Punch Shot: Rules change you like; change still needed


The USGA and R&A revealed proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which will go into effect in 2019. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the one proposed change they most like, and one they would like to see added to the list.


MOST LIKED: The proposed change to the Rules of Golf that will likely make the biggest impact on the game is probably not the alteration that will draw the most attention. If, for example, the rule is changed to allow the use of distance-measuring devices, that would likely draw plenty of attention at the professional level. But if an average recreational golfer isn't already using a distance-measuring device, he probably won’t be inclined to start. This makes the proposed rule that would allow for a drop, albeit with a two-stroke penalty, outside of a bunker for an unplayable ball the most intriguing. Some will still swing away hoping for a miracle shot out of the lip of a bunker, but the change would mercifully give players an option and also speed up the game.

STILL NEEDED: Where the USGA and R&A seemed to have missed an opportunity, however, is with the overly penal rule relating to stroke-and-distance for shots hit out of bounds. Although there are plenty of reasons why the rules makers decided not to dial back the stroke-and-distance penalty, allowing a wayward player to simply take a drop, with a one-stroke penalty, where their golf ball crossed the OB boundary would speed up play, avoid confusion and provide a more even-handed outcome for one of the most common rule violations.


MOST LIKED: The best rule change? Caddies will no longer be allowed to line up players before a shot. It’s bewildering this was ever allowed. Alignment should be a fundamental skill, like squaring the club face at impact. If you’re going to allow a caddie to be an alignment aid, why not allow players to drop sticks at their feet, parallel to the intended paths of their shots? Aim is a fairly essential skill to test in any sport.

STILL NEEDED: What rule still needs to be changed? How about no longer requiring players to be responsible for their own scorecards in instances where tournament committees are already keeping score for them? How ridiculous is it to be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard in this digital age if there’s a walking scorekeeper already doing the job. If time-honored traditions are that important, let’s go back to gutta percha balls.  


MOST LIKED: The best proposed change is allowing players to tap down spike marks on the greens. Having stood on many 18th greens after tournaments, it’s remarkable that players can actually hole putts on surfaces that are so chewed up after 156 players walked on them for six consecutive days. It never seemed fair. Late Sunday afternoon, a 5-foot putt can become a game of pinball, as the ball ricochets off spike marks and maybe, just maybe, tumbles into the cup. The new rule takes out the guesswork.

STILL NEEDED: As for the rule that still needs changing, let’s eliminate any scorecard-related penalties. This is a rules “modernization,” after all. What is more antiquated than writing your fellow playing competitor’s score on a scorecard, when there are various technologies, in particular ShotLink, that can do it for them? Afterward, players can review their card and sign off on it. It’s 2017. Take out the user error.


MOST LIKED: At last, we can put the images of Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie putting across corrugated cardboard at Riviera behind us. The notion that ball marks on the green could be repaired, while spike marks could not, has always seemed curious. Even as amateurs and professionals alike have continued to transition away from metal spikes, an errant mark at the wrong time still proves problematic today – look no further than Tyrrell Hatton’s bouncing putt Sunday on the 71st hole of the Honda Classic. This certainly won’t help pace of play, but it removes the unnecessary and unwanted scenario where a friendly match or professional tournament is decided by a piece of dirt sticking up.

STILL NEEDED: After all of these proposed rule changes, why do we still face the prospect of playing out of a divot after a well-placed tee shot into the middle of the fairway? Golf has always abided by the notion of “rub of the green,” but as steps are being taken to remove some of that factor with these rule changes, the divot shot still needs to be addressed. Whether sitting in a hole, buried in sand or up against the seam of replaced sod, players shouldn’t incur a penalty just because someone before them hit it from the exact same spot. Use the language pertaining to embedded balls to offer players an avenue for free relief when the rub of the fairway doesn’t go their way. It’s an easy fix, and one that will make the game more fair going forward.