Time For Some Changes In Golf

I really love playing the game of golf. One of the neat things about golf is that golfers police themselves. There are no referees. You are expected to know the rules and abide by them. If you break a rule you are supposed to acknowledge it and accept the penalty. For many years the game has been played this way and if you play the game, you know how wonderful it is even if some golfers don’t always heed the rules.

Things have changed over the years and the game has suffered a black eye, in my opinion, because it has not kept up with the times. TV has played a significant role in tournament action on both the ladies and men’s tours. Most recently Lexi Thompson was hit with a four stroke penalty that cost her a major championship. Prior to that Craig Stadler found out that putting a towel down to keep his pants from getting wet was a no-no. Dustin Johnson found out that even if spectators are standing in the “bunker” that you are playing out of, you cannot ground your club. Anna Nordqvist now knows that if a single grain of sand is moved by your club in a bunker, the rules say you will be penalized.

All of these infractions were caught by TV cameras and a couple of them were called in by “fans” watching at home. In all of these cases the penalty seems to outweigh the crime. Maybe it’s time to simplify the golf rule book. No other sport has as many strange rules as golf. Maybe it’s time to lessen the effect TV has on the game. Seriously – how much zooming in did TV have to do to see that grain of sand topple forward?

For sure, it’s time to stop letting (well intentioned????) fans referee the sport.

Lexi Thompson’s breach of the rules happened in the third round. She was informed of the penalty after the 12th hole in the FINAL round. A viewer sent an email. Tournament officials reviewed the scene of the crime and assessed her a four stroke penalty. She had marked her ball on the green, picked it up to check it, and then replaced it in a slightly different position. Inadvertent? Of course it was. Advantage gained? I don’t think so. A penalty? Yes, the way the rule reads. She then lost two more strokes deducted for signing an incorrect scorecard on Saturday. Three stroke lead to a one stoke deficit without quadruple bogeying a hole!

So here are my suggestions to the enforcers of the game of golf. 1) Simplify the rules and make penalties realistic. 2) Put a statute of limitations on any penalty. If the mistake is not discovered on the same day – IT DIDN”T HAPPEN!!! 3) Fans can no longer call in (where does one call anyway?) and report wrongdoing. The concept is ridiculous.

I recall talking with a fellow teacher about some school rules that kids were complaining about. He suggested that in his mind rules were one of two kinds. Some were for the good of the order. Others were just picking on people. He said the latter should be eliminated. That made sense to me although I’m not sure the second type of rule was ever completely eliminated.

The view from my seat suggests that golf needs to change. These kinds of situations should never happen again. Revisit the rules. Make them the ones that are good for the order. Eliminate the others. Make this great game what it used to be before we went down a dark and dreary road.