Not having played in a proper golf tournament for at least a couple of decades means that I have not had the need to crack the spine of the Rules of Golf with any great intent for ten years and more. In the last week, however, that has changed hugely – not because I’m going to join the Seniors’ Tour – but because of the introduction of the New Rules. I had familiarising myself with the NRs down as one of my December jobs but, alas, other stuff seemed to get in the way and I was pretty much unaware of many of the nuances until last Monday.
Hosts of clubs up and down the country are holding Rules get-togethers to help folk understand just what has changed and to aid the members in getting to grips with new terminology and procedures. At Delamere Forest the dubious honour of guiding the women members through this fell to Ruth Whitehead and Jackie Roper. The hours of reading and preparation they had done so the rest of us wouldn’t have to was immense and they did a great job with a power point presentation, numerous hand-outs and off-the-cuff (and often hilarious) demonstrations.
Apparently there are now 24 rules, all designed to fulfill the stated aim of making golf Faster, Fairer, Simpler, (FFS for short). That’s a noble aim but I wonder if the powers-that-be have left any room for further tweaking, if required, at a later date? I ask this with particular reference to the new way to drop a ball, which seems to be the most discussed and most practised of the NRs. Patricia’s slight knees-bend which she was pondering in last week’s blog is, I understand, a no-no – or at least a careful-careful. The rule requires the player to drop from knee height and knee height is the height of a player’s knee when in a standing position, so I suppose you could bend your knees as long as you drop the ball from slightly higher than said bent knee?
And what about dropping when standing on a severe slope? Is the drop from knee height where the player is standing or where it would be were you standing right on the spot where the ball is to be dropped? Hmm! I now understand better the herculean and complicated task of trying to simplify something.
And, of course, joking aside, the physical difficulty of dropping from knee height with straight legs is not to be underestimated. Having undergone back surgery 30-plus years ago I have been consistently exhorted by health practitioners of all persuasions ALWAYS to bend my knees. So, another dilemma arising from a seemingly straightforward change in the rules.
All in all, the FFS aims of the ruling bodies are admirable and, it seems to me, will be largely successful. The current chat and general interest stimulated by the rules changes have brought clubs and players together in their collective desire to get their heads around the changes. I do hope there is room for some slight alterations. For instance, I’d just change the dropping height of a ball to “from anywhere between knee and shoulder”.
One final point. As long as I’ve played the game we have done our measuring on the course in the currency of number of clublengths and this has always struck me as odd as we all play with different lengths of clubs. Why do we not have a standard measure? Then every player gets the same distance in terms of relief, which strikes me as eminently more fair. It’s very easy to have a light alignment-stick style measure in your bag for the purpose. That surely would fulfill one of the stated aims – to be fairer? Just a thought.