In my last article, I touched on the “grow the game” initiative and what I think needs to happen for the game of golf to flourish. In doing so, I expressed some ideas on why golf seems to be in a decline of late and one of those was one of the most controversial and talked about topics in the game today: The Rules of Golf.
Yes, the rules. The 34 laws of golf devised by joint collaboration of the USGA and the R&A that tell us how this game of ours is meant to be played. 34 rules, huh? That doesn’t seem too hard to wrap your head around when you’re learning the game. Except that each rule has what seems like 17 articles and 23 subsections that try and cover every possible scenario that could possibly come up on a golf course from accidentally stepping on a fellow competitor’s golf ball to if ET came down, picked up your ball, and flew home with it.
For the nature of being unbiased and fair I want to cover both sides of the rules of golf and let you make your own decisions on what need to be done, because ultimately it is you, the golfer, that gets to play the game the way that you want to play it.
Why the Rules are Important
I don’t think anyone is denying that the Rules of Golf are important, they are the scripture that make golf as special and magically as we all know that it is. Golf is for, the most part, a game that is self-patrolled with golfers and their peers calling their own penalties and enforcing the rules on themselves; And that is great!! If the rules were not around then golf would be nothing more than hitting a rock into a gopher hole in the middle of a cow pasture. The Rules of Golf are a foundation of the game, and they have to be respected.
Why the Rules Need to Change
We live in a complex age, but that doesn’t mean that golf has to be complex. Give a 10-year-old a copy of the rules book and tell them in order to play golf you have to know everything written in that size 6 font and they aren’t going to stick with it for very long.
So, What Needs to Happen?
The rules need to be simplified. There is no doubt about that….this year proved that. Superstars like Dustin Johnson and Lexi Thompson falling victim to the rules of golf because they have not been changed since the game was created is doing nothing but hurting the game. Will that grow the game? No, I don’t think that it will; but we are at a point with this game where we need to have a set of rules for professionals and elite amateurs, and those will be fairly complex, but we also need to develop a set of rules for beginner and intermediate type players. Call them “amateur rules” call them “relaxed rules” call them whatever you want, but those simplified rules need to fit hand and glove with the more complex rules. It’s like having baseball without tee ball…there is no entry point into the game. To expect juniors and beginners to go out and play big-league baseball on a big-league field immediately makes no sense……
Will the USGA and R&A get on board? We will see. But in the meantime, if you’re a weekend warrior that enjoys playing with their kids go ahead and foot wedge that ball out of the trees, go ahead and fluff that lie in the rough, or make a two-putt rule, or start at the 200-yd marker. Do whatever lets you enjoy this special game, because that’s what it is…a game. And we all, myself included, lose sight of that sometimes.
The Rules of Golf hold a special place in the game, and they deserve that, but at the same time you’re allowed to make your own rules. The game needs to adapt with the times in order to survive, but that doesn’t just mean the USGA, the PGA, or the R&A. Courses have to adapt, you have to adapt, and I have to adapt as well.