The Golf Channel has recently been promoting their “relaxed rules of golf” to promote faster, more fun rounds. The relaxed rules are bifurcation by any other name, and speaking for the 99% I endorse them completely. So does the President of the PGA of America. Here are the relaxed rules of golf:
1. MAXIMUM SCORE: Double par (i.e. 6 on par 3s, 8 on par 4s…)
2. PENALTIES: All are one stroke, including out of bounds, water and lateral hazards, lost ball and unplayable lie. Drop a ball near where the original was lost and play on.
3. SEARCH TIME: Two minutes to look for your ball. If lost, proceed under Rule 2.
4. UNFORTUNATE LIES: With your playing partners’ consent, balls may be dropped out of divots or footprints, away from tree roots and any other dangerous lies.
5. CONCEDED PUTTS: Putts may be conceded with your playing partners’ consent.
6. EQUIPMENT: No restrictions, including number of clubs.
7. COMMON SENSE: When in doubt, use common sense and fairness.
Except for the maximum score and extra clubs, most of these are the “ground rules” I see played ever day at my muni:
No one—and I mean NO ONE—ever goes back to the tee box to rehit on a lost ball. There are people waiting back there, and you risk personal harm—or at the very least scorn—for holding them up.
I’ve actually long been an advocate of changing the stroke and distance penalty in the official rules. Once upon a time, the penalty for a lost ball was simply strokes. In the interest of the game, the USGA should return to the previous regulations.
As with the “Relaxed Rules,” search times on the courses I play are already abbreviated. No one wants to be “that guy” looking for his ball and holding up the groups behind.
Since my golfing circles play on less than USGA pristine courses, where landing in a divot or on unmanicured ground often is more likely than not, the “one rotation of the ball” rule is generally in effect: if your ball lands in an unfair position, you can roll it over once. If you land on a rock hard dead spot, roll it over to something that looks like grass.
We also play with the “dangerous” rule, which is covered by Rule 4. If a shot is likely to damage your or your club, take a free drop. It’s ok for Tour pros to whack their clubs against a tree or root. They get their clubs replace free in the Tour Van. I, on the other hand, can little afford a broken club. There’s also no need to go looking on the edges of woods through the poison ivy or near creeks where you might fall in.
Putts are regularly conceded “inside the leather.” This is one of the reasons I don’t think fifteen inch holes are necessary. “Pick it up” is the phrase heard after any putt that gets within shouting distance. It is actually a sign of respect. What you’re saying to your partners is that you absolutely believe they can make that putt, so there’s no need to waste anyone’s time (and especially not the time of the people waiting behind you).
As for equipment, while I’ve never seen anyone with a double-strength bag of clubs (more often, players have fewer than fourteen because of cost), I am certain guys are playing with non-conforming clubs and balls. I’ve seen plenty of “Bandit” balls on the course. And if a club is a good buy, who cares if it’s currently illegal under USGA rules? We are not playing USGA championships.
These “Relaxed Rules of Golf” make perfect sense to me because the vast majority of golfers don’t carry a USGA handicap and will never play in a USGA Championship. All the weekenders want is a set of rules that let them play with their buddies on a level playing field. If everyone is taking free drops or rolling the ball over, then it is fair to everyone.
If you have ambitions of playing in a USGA championship, or carry a USGA handicap, then by all means play by the rules. I actually do both. When I get up to the first tee, I decide if I am “counting” the round or not. If the day is crowded and / or I’m paired with a less than serious group, then I tell myself the round will not count and play casual rules. Otherwise, I’ll play with the full set.
Of all the crazy ideas put forth to “save” golf, the “Relaxed Rules of Golf” absolutely makes the most sense to me—especially because they reflect the game as it is already being played.
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