I have just done something I once never thought possible. I’ve finally read the Rules of Golf from start to finish.
I’ve always endeavoured to play by the laws of the game, and there have been plenty of times I’ve poked my head into a definition, or a specific rule, in an effort to find the right way.
But actually read them, from cover-to-cover, to consume every definition and every clause? How many of us, honestly, have actually done that?
And yet this is the biggest thing I take from the many changes to the Rules of Golf that come into force next month.
There are plenty of headlines to get used to when we tee it up from the New Year. I’m a big fan of the new regulations regarding penalty areas – surely being in a ditch is punishment enough without also trying to avoid grounding your club?
If you really needed all of your five minutes to look for your ball then you should have played a provisional so the new three minutes regulation is not only fair but will definitely help speed up play.
Unlike Bryson DeChambeau, I’m not sure I’ll keep the flagstick in for any really makeable putt but the ability to do that on the green, with some lengthy efforts, will end the palaver of having to wait for someone to attend it before getting on with the stroke.
The old rule book was incomprehensible
I believe the biggest legacy, though, from the seven-year process to review the Rules will not be the ability to repair spikemarks on the green, or the new knee height dropping procedure.
It will be the drive to simplify the Rules and make them more understandable to those of us not familiar with legalese language.
The R&A and USGA deserve huge credit for the Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf, which is an abridged – although fully functioning – version of the much larger decrees and is written in a way that’s easy to understand.
I found the old rules book incomprehensible at times, and utterly useless to the average golfer when there was a dispute that needed sorting out.
You would get out the book in good faith, spend a couple of minutes fruitlessly searching around the index or page after page of subsections, before realising the group behind were looking at their watches.
Then you’d come to some arrangement that you thought might be correct and hope you weren’t getting disqualified when you got back into the clubhouse.
Now, if my partners are unsure about how to take relief from a red penalty area – for that’s what it is now called – there is an easy diagram and a checklist for us to follow to the letter.
I believe it is this opening up of the mysteries of the Rules of Golf that we will come to value most, rather than the specifics of what has or hasn’t changed.
And if it has helped me go down the rabbit hole and want to explore more – I’m now into the Official Guide – maybe it will do the same for you as well.