In the wake of Bunkergate, there has been a lot of discussion about whether the Lords of the USGA need to take another look at the Rules of Golf, which seem to many to be unduly obscure and penal.
I find it strange that the debate was caused by Johnson’s misfortune, however. I don’t know of anyone who thinks you should be able to ground a club in a hazard. In my mind, that error was one of course setup, not of the rules.
That said, I think I would change four rules for the benefit of the average player on the average course:
The first is to change the penalty for a lost or out of bounds ball from stoke and distance to penalty and drop at the point of exit. That’s the way most golfers I know play anyway—even the ones who religiously keep a handicap. Further, it’s the only realistic thing to do on crowded public courses. You could get pummeled by the group behind you for returning to the previous spot … and hitting provisionals isn’t going to endear you, either. It’s just practical.
The second is to allow players a free drop from damaged areas through the green. Most of us don’t play on the grass carpets that the Lords of the USGA enjoy. At the end of the season, many public fairways look like the surface of the moon. Between sunburned, unseeded area and deep unrepaired divots, playing it as it lies is a ridiculous notion.
Third: This is a longtime peeve that I’ve written about before—you should get a free drop from poison ivy, or other suspicious-looking woodland areas. Players get relief from alligators and fire ants. Why not from poison ivy and suspected rattlesnake dens? The Lords of the USGA obviously have never played a woodland area in Up North Michigan, or this would already be in the rules.
And finally a “change” which isn’t so much of a change as a re-emphasis. More attention should be paid to the spirit of rule 1-4: If any point in dispute is not covered by the Rules, the decision should be made in accordance with equity.
More decisions should be made with an eye to the notion of equity—“the state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair.” Emphasis on “fair.”
What rules would you change?