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Rules Reform

we’d love to see, but we won’t hold our breath: • The adoption of a universal points- based scoring system. • Allow the touching of the ground

in a hazard and water in a water haz- ard. What is gained by mere touching? • Allow for the removal of loose impediments from a hazard in which the ball lies. Pine cones were not in- tended to be part of the challenge of playing from one of Pete Dye’s bunkers. Let the Rules for playing the ball be the same throughout the course, and let the relief Rules emphasize the differences between the parts of the course. • Eliminate the penalty for playing

a wrong ball—What benefit is there to the player?—and therefore elimi- nate the authority to lift a ball for identification. • Allow anyone to indicate the line of play, or the line of putt. They can even

place a mark to do so. Rule 8-2a has to be one of the most breached Rules to- day, almost always by people being nice and suggesting the line from the tee to a player unfamiliar with the course. • Eliminate the penalty for acciden-

tal movement of the ball. As long as the ball is replaced, no advantage is gained. • Provide a single, standard relief

procedure for all situations. There are too many different ones—drop as near as possible, drop within one club- length, drop within two club-lengths, and drop behind on a line. • Eliminate yellow water hazards.

Few golfers know the difference be- tween red and yellow stakes, and there are not enough situations (such as the approach to the eighth green at Pebble Beach) where the distinction justifies the current confusion.

  

What Will Be Done As they have announced, the R&A and USGA are currently undertaking a close look at simplifying the Rules of Golf, and we will be most interested to see the results of their work. Perhaps they had some of the same ideas we did, and no doubt they thought of good ideas that did not occur to us. It is daunting to weigh the desire to simplify the code against the need to preserve the key traditions of the game. This exercise forced us to identify the ele- ments of the game that are inviolate, as the game should not be weakened for the sake of having an easier-to-understand set of rules. Proving that “a little

knowledge is a dangerous thing,” people have often observed that the game’s

first known set of rules consisted of only 13 articles, and proceed to shake their heads at today’s 34. Such people miss the key points that: 1. The original 13 articles could not be used today to conduct a stroke-play competition (as they do not cover so many reasonable situations, such as stroke play in general and what to do if the player moves his ball). 2. To a large degree, the Rules have

become longer in an attempt to be fair (a word we despise) to the player.

   Conclusion

The latter point contributed a theme of our work—that the Rules should not be written to address the rare situations at either extreme. People should be more willing to accept the occasional terrible or great result from a ruling, if doing so allows for a simpler code—something we all want. The R&A and USGA have announced that they are undertaking a comprehensive review of the Rules with the goal of determining how much the code can be simplified. It seems likely to us that the revisions for 2016 will not be dramatic and that any significant simplification will take place with a subsequent revision. We do not know any specific ideas that the R&A and USGA have been discussing and are quite curious to see their proposals. From our past work with the Rules of Golf Committee, we have to believe that ideas such as the elimination of dropping, the reduction of the time allowed to search for a ball and the inability to add or replace a club, for any reason, during a round will be discussed, but we can only imagine what larger philosophical and structural changes are being considered (although we are not holding our breath for a points-based system!). Having been through this process ourselves, we are anxious to see what ideas we missed.

DAVID HAYES was a member of the USGA Rules Department from 2003 to 2009.

JOHN MORRISSETT was on the staff of the USGA’s Rules Department for 17 years and was intimately involved in the Rules-change process with the Rules of Golf Committees of the R&A and USGA from 1996-2010.

54 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2014

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