'New slimline rules booklets for 2019' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris

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Ivan Morris

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Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf

Mutt: The booklets for the new rules being introduced on 1 January, 2019 are more user-friendly and easier to understand than ever before.

Four million copies in 30 different languages have already been distributed worldwide. There are easy-to-follow diagrams and charts with much simpler and direct language.

Jeff: I have already picked one up at my golf club and I have to say that this booklet is a definite improvement from a visual and comprehension standpoint, but I am not wildly enthusiastic about all of the rules changes themselves and wonder if some will last very long before the pressure to change again them begins?

Mutt: Really? What do you mean? These are supposed to be the most significant changes in the rules for more than 30 years.

Jeff: Confusion is inevitable that there will be a difference between elite and non-elite players about the necessity to play provisional balls if, AND ONLY IF, a local rule is in play.

Mutt: Are you saying that non-elite golfers will be given the option (by local rules) to drop a ball (with a two-stroke penalty) in the vicinity of where the ball is deemed lost or where it crossed an out-of-bounds margin. i.e. no need to go all the way back to the tee?

Jeff: Yes! This new rule will not apply in professional or scratch amateur events. While the aim is to speed up play, it is introducing the dreaded bifurcation of the rules into play.

Mutt: Please note: 'vicinity' is defined as the edge of the fairway, not nearer to the hole but nearest to where the ball is deemed to be lost or where it last crossed the OB margin.

It is also important to remember that this option ONLY applies if you have NOT played a provisional ball.

Jeff: That's complicated! There will be times when the player will have to decide quickly whether he should play a provisional ball for the penalty of one stroke and distance in preference to moving forward (probably not very far) to drop and play on for a two strokes penalty.

Obviously, one would NOT play a provisional ball if the original stroke was a long, crooked one because one will be allowed to drop it beside the fairway! I don't think that is as clear cut as the rules-makers think. Confusion will reign!

Mutt: I'm also very interested in seeing how being allowed to repair pitch and spike marks on the greens will work out? It could be a minefield and it certainly will not help to speed up play.

In fact, the exact opposite will be the case because the pernickety golfer will simply become even more pernickety and feel free to garden at will.

Jeff: Pitch marks are one thing but repairing a spike mark is another.

Not least because metal spikes are virtually gone and the idea that players can, in effect, improve their line to the hole does not sit well with traditionalist who think being allowed to touch the ball with one's hand is sacrilege.

How do you reconcile playing the ball as it lies with being allowed to manipulate the putting green between your ball and the hole?

That's not the game of golf as it was intended.

Mutt: I will have to disagree on that! Golf is supposed to fun. Why make it so damn hard?

Jeff: Well, okay, I might make a compromise for hackers but the pros and top amateurs should not be allowed any 'freedoms to improve their lie' - the game is already too easy for them.

I think it will only succeed in slowing down an already slow game even further. Who wants that? I just can’t see how you can instil a “play it as it lies” mentality if you can legally create a perfect line on the greens.

Already players complain if all 18-greens are not of the same firmness and speed. Modern golfers are molly-coddled to extremes.

Mutt: Hopefully, all players will do their gardening at the same time and not wait until it is their shot to begin rooting about.

Jeff: Rest assured, this new rule will unreasonably delay play. While it won’t affect the pace of faster players, it will give the slow-coaches an excuse to slow down even more.

Imagine the slowest player you can think of who takes an eternity on the greens. Imagine how many blemishes he will find in his or her line? Some players might decide to make as many as four or five repair jobs on a 15-foot putt.

It’s not that long ago I saw a major champion repair three ball marks on a 10-foot putt. Just one or two tournaments with less than perfect, soft, greens and the sight of an overly-pernickety player setting up shop to fuss over and repair his/her line will send TV viewers scrambling for their 'off' buttons.

Mutt: The thought occurs that this new green-repairing rule is not consistent with the 3-minutes to be allowed to find a 'lost' ball.

Jeff: The rules-makers should have included a 20-seconds limit to hit or putt from the instant it's the player's turn to play.

For slow players, their fellow competitors can help them out by doing a countdown chorus (20-19-18-17 . . . . . )

Words of the Wise

If you are able to shave say, 30-seconds off everyone’s play on each hole in a four-ball playing 18-holes, it would add up to quite a time-saver.