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Which Rules Need to Go? [Golf Digest]

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In our latest installment of the “Great Golf Debates” writers Christopher Powers and Joel Beall tackle the pressing question: Which golf rules need to go?

Oy. More of this nonsense.

In brief…


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The first thing I’d look at is out of bounds, and I’d start by eradicating it entirely. I realize the OB rule was relaxed so that courses could adopt a local rule and wouldn’t make players do stroke and distance, but everyday golfers were playing that way anyway. Why? Because it’s dumb and a complete pace-of-play killer to make players go back to the tee, or to hit a provisional, where, best case scenario, they will be fighting for bogey.

It’s too great of a penalty, especially for a ball that might just be a few yards OB. In my opinion, unless your ball is on someone else’s property, fire away.

 

Oy. Look, the Local Rule eliminates the need to "go back to the tee" not that people did that all that often anyway. And in tournaments, people tend to know to hit a provisional, from what I've seen as a contestant, rules official, spectator watching junior and college events, etc.

And no, why should OB just "go away"? You've literally hit the ball off the property, most often. The game of golf involves hitting your ball around the golf course, not in the neighbor's yard or into the parking lot of a 7/11. It's a stiff penalty, yeah, but that's as it should be: you didn't keep your ball on the property.

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For me, the first change is the obvious: Relief from a fairway divot hole. When they rolled out its revisions last year, the USGA and R&A knew the divot question was coming, so much that they had a prepared statement for it:

Again, my argument here is two-fold:

  • Divot holes are part of the game. You sometimes land in 'em, just like you sometimes get a kick out of the trees back into the fairway. Learn to deal with them.
  • When someone can define, in such a way that everyone can apply the rule very nearly exactly the same, when a "divot hole" is and isn't a "divot hole," then we can revisit the discussion. Until then, c'mon. Make this a rule and suddenly you won't believe how many "almost healed but still in a divot hole" divot holes people will find.

They had a statement because people are dummies, and their statement points out WHY. Play the course as you found it and the ball as it lies.

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The problem is, golf already deviates from that principle, and often.

They have a strange definition of "often." The exceptions make sense, and people can pretty clearly define the edge of a cart path.

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How about both the new drop rule and the caddie-lining-up-their-player rules, which were both implemented in 2019. The Rules of Golf were supposed to be simplified, and all the USGA did with these two is make them more complicated. Within two months, there were multiple infractions of both these rules. Had those rules not been tweaked, there would have been no issues. Does that sound “simplified” to you?

Neither rule is more complicated. "Players being lined up by their caddies" was an epidemic elsewhere: the LPGA Tour, junior golf… and the drop rule, again, is SIMPLER. Just because some pros didn't brush up on the rules or forgot out of habit doesn't mean the rule is more complicated, only that it changed.

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Simple solution: Instead of having an exact height to drop from, like the knee or shoulder, just make it anywhere above the knee.

Hey numbnuts, it's not an exact height. It's a range, from near the bottom of the knee to near the top of the knee. And you just complained about it being more complex, now you want to allow people to hold the ball high above their heads and drop? That won't make the rules simpler.

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You danced around it above, so let’s drive it home: NO MORE GRANDSTAND RELIEF. They are not going away, given how much money can be made on box suites. So if pros are going to benefit from shots ricocheting towards the green, there needs to be an equally weighted punishment. And that punishment is, “Uh oh, your ball is behind this hospitality tent? Well, open up that 60 degree wedge, pal.”

Stupid.

Just do what the British Open did and provide mandatory drop zones which are shitty, horrible lies.

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My second issue comes up a few times a year, but why do pros have to sign their own score card? Can you imagine the chaos if NBA players had to keep track of their own score? (Thinking) Actually, the last two minutes would be vastly more entertaining and fights would break out at least twice a game. Nevertheless, send this rule back to the Stone Age.

Why do we have to sign a contract? Because it's a final testament to you saying "I'm responsible and attest to the fact that I believe this to be my score." For f***'s sake, it takes one second.

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Anyway, the rule I’d add? Bring back the stymie on the putting greens. Fans would love it. Imagine guys chipping over each other’s golf balls on the greens in today's game? Absolute madness. I say try it in the WGC-Match Play to start, then bring it to the Ryder Cup and watch a literal fist fight break out on the green.

Whatever. At least they seem to understand it's a match-play only thing.

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16 minutes ago, iacas said:
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My second issue comes up a few times a year, but why do pros have to sign their own score card? Can you imagine the chaos if NBA players had to keep track of their own score? (Thinking) Actually, the last two minutes would be vastly more entertaining and fights would break out at least twice a game. Nevertheless, send this rule back to the Stone Age.

 

News flash. Golf is NOT basketball. The only thing similar is that there is a spherical object involved. 🤦‍♂️

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Seems like the authors are trying to be edgy or controversial, simply for the sake of being edgy or controversial. I thought the ideas they presented were dumb.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

You've literally hit the ball off the property, most often.

A local muni I play a few times a year has an O.B. fence on the property, segregating the hole in play from a tree/brush area, and the tee box for the next hole.

1497186444_Chabot14th.thumb.png.ac3f48d7f2dc10b15bd7956ef0ec5562.png

There are similar areas on the course that are completely unmarked, or sometimes staked red. The tree/brush area it marks off is not marked O.B. on any surrounding holes. The fence is only 3-feet tall, so it isn't a safety mechanism for golfers on the next tee. My guess is that it is intended as a feature to add more risk to the hole, which is a driveable par-4 (240-260 yards). So far no course employee I've asked has a definitive answer. I find it bizarre, but it's one of the course's many quirks. I've heard of courses separating adjacent fairways with O.B., but never encountered it. I'm wondering how often there are O.B fences within the property of a course.

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1 hour ago, Darkfrog said:

 I'm wondering how often there are O.B fences within the property of a course.

Very.

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1 hour ago, Darkfrog said:

I'm wondering how often there are O.B fences within the property of a course.

By "property" I mean the area defined as the golf course. OB might still be "on" club property. I could have better said "off the course."

There's not much "internal OB."

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1 hour ago, Darkfrog said:

I'm wondering how often there are O.B fences within the property of a course.

We have 3 different courses on the same property that are separated with white stakes. On one hole the stakes are 15-20 yards behind that green. I had a ball bounce off a sprinkler head in front of the green and fly OB by less than a foot. That was a long walk back to play S&D with steam coming out of my ears. 🤬

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13 minutes ago, CarlSpackler said:

We have 3 different courses on the same property that are separated with white stakes. On one hole the stakes are 15-20 yards behind that green. I had a ball bounce off a sprinkler head in front of the green and fly OB by less than a foot. That was a long walk back to play S&D with steam coming out of my ears. 🤬

One of my least favorite aspects of the front nine of that particular course. Dread being in those bunkers that front that particular green. 

 

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29 minutes ago, mcanadiens said:

One of my least favorite aspects of the front nine of that particular course. Dread being in those bunkers that front that particular green. 

 

That course doesn’t have bunkers. It has 💩holes. 

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1 hour ago, Rulesman said:

Very.

Good to know. I'm not the most seasoned golfer and I haven't played that many different courses (maybe 20 if I count my early golf days in college), so I've only seen this once. Every time I play this hole I always wonder why the O.B. fence is there. Guess I need to get out and play more new courses.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

By "property" I mean the area defined as the golf course. OB might still be "on" club property. I could have better said "off the course."

There's not much "internal OB."

Your wording was perfectly clear. I was just curious about how common internal O.B. is, since I've only encountered it once, and I find the particular application strange because it is not an area sectioned off, but just a fence along the edge of one hole.

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2 minutes ago, Darkfrog said:

Good to know. I'm not the most seasoned golfer and I haven't played that many different courses (maybe 20 if I count my early golf days in college), so I've only seen this once. Every time I play this hole I always wonder why the O.B. fence is there. Guess I need to get out and play more new courses.

Your wording was perfectly clear. I was just curious about how common internal O.B. is, since I've only encountered it once, and I find the particular application strange because it is not an area sectioned off, but just a fence along the edge of one hole.

It's not that common. I don't really know what @Rulesman was saying. I don't think it's all that common in the UK where he is, either, and it's really not all that frequently used in the U.S.

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The first thing I’d look at is out of bounds, and I’d start by eradicating it entirely. I realize the OB rule was relaxed so that courses could adopt a local rule and wouldn’t make players do stroke and distance, but everyday golfers were playing that way anyway.

Most of the everyday golfers I know weren't playing OB as the new local rule, they were playing OB (and lost balls) as if they hit into a lateral hazard, subverting the rule and saving a stroke.

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Why? Because it’s dumb and a complete pace-of-play killer to make players go back to the tee, or to hit a provisional, where, best case scenario, they will be fighting for bogey.

Hitting a provisional doesn't kill pace of play. Not hitting a provisional when the situation calls for it before you get to your ball to find out it's OB or lost and then having to go back to the tee kills pace of play. The local rule addresses that issue. Eliminating OB altogether eliminates the additional penalty for hitting the ball "out of the playing area" or off the course property, which should be more penal than hitting the ball into a pond or something.

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It’s too great of a penalty, especially for a ball that might just be a few yards OB.

That's a dumb argument. A few yards, a few dozen yards, it makes no difference. It's OB. Let's use that logic elsewhere on the course: My ball is only six inches in a bunker, I should be able to take it out of there and play it from the rough. My ball is on the lip of the cup, it should count as holed.

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To penalize a player for ending up in a divot hole is not only the antithesis of the sport’s “gentleman’s game” ethos, it’s a failure to apply an exception made for less “proper” shots.

The principle of playing the course as you find it is so important that it's in the rule book. Somebody please point me to the section where I can find the "gentleman's game" ethos and whatever his second point is.

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Excellent point about the grandstand, which, at least on Golf Twitter, is called “grandstanding.” So it’s so much of a thing that it’s been turned into a verb. That goes back to an argument I’ve secretly had for a few years now, that the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills would have either A) gone into a playoff or B) been won by Tommy Fleetwood had the stands not stopped Brooks Koepka’s ball on the 18th hole. He hit a wildly bad hook on the most pressure-packed shot of the day and how was he punished? By bouncing his ball off the grandstand and leaving him with a chip from the short grass. No grandstands there and he’s likely hacking out from higher grass, where anything could happen. This is a very specific situation, and we’re deviating from the point a bit, but it was something that had to be said.

If it weren't for the grandstands, Jean Van De Velde probably wins the 1999 British Open. Just sayin'.

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How about both the new drop rule and the caddie-lining-up-their-player rules, which were both implemented in 2019. The Rules of Golf were supposed to be simplified, and all the USGA did with these two is make them more complicated. Within two months, there were multiple infractions of both these rules. Had those rules not been tweaked, there would have been no issues. Does that sound “simplified” to you?

The penalties weren't because the new rules are too complicated, they were because players failed to adjust to a change in rules.

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Simple solution: Instead of having an exact height to drop from, like the knee or shoulder, just make it anywhere above the knee.

Yea sure, that will work. Let me drop it from knee height here where I don't want to risk the ball getting buried, and over there I'll drop it from above my head to increase the chance it won't stay in the relief area and I'll get to place the ball.

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But let’s not get the microscope out to see if a player is dropping in direct line with their kneecap.

This is dumb, too. How many people dropped the ball from above shoulder height because they naturally brought their hand to eye level when dropping? Nobody put shoulder height under a microscope.

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But where it gets silly is when Haotong Li is lining up a two-footer and he gets penalized and loses six figures on top of it because he simply didn’t step away after his caddie just happened to be behind him.

This is the caddy's fault. But since the caddy isn't the one playing and he represents the player, you penalize the player.

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The stymie is so genius I forgot my proposal.

This is from the same guy that thinks having to play the ball from a divot hole is the antithesis of golf's "gentleman's game" ethos. His next rule proposal is relief from divot holes on the putting green in your line of putt.

3 hours ago, Darkfrog said:

A local muni I play a few times a year has an O.B. fence on the property, segregating the hole in play from a tree/brush area, and the tee box for the next hole.

1497186444_Chabot14th.thumb.png.ac3f48d7f2dc10b15bd7956ef0ec5562.png

There are similar areas on the course that are completely unmarked, or sometimes staked red. The tree/brush area it marks off is not marked O.B. on any surrounding holes. The fence is only 3-feet tall, so it isn't a safety mechanism for golfers on the next tee. My guess is that it is intended as a feature to add more risk to the hole, which is a driveable par-4 (240-260 yards). So far no course employee I've asked has a definitive answer. I find it bizarre, but it's one of the course's many quirks. I've heard of courses separating adjacent fairways with O.B., but never encountered it. I'm wondering how often there are O.B fences within the property of a course.

I've seen more than a few internal OB markers, but I wouldn't say they're common. The one that comes to mind most for me is at a course I used to play regularly, they mark a boundary between #9 and #1 as OB to deter people from trying to cut the dogleg on #9 for safety reasons.

Safety is obviously not a concern for the hole you highlighted above, but maybe it's for pace of play, to keep people from spending time looking for a possibly lost golf ball on a short par 4 which will create a bit of a bottle neck by itself.

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8 minutes ago, billchao said:

If it weren't for the grandstands, Jean Van De Velde probably wins the 1999 British Open. Just sayin'.

He would have screwed it somehow. 😝

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4 minutes ago, CarlSpackler said:

He would have screwed it somehow. 😝

Nah. He makes bogey or double-bogey at worst for the win. The grandstand bounce put the burn in play and that's exactly where he ended up.

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5 hours ago, iacas said:

There's not much "internal OB."

There is one course I play that has a par 5 adjacent to a par 4, 12 and 13 The cards states that it is OB if you hit into the other fairway. This is done for safety, but I would think it would be better if they called it a lateral hazard. I don’t think anyone hits a provisional there either.

411A0E09-7F26-4E39-B085-15F312951BE9.jpeg

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43 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

There is one course I play that has a par 5 adjacent to a par 4, 12 and 13 The cards states that it is OB if you hit into the other fairway. This is done for safety, but I would think it would be better if they called it a lateral hazard. I don’t think anyone hits a provisional there either.

411A0E09-7F26-4E39-B085-15F312951BE9.jpeg

Calling it a penalty area ( No more lateral hazards ;-) ) wouldn’t prevent people from playing that way since one option is to play the ball from the penalty area...

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48 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

There is one course I play that has a par 5 adjacent to a par 4, 12 and 13 The cards states that it is OB if you hit into the other fairway. This is done for safety, but I would think it would be better if they called it a lateral hazard. I don’t think anyone hits a provisional there either.

Holy smokes!

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The only sensible sentence in this (apparently intentional) steaming pile of garbage is the last sentence "Then sit back and watch the golf world burn."

 

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