Not all of us are happy with the new Rules of GolfJanuary 1, 2019 Rules of Golf
The 2019 Rules of Golf are full of common sense and forward-thinking initiatives, but Mark Townsend still has a few grievances with the changes
This was going to be very straightforward to write given the announcement earlier in the year that you could drop a ball in the fairway after shoving one into the trees or over a railway line for a penalty of a couple of shots.
But then common sense stepped in and CONGU have said that you can’t stoop this low in qualifying competitions or for supplementary scores. Good on them.
And much of what has come into play does make loads of sense. All those moans and groans we’ve all had all these years can now be put to bed with these forward-thinking initiatives.
But – and there’s always a but – there are a few things that still don’t cut the mustard for me.
First up, from next year onwards they will be removing the penalty for a double hit. So, if you accidentally strike the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, you will only have to count it as one stroke. There is no penalty any more.
I know, from previous and tortuous first-hand experience, that it is very possible to hit the ball at least twice. On one occasion, from some thickish greenside fluff, I managed to egg and spoon it at least three times. My mind was in such a blur that it could have been more.
Had someone videoed it then I would very happily have watched it back in the scorer’s hut and taken whatever punishment that was due to me.
I’ve been bad and I deserve to be punished.
Two years ago I very nearly chipped in after hitting the ball twice so how on earth should that stand when my technique and mental being have been such a shambles?
I can see a double coming from a mile off and I’ve mentally already added on the stroke before I’ve even taken the club back – the situation will involve some slightly thick and fluffy lie and a shot that only needs to be carried maybe five to 10 yards but does require some loft in the process. The clubhead will then get caught up, my mind will spiral very quickly, my body will stop moving and my hands will be sent into spasms.
The result being the most unwelcome of sounds and sensations as a wave of self-loathing floods the senses.
I spoke to Peter McEvoy earlier in the year about some of the rules changes and, while it’s unlikely that he’s ever performed such a shot, he’s with me on this.
“I don’t understand this one. If you hit it twice then it’s worse than hitting it once. My favourite double-hit story is of a chap called Steve Potter who was a good player and was a reserve for England but he got the twitches with his chipping so he started chipping one-handed,” he said.
“He was playing in the Amateur Championship at the Old Course and he duffed his second short of the Swilcan Burn. He had a hard-pan lie to a front pin and, one handed, hit it fat and then hit it again on the follow-through over his head backwards. If you’re going to double-hit one over your head backwards then the 1st fairway at St Andrews is the place to do it. So from next year he wouldn’t have been penalised. I’m not sure that’s right.”
Let me introduce you to a Taiwanese golfer call TC Chen who, after double-hitting it in the final round of the 1985 US Open when leading by four shots, missed out by one. It was the shot heard around the world but for all the wrong reasons.
Under the new rules he would have played off with eventual champion Andy North.
Chen made peace with himself by blaming the previous shot which was too cute. Most of us have no excuses other than shoddy techniques and fragile minds though I’m not sure even TC would want to win the US Open in this fashion. OK, he probably would.
I’m not a huge fan of the knee-height drop but that is mainly down to not being able to bend this far so I’m at a disadvantage here.
Another bugbear is the five minutes to look for a ball given nobody I know ever stuck to this rule in the first place. Five minutes, which actually translates to eight or nine, is a nice length of time to look for your ball. This allows just enough time in your head for cheery optimism to be slowly replaced by a crippling dread that you’re not going to find it and you haven’t played a provisional and you’re already doing the heads in of the group behind you.
With the new three minutes it’s all too frantic too quickly and, given nobody really watches where anyone else’s ball goes, then it’s nowhere near long enough.
Finally, if you can’t get it off the teeing ground then you can pick it up, peg her up again and have another go.
There are few things more disconcerting than having to hit one off a teeing area after you’ve knobbed it a few yards but you’ve had your chance – the game has dealt you an oversized driver, a ball that goes forever and it was sat there on an elevated tee. Players from the last century would give anything for this much of a foot up and you’ve gone and messed up so you have to deal with the consequences.