The 2014 PGA Merchandise Show featured the rollout of Hack Golf, an industry initiative spearheaded by TaylorMade to make the game of golf more enjoyable. Among the many facets of this movement is a concerted effort to adapt the intricate and cumbersome Rules of Golf administered by the USGA to the game as it is actually played by millions of recreational golfers. For example, the Recreational Golf Association America has proposed a set of rules for recreational golfers. (See www.rgaa.org)
Let’s face it — few recreational golfers adhere strictly to the Rules of Golf. Go to any course and you’ll find that groups of golfers who play and compete together regularly have devised adaptations that make sense in light of their objective: to have fun on the course and complete the round in a reasonable amount of time. Plus, unique features and conditions of courses might justify “local” rules. Purists might say these folks are not playing golf as it was intended, but the point is they are playing golf and having fun. I’m not sure I like the 15” cup concept, although I probably would make a few more 4-footers. But based on years of experience and an informal survey, here are a few ideas for recreational golf rules:
1. Eliminate the stroke-and-distance rule for balls that are lost or out of bounds. If a ball is lost in the woods or is out of bounds, drop where the ball entered the woods or crossed the boundary line with a 1-stroke penalty (similar to the lateral hazard rule). If a ball is lost in an open area, drop a ball as nearly as possible to where it likely was lost.
2. Additional water hazard option. If a water hazard extends from the tee to the edge of the green on a par-3 hole and the ball comes up short of the green in the water, the only option under Rule 26 is to re-tee. Why make a golfer masochistically hit repeated balls into a hazard if he or she can’t reach the green? In this situation, allow a drop to the side of the hazard at the point where the ball landed. Alternatively, players could mutually agree on a drop zone.
3. Most of us play on courses that don’t measure up to the conditions of Augusta National. If a ball is in the fairway, it may be moved within one club length to avoid playing from divots or substandard areas. In the rough, a ball may be moved if a root or rock interferes with the shot. Do we really need to break clubs or wrists in the strict adherence to USGA rules?
4. I think we’ve all seen enough controversies about imperceptible movements of balls. If a ball moves slightly (but retains its basic position) when the player moves loose impediments or addresses the ball, there is no penalty. (This doesn’t mean you can move a stick and bat the ball 20 yards into better position.)
5. Liberalize the unplayable ball rule by permitting a drop at the nearest point that permits an unrestricted stance and swing. Two club lengths in many cases affords no meaningful relief.
6. Play ready golf. No penalty for playing out of turn. This might be a start. But don’t look for an adoption of any of these rules when the USGA and R&A issue the next rules revisions in 2016. They are still busy fine-tuning the anchoring rule.
Jack Ross completed an intensive PGA/USGA rules workshop. He also writes a rules feature for ESPN.com. Rules inquiries may be addressed to email@example.com.