Pat Rupp: New rule changes in golf still not enough
All I really know about the rules of the gentlemen's game of golf I have learned from watching on television as professionals have been punished for such atrocities as 1) grounding their club on a surface that wasn't sand but still considered a sand trap; 2) having their ball move on the green even though they didn't cause the movement and 3) signing an incorrect scorecard.
Depending on the sin, penalties for the above infractions ranged from a one-stroke penalty to a disqualification and a loss of a whole lot of money.
All of these no-nos and subsequent penalties for same seem ridiculous to yours truly, an at-best recreational golfer who for good reasons has never considered playing pasture pool for a living. Still, my interest was more than a little piqued when I saw the headline in the Florida Times-Union last week entitled "Sweeping golf rules changes proposed."
Reading further, I learned that the stodgy, old United States Golfers' Association (USGA) has proposed some rule changes that could go into effect as early as January of 2019. The article refers to some of the changes as "stunning," including one that would allow putting with the flag still in the hole and another that would sanction repairing spike marks on the green. Whoopee!
Also included in list of changes were a reduction from five to three minutes for the time allowed to find a lost ball; a time limit of 40 seconds in completing a stroke and more reliance on player "integrity" in determining where a ball should be dropped, for example, after an errant shot finds a nearby water hole.
The Professional Golf Association (PGA), the administrative body of the pro tour, even jumped on the rule change bandwagon by announcing that it would allow players to wear shorts during practice rounds of some designated tournaments. I can hardly wait to see what new line of Bermuda shorts Jon Daley will design.
A local Florida pro was so excited about the proposed changes to the game that he exclaimed with glee: "The USGA is finally doing things to bring people to the game, not drive them away...This is very positive."
If the goal is keep current golfers interested in and new ones attracted to the game, the powers that be might be well served to go down the food chain a bit and listen to the concerns of the everyday golfer who really doesn't give a rip about where he can or cannot drop a ball after shanking one into the pond. To that end, I submit the following:
• Increase the size of the hole (seriously) from the current 4.25 inches to 8.15 inches, roughly the diameter of a volleyball. The game would move faster, scores would be lower, more people would score hole-in-ones and everyone would be a lot happier.
• Enforce existing pace of play rules. There's nothing more discouraging than getting behind someone who takes two dozen practice swings before every shot and then hits the ball 40 feet. The guys I play with aren't great golfers but they're fast.
• Reduce the distance from green to the next tee. Walkers won't need to stop for oxygen or a snack and slow everyone down, and we seniors won't get lost or forget where we're going.
• Forget the notion that courses have to be designed by tour professionals. Everyman golfers are not attracted to courses with more sand, water, woods and fescue than bluegrass.
I realize the odds of any of these suggestions coming to fruition are about the same as Tiger winning another major or me making a hole-in-one but, hey, they aren't all that far out there either.
I could have, after all, followed my heart and promoted legalization of the Texas foot wedge in cases where one's ball happens to land behind a tree, in the brush, etc. Perhaps next year.