The one rule that should never be changedJanuary 23, 2019 Rules of Golf
As we're all shuddering in our spikeless shoes over the new rules, Mark Townsend begs the authorities to never bow down on one piece of misfortune
As with anything there are bits to like and bits to dislike about the 2019 Rules of Golf. Each to their own and we all have different opinions other than when we’re parroting the better ones of someone else.
If you thought the in-out Brexit debate was never-ending then the recent flagstick discussion looks set to rival it in the coming months. At some point this hot topic will go away but, for now, it’s all we want to hear about and we haven’t even got to hear from Tiger Woods yet on the matter.
The bottom line is that the rules are being simplified as well as to speed up play and they are generally to be applauded. So while we’re singing the praises of the R&A and USGA let’s hear it for the men and occasional woman in the blazers for leaving this one well alone. Changes might be afoot but don’t expect it to be amended any time soon.
“One of the primary objectives for the overall initiative is to make the rules easier to understand and apply but to also make sure we maintained the traditions and principles behind the game,” said the USGA’s Thomas Pagel. “And the principles are to play the ball as it lies and the course as you find it. So to write a rule that allows a player to sort of deviate from that, was not something we were wanting to do.”
Amen to that. But which rule in golf am I on about?
Relief from fairway divots, of course.
In my humble and often ill-thought-out opinion you can tell a lot about a person by their viewpoint on this so I’ve collated my inner-most thoughts on why it irritates probably as much as someone talking you through their round.
Yes, that much.
1. What’s all the fuss about?
Be honest, how often did this happen to you last year?
I’m not convinced too many spike marks in the past 40 years have stopped any putts of mine going in and I’m racking my brains to remember more than one divot-based conundrum getting in the way of my spectacular progress on the course per year.
Either I don’t hit many fairways or my fellow members are outstanding in their divot etiquette.
2. Golf is hard
The R&A’s David Rickman has a good line on balls in divots on fairways: “It’s part of golf.”
Yes it is, David, my old fruit, and boo hoo to all those who find this such an inconvenience.
It’s not a game of perfect; we’re all grinding away in a 150-acre field, there will be wind, rain, quirky bounces, irritating playing partners, slow play, bumpy greens, some untrustworthy swing mechanics and your own thoughts to contend with.
Some people do seem to enjoy playing golf but it’s not meant to be fun, it’s meant to shake you to your soul and then spit you out.
3. And the Oscar for the Best Actor goes to…
Where would we be if you were simply allowed to mark your ball and move or knee-high drop it into a perfect lie?
When your playing partner finds themselves in a fairway crater it generally makes for the best entertainment of the day as the arms go up and a minute-long bleating process begins.
We’re all forced to join them in their circle of hate around the ball and make some sympathetic comment or other as to their unfortunate predicament. Which is never enough and the moaning continues throughout the shot and, most likely, for another couple of holes.
If you’re lucky enough to be across the fairway they’ll still catch up with you with a running commentary of what’s just transpired.
4. Go on, you can do it
The mark of a person is to see it as a challenge, have a think about what Butch says to escape this misery and punch one onto the green.
There’s no reason this piece of misfortune should derail your day, get into the back of the ball and drill one in there to 15 feet.
The real skill is to inwardly pat yourself on the back if you do pull it off and not feel the need to regale everyone in the group as to what’s just happened.
This last bit is almost impossible to do.
5. ‘Can I get a ruling here guys?”
Why this will hopefully never change is that everyone is obsessed with speeding things up and this will never change and the charade of going through what defines a divot, getting your playing partners involved, is the ball actually in it and then getting your ball back in play will take a short and funless lifetime.
Just shut up and hit it.