You've hit it out of bounds? Just drop one in the fairway

The Scoop

In this week's Niggle we discuss the merits of the most striking rule change for 2019 where we now have an alternative to the stroke and distance rule

From January 1 we will have a different set of rules to play under, the most notable of which will allow golfers, if the committee passes the local rule, to drop ‘the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty’.

It will supposedly speed up play as a player would then not have to face the dreaded walk of shame back to the tee or wherever he/she has just hit it into the rubbish under stroke and distance.

But don’t expect to see Rory and co just drop one on the fairway as it won’t apply to the pros and elite amateurs.

So what do we make of it?

Mark Townsend: All I want to see with the Rules of Golf is common sense so anything done by accident and where no advantage is gained then let’s just get on with it.

Not being able to hit a fairway doesn’t really fall into this category. This is pretty much a big part of golf and, if you keep hitting your driver over a wall, then the idea is to hit a different club or play a different shot.

James Savage: I kind of agree with the idea in principle but I’m just not sure how it will work in practice. Where do you take the drop from? It might actually slow things down if your playing partner/opponent spends longer looking for your ball as he’ll see you being in the fairway, not the bund, as a massive advantage.

Steve Carroll: The USGA have quite a complicated graphic explaining how to take the drop but, in essence, it’s going to be interpreted as: go to whereabouts you lost your ball or hit it out of bounds. Find the nearest point on the edge of the fairway. Take two club lengths, add two penalty shots to your score.

Golf rules

Mark Townsend: How many clubs do you think will take it up?

Steve Carroll: It is an option to add as a local rule but I reckon most clubs will add it because they think it will make pace of play better – on the grounds that no-one hits a provisional, even though they are supposed to.

Mark Townsend: Ah, the provisional. The hardest shot in golf.

James Savage: I can’t see myself using it tactically. I would sooner pull out an iron or a hybrid for a provisional shot to find the fairway with my third. Everyone always smokes their provisional down the middle of the fairway though right? Then turns to their playing partners and says ‘why couldn’t I do that the first time?’

Mark Townsend: That’s the only slight thing I like about the rule, the strategy of a drop or take your chances off the tee or fairway again (and put it in the opposite set of trees).

James Savage: I’m not sure this rule will address the issue of looking for balls which is what slows the pace of play down more than anything.

Steve Carroll: The new rules in 2019 also reduce the time you can look for a ball from five minutes to three.

James Savage: That’s a good rule. If you hit a shot so bad you can’t find it within three minutes then you probably don’t want to find it.

Mark Townsend: Given that everyone spends about eight minutes now looking for balls three minutes will now be closer to five.

How weird would you feel doing it and would that ever wear off? I don’t think it would as it’s not actually playing golf.

James Savage: The thought of it doesn’t feel right. But maybe we need to get away from the ‘it’s just not golf’ mentality. Doing something a certain way because it has always been done that way.

Steve Carroll: If it was a par 5, where I wasn’t getting a shot, I reckon I’d have more chance of getting a bogey dropping from 200-odd yards down the fairway and playing four then I would be hitting three off the tee and hoping I connected properly this time. I can also see a situation where big hitters who have lost a ball on a short par 4 would take the distance and try and get up and down.

Mark Townsend: Less trees/rough would be better if money allowed. Where I play they’ve taken out hundreds of trees and it’s almost impossible to lose a ball now. Pace of play there is brilliant.

Lost ball

James Savage: It’s potentially good news for golf ball manufacturers if we’re going to sack off looking for balls more often.

Mark Townsend: If you had a vote would you want this at your club and why? I would give it a big thumbs down.

James Savage: I’d vote it through at my club as I’d be keen to see how it worked. I don’t particularly like it but I don’t see it as giving anyone any sort of advantage.

Steve Carroll: I’d have it at my club. I don’t think I’d use it very often at all but at least it gives players another option.

Mark Townsend: And the pace of play aspect? Surely we’ll all now be walking round in circles, having taken seven minutes not finding the ball, and deliberating where a fair drop is.

We’re all terrible at watching each other’s balls so it should be a load of fun and games agreeing where it went in.

James Savage: I guess the main thing is it will eradicate someone having to go back to the tee to hit another after being unable to find their ball – if that happens three or four times during a busy Saturday medal it can soon clog up the course.

Steve Carroll: It will save time because people routinely don’t play a provisional – and then they either walk back or they quit. Nothing clogs the course up more than players running back to the tee and then butchering another shot.

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