Although traditionalists will disagree and the United States Golf Association may pull my associate membership for even suggesting it, maybe it’s time for golf to really have two sets of rules—one for the game’s elite who either earn their living playing the game or for others who want to stick with them and another for the rank and file majority of golfers like the rest of us.
The professional tours already have special rules, including relief from temporary movable obstructions—tents grandstands, refreshment stands and portable toilets—that are necessary to accommodate all the fans. Players get relief if they interfere with their stances, lies or swings and also if they between their balls and the holes.
Tour players and top amateurs are also restricted to what’s called the one-ball rule, limiting them to using the same brand and type for the entire round under a local rule. We can switch balls, but not before finishing the hole with the one we started with unless it is a ball substituted under the rules. This means no special putting ball on the greens.
The game’s elite no longer can use the old, larger U-shaped grooves, but most amateurs have a grace period that lasts until 2024. Manufacturers were supposed to quit making these clubs at the end of 2010, but I’ve heard of at least one company that does not plan to do this. It still might not be bad idea to buy a few extra wedges with the older grooves that spin the ball better.
Here are a few suggested new rules that might make more sense for the rest of us:
*Change the out of bounds and lost ball rules to make them the same as the one for lateral hazards—take a one-stroke penalty from where the ball went out or where it was thought to have been lost instead of re-teeing. Many golfers already do this. It would speed up play.
*Eliminate the 14-club rule. Let golfers use all that they can afford. It would be good for the equipment business, which needs some help.
*Allow divots, even those filled with sand, to be added as ground under repair. There’s no reason to penalize a player for hitting a fairway, which is already hard enough to do.
*Let players ground their clubs in hazards. Playing from the sand, or even a water hazard, is hard enough for the average golfers any way.
*Place ball drops on the other side of water hazards closer to the greens. Losing a stroke and usually a ball is enough of a penalty.
*Make the cups larger or maybe put two cups on each green, giving golfers an extra option. Remember, golf should be fun, and making more putts would certainly put all of us in a better frame of mind.
*On a more serious note, I think the governing bodies of golf should eliminate the disqualification penalty for cases where late penalties were involved after scorecards have been signed. Just add the penalty to their scores instead. This would be part of the set of rules for the game’s elite as it does not come into play for most of us.