Gunby: Sometimes, ‘experts’ make the rules of golf more complicated than necessary
Tee It Up
The new USGA Rules of Golf have been in effect for two months and there has been some consternation, discussions and changes. Watching some of the golf telecasts and listening to some of the commentators reinforces my laughable definition of an “expert” as a “person a long way from home.”
In my experience as a rules official at professional and amateur events, often the more advanced a player is, the less informed they are with the rules of golf. Maybe it has to do with the money involved, media coverage, or the fear of making a mistake regarding a rule. Whatever it is, let’s face it. The rules of golf are not, in most instances, that complicated.
A long time ago, before the start of a season, rookie PGA Tour Players were required to attend an extensive seminar where they learned how to act, dress, and interact with the public and sponsors, deal with travel issues, and review the rules of golf. Back then, immediate Rule decisions or officials were not readily available. They had limited radio communications and cell phones were not even thought of. The pros had to rely on their experience and knowledge and that of their fellow competitors. Maybe they should go back to this training, especially how to act on and off the golf course and the rules of golf.
The USGA and R & A have correctly addressed the pace of play challenges with the three-minute limit to search for a lost ball, keeping the flagstick in the hole, ready golf, a forty-second maximum timeframe to hit a shot (see Rule 5.6b), etc.
The use of distance measuring devices, pace of play and player conduct on the professional tours are huge challenges. In 2019 the rules of golf allow the everyday use of Distance Measuring Devices (DMD’s) to measure distance only. Previously, these DMD’s were only allowed as a Local Rule. The PGA Tour adopted a local rule on their hard card this year which prohibits the use of DMD’s during any tournament rounds. It looks like these DMD’s will be prohibited during the U.S. Open as well. To improve the pace of play, I think these DMD’s should be allowed at all events and would save lots of time, if properly used.
Player conduct is addressed in the rule book (Rule 1.2). I am tired of a few (very few but well-known) spoiled brats throwing temper tantrums when they are so blessed with great talent to play a game at the highest level. They disrespect the fans, sponsors and those who worked so hard to provide the best of conditions. Fines will do nothing to curb these outbursts from these primadonnas. They should be suspended from the Tours for a good length of time.
Many players, especially younger people, emulate tour players, both PGA and LPGA. They are role models, whether they like it or not. My question is, when is the PGA and LPGA Tour and every competitive event, amateur or professional, going to enforce the pace of play and player conduct Rules?
I realize that the tours have their own rules officials and there are political and monetary implications with enforcing these Rules. But taking 2 to 4 minutes before hitting a shot and having rounds of golf painfully approaching six hours, for threesomes featuring the best players in the world, is ridiculous. We should not tolerate the temperamental behaviors and unnecessary damage done to the courses by self-centered imps. It sets the wrong example as role models. With all that the new Rules are trying to do to improve the game, failure to enforce them is inexcusable. To all tournament committees: Come on man, grow a spine and enforce the rules. Restore integrity to the game of golf.
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.