Golf's new rules are 'sacrificing the integrity of the game'
In short Peter McEvoy is one of the most interesting characters in golf. His achievements are well documented; twice he won the Amateur Championship, five times he played on the Walker Cup while his captaincy of that team was quite brilliant.
Speak to any of the players on his team and there is a little smirk when you mention their captain’s name. One player has a good story where McEvoy would approach a pairing and ask how they’re getting on?
The reply would be something like “we’re 2 up” to which the captain would look slightly puzzled and respond with “I thought you might have won by now” before wandering off.
On both occasions Great Britain & Ireland won by an unheard of 15-9 scoreline.
Few people understand the game better, so who better to ask their opinion on the recent rules announcement ahead of next year?
“Last year I decided that I would become a referee so I took the rules exams and did pretty well and, as with all exams, I walked out of the room and forgot everything.
“I then did a season including R&A events and one event on the European Tour but hated it. If you were picking a Worst Referee in Britain XI, I would open the batting and the bowling. I’ve now retired from refereeing.
“Most of it is just timekeeping and 99.9 per cent of the time nothing ever comes of it. However one thing I learned is that you can’t say that the game isn’t endeavouring to do something about slow play. They are all over it when it comes to refereeing.”
Rule: Balls lost or out of bounds – alternative to stroke and distance
In a nutshell: A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option 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 addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions.
Key change: This is a new addition to support pace of play.
“There’s not much point in hitting a provisional is there? I’m not very keen on that one, it’s taking away the essence of the game. I don’t like this one.
“I understand the reason but you are sacrificing the skill of the game for speed. You are assuming that everyone has hit a straight provisional and if you take that to the ultimate extent you might as put everyone’s ball on the fairway.
“A lot of clubs might vote it through but they will be sacrificing the integrity of the game. It will speed up play but is that everything? I would far rather people were tested on their ability to hit a fairway.”
Rule: Removing the penalty for a double hit
In a nutshell: The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball.
Key change: The proposed Rules released in 2017 included the existing one-stroke penalty).
“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 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 followthrough 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.”
Rule: Measuring in taking relief
In a nutshell: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in his/her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, providing a consistent process for golfers to establish his/her relief area.
Key change: The proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement.
“This is a good one, everyone was going to have to mark their club. For the sake of clarity you say your longest club in the bag and if you have a long putter you have a long putter.
“I played county golf with someone whose driver was a good foot longer than anyone else’s driver, he used to stand well away from the ball and swept it away. It was very effective.”
Rule: Dropping procedure
In a nutshell: When taking relief, from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example, golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop.
Key change: The proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height.
“I can’t see too much difference from shoulder height. You can be more accurate in trying to find a decent lie from knee height but that is taking away the more random elements of the game.
“Where it is interesting is when you have to drop it in a wet bunker and your ball is in a puddle. If you drop it from shoulder height then it plugs so it’s like a double penalty, knee height might make a difference but I think you should be allowed to place it.”
On the pace of play, McEvoy added: “Overall these people do go into these things in a lot of detail and my sad experience of being a referee has proved that to me. They are competent people and we can’t agree with everything but I do put my trust in these people.
“I don’t think pace of play is a golfing problem, it’s a problem in golf but I think it’s a modern-life problem. Look at over rates, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham would bowl 20 overs in an hour. Broad and Anderson, off the same run-up, would bowl 12 or 13.
“Look how long it takes to set a scrum these days. Look how long it takes to take a penalty or between points at Wimbledon. Every sport is much slower than it used to be and the reason for that is coaching and standard of play.
“In the old days of a Wimbledon final the players would run and get their own balls and hit it, nowadays you have got to have the towel and the right balls and so on.
“Golf is addressing all the minutiae, the big thing is that everyone takes themselves and their sport more seriously as the standard is higher and that takes more time.
“Five minutes looking for a ball is a long time. I would time people with my stopwatch and that is a long time to look for a ball. After three minutes everyone has lost the will to live so that is another good move.
“All these little things make a little difference but not very much and if something takes away the integrity of the game, like giving you a straight provisional, then I can’t agree with it.”