I lost four balls in nine holes today. Three of those disappeared in the middle of the fairway, presumably under one of the bazillions of leaves that were strewn in every direction.
It’s an unavoidable hazard on Michigan’s tree-lined golf courses. Even on the most well-tended courses, superintendents fight a losing battle. If they blow the leaves off first thing in the morning, more are back by noon. Wind gusts chase drifts of leaves out of the woods to settle in previously cleared territory.
So it occurs to me that—just as there are special guidelines for winter play—there also needs to be a set of rules for Autumn.
First among the autumn rules is that if your ball that disappears in the middle of a fairway, you may drop a replacement in a reasonable position with no penalty. Fairways were never meant to be penal.
If you’re a liberal sort, you also could agree in your foursome that a ball that rolls just off the fairway and can’t be found also may be replaced.
Second, if a ball comes to rest on top of a pile of leaves, you can pick it up, brush away the leaves and replace the ball on grass. That ruling applies both in the fairways, and in bunkers.
And finally, a golfer may improve his stance at any time. Slippery leaves are a golf injury waiting to happen.
In fact, now that golf is a worldwide sport, I think it’s time for any number of sensible rules exceptions. I’m certain that desert courses don’t have a leaf problem, but surely they have issues that the Scottish founders never envisioned on their links. The same holds for tropical courses, Outback courses, prairie courses, swamp courses, and so on.
And since I’m committing sacrilege, I’ll also suggest that municipal courses need a different set of rules from private and high end courses. Some of the munis in my area are so beat up by the end of the summer that even the biggest rules sticker uses the “one turnover” rule to get their balls out of inch deep divots. It’s not improving your lie; it’s leveling the playing field.