We’ve heard no end of comment from those at the top, but how did the new rules work for the rest us this year? Our club golfer assesses their impact
The Rules of Golf evening we had at the start of the year must have made a deep impact at a subconscious level.
Though there were the inevitable teething issues when the new rules came into play back in January, we’ve managed to get through nearly 12 months and we’re all just about still speaking to each other.
There were some big changes too – on what you could do in a bunker, grounding your club in a penalty area, and even if you were unfortunate enough to pull off a double hit.
So how have they settled in at the grassroots? Are we delighted or despairing? I’m going to look at some of the major changes from my personal experiences…
How were the Rules of Golf for you? The knee-high drop
It was carnage to start with, to the point where my club brought in a short amnesty – during non-qualifiers – so people could get used to breaking the habit of a lifetime.
Now we’re all dropping from knee height but still not without some complaints.
Many players I know just don’t like it, and don’t understand what the problem is with releasing the ball between hip and knee.
But I’ve also hardly seen anyone re-drop, and that was the point of the knee in the first place. I suspect eventually it will become second nature.
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How were the Rules of Golf for you? Repairing damage on the greens
Anyone walking round the hole tapping down spikemarks gets the same withering glare that’s given if a player looks at a putt from anywhere but right behind the ball.
Maybe we’ll see a bit more of this in the winter with conditions not quite as optimal. But not too many players I’ve been with are doing any gardening.
How were the Rules of Golf for you?: The three-minute rule
Three minutes really isn’t a long time when you’ve bundled one into some deep cabbage and so, if you weren’t right on top of your ball, my experience was you had better have hit a provisional.
While that’s not ideal, what this rule has done has shorten the time those who refuse to accept a ball is gone are spending flouting the rule.
Because no one ever starts a stopwatch – someone really should by the way – everyone is estimating the amount of time they’ve been looking.
Under five minutes, this was ridiculous. It would sometimes be getting on for 10 before you could drag a reluctant player away. Now it’s more like five. It’s still breaking the rule, but it’s better.
How were the Rules of Golf for you? Keeping the flagstick in
This is the big one. Once we’d all gone through the dance of learning who wanted the flag in, and who wanted it out, this has definitely made an impact on pace of play. Flag in? Putt first and finish. Flag out? Wait your turn. If you play Ready Golf, and you can avoid stepping on everyone’s line, this is a doddle.
Greenkeepers have had more of an issue, but that’s more about how we’ve been picking the ball out of the hole than the rule itself.
How were the Rules of Golf for you? Replace a ball moved in search
Thank you R&A and USGA. I escaped at least three penalties this year having accidentally knocked a ball when weaving around in some deep clart. It always felt pernicious to have to tack on strokes when you were looking for a ball that was buried and unintentionally moved it.
And, yes, I mean knocked. Not “knocked”.
How did the new Rules of Golf work for you? Let me know in the comments or tweet me.