a penalty.
  • Accidentally moving a ball during a search was never an issue when I played.  I think this Rule is ripe for abuse but I have not seen it.

All in all, our aging members seemed to have picked up on most of the changes.  All the effort put in by the USGA, our State Association and our Club seems to have worked.  Of course, there are a lot of nuances to the Rules that I and my fellow members likely missed or forgot.  Still, the transition went a lot better than expected.

What has been your experience?



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Your observations are all most identical to my observations with the golf partners I've played / paired with this year.   There is one exception.   The older couple (75+) that I play golf with on Fridays are very adamant about pulling the flag stick.   I take a Pepsi from them each week (play lowest number of putts).  I've showed them the reports but they won't budge.   We still play in about 3 1/2 hours.   Other people I play with have started to enjoy the faster pace of play from leaving the flagstick in the hole.  

Nobody calls "them" penalty areas.   We still have sand traps, water hazards and anything else but definitely not penalty areas.  

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So I've not experienced very many times this year where the flagstick has been an issue.  Most people are leaving it in and that does improve pace of play a little.  Occasionally someone wants it out on shorter putts but at that point no one really cares and everyone goes along.  Today I played in a tournament with threesomes: one person wanted it out all the time, one wanted in sometimes and out sometimes, one (me) wanted it in at all times.  That was a mess.

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