After a 2016 season that saw major declines in ratings and viewership, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) and US Golf Association (USGA) have proposed an overhaul of golf’s rule book. The main objectives of the 30 changes, which would trim the rule book to just 24 main rules, are faster play, fewer penalties, and a generally less arcane code. (For a full list of proposed changes, see here.) Ironically, the suggested changes would not take effect until 2019.
One of my favorite additions is regarding the rule book, itself. The governing bodies believe putting pictures in the rule book is necessary. I learned something in university: if print needs images to make it readable, it’s not worth the read. Also, under new rules, Roy McAvoy could have actually used all those clubs he broke.
Joking aside, it was about time the R&A and USGA stepped in and made some changes. The original rules were written in 1744, and the English language has come a long way since. Simplification was needed, and the game does have to become faster and more watchable if it’s going to survive.
Will these proposed changes accomplish that? Are there more rules that need to be altered or added? I’ve got the odds here, along with some of my own ideas to put fans in the stands.
Odds on Golf’s Rule Changes
Odds the proposed changes are implemented in 2019: 1/4
I admit to not being the most knowledgeable golf fan, but give me one good reason any of these new rules should not be implemented. If anything, the governing bodies could have gone further to speed up play. We’ll talk more on that later.
The fact that many of the PGA pros don’t even know the current rule book should be enough to induce change.
Odds everyone understands the new rule book: 3/1
Golfers have caddies for a reason. Memorizing the rule book, inside out, isn’t something most golfers are interested in doing. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the pictures, though.
Odds the new rules lead to a faster game: 3/7
But how much faster? Here’s an idea: instead of giving someone three minutes to find their ball (proposed change from original five minutes), we put tracking devices in the balls and give the golfer a minute to locate it. Pressure’s on!
Odds anyone is actually penalized for slow play in the first year: 19/1
It’s not going to happen. Here’s my solution: every caddie has an air horn and a stopwatch; the horn is blown once the opposing golfer’s 40 seconds expires. (Two-stroke penalty for sounding off early.) Air horns are encouraged on golf courses, right? I don’t see anything barring them in the rule book, anyway.
Odds the new rules lead to better viewership: 2/3
If they mandated a Tiger comeback, these odds would be a lot shorter.
Odds the following rules are changed in the next five years
Play it as it lies: 4/1
You can’t rob Happy of this legendary shot. Seriously though, the rule is ridiculous. If my ball lands in a rut created by another golfer preceding me, I should be able to fix it and play my ball from the same ground everyone enjoyed before me.
Scorecard violation: 7/3
You are disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. I understand we want to promote integrity, but honest mistakes happen. A brilliant round of golf should not be ruined for such an absurd reason, not in this modern age when everything is recorded.
Stroke and distance penalty for hitting a ball out of bounds: 7/4
You want to talk about speeding up play? Here’s the situation: I hit a beautiful drive off the tee that takes an odd bounce towards an out-of-bounds zone. I walk 250 yards down the fairway without knowing my ball bounced out-of-play. Upon realization, I have to pick up my ball, take a penalty stroke, and walk all the way back to the tee and shoot again.
Odds these sure-fire entertainment fixers are ever implemented
Allow crowd interference: 250/1
Allow psyche-outs: 500/1
We all remember BASEketball. I want to hear Tom Watson’s material.
Beers for match play: 750/1
Losing the first couple of holes could potentially end your day. (Or make it a lot better.)
Photo credit: By Killivt03 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.