Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

Golf teachers write own rule regarding drop
On the heels of Alex Miceli's column in which some PGA Tour players said the Tour should make its own rules, one thing we will do this year at our national championship, the U.S. Golf Teachers Cup, is to eliminate the knee-height requirement for dropping a ball (“PGA Tour players talk rules rebellion,” March 4). Our local rule will deem a ball dropped from knee height or higher to be sufficient.

This is the way the rule should have been written in the first place. It makes no sense to penalize a player, as Rickie Fowler was during the second round of the WGC Mexico Championship, for dropping a ball in another way when the player gains absolutely no advantage. And the argument that dropping from shoulder height slows down play is pure rubbish.

We will also be looking at implementing other local rules as we see fit, and we make no apologies for doing so. The USGA and R&A have whiffed on some of the new rules, and penalizing players who gain no advantage does nothing to further the sport and only promotes needless ill will.

Mark Harman
Ridgeland, S.C.
(Harman is the national course director for the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.)

Knee-high drop looks no sillier than bright-orange pro
The major arguments put forth so far in opposition to several of the new rules seem to be based on "how it looks" and "how it feels." These are not salient points. They are emotional responses to change (“PGA Tour players talk rules rebellion,” March 4).

In the 1950s and earlier, it did not look strange to see a flagstick in the hole while putting. It was normal. Players had the option to remove it, same as today. Leave it or remove it. Who cares? For amateur golf, it is a pace-of-play issue. The professionals do not care about pace of play.

I seldom seek to defend the USGA stuffed shirts, but I am compelled to respond to the criticism of the new drop rule. With the change in the relief area, eliminating the two-club rollout, the powers felt the need to make the drop less random. It is my understanding that the USGA favored placing the ball in every situation, but the British stuffed shirts insisted on a drop. Hence the compromise.

Does the new drop procedure look funny? I don't know; maybe. It is certainly no funnier than dropping the ball over the shoulder. And it surely does not look any funnier than a guy going to work dressed head to toe in bright orange.

The rule regarding lining up the player for a shot probably should be eliminated. By rule, caddies are permitted to assist the player. In my humble opinion, this new prohibition was put in place because the picture of the caddie lining up the shot looked bad on TV.

However, if these professionals had taken the time to become informed instead of incensed, they might be a bit more understanding.

Jim Kavanagh
St. Augustine, Fla.
(Kavanagh is a senior rules official with the Florida State Golf Association.)

Caddie restrictions ensure golf as individual game
Consider emphasizing why caddie position is in the new rules: Players were taking too much time aligning a player. It slows play (“PGA Tour players talk rules rebellion,” March 4).

Review the “Purpose of Rule” explanation in the first paragraph of Rule 10. It states, “The underlying principle is that golf is a game of skill and personal challenge.”

The USGA and R&A do not want a caddie hanging around behind the player, checking alignment. Alignment sticks are prohibited during play, too.

Off the course, touring pros are supported by a cadre of coaches. On the course, a stroke is to be made by a player alone. Player and caddie may discuss alignment, but not when player begins to take his stance. And it all must be completed within 40 seconds, a recommended pace of play for a stroke under Rule 5.6b.

Robert Patten Burns
Solon, Iowa
(Burns is a rules official with the Iowa Section of the PGA of America.)

Tour players’ bid to rewrite rules will help all golfers
Brooks Koepka’s idea of having PGA Tour rules official Slugger White write the rules is a great one (“PGA Tour players talk rules rebellion,” March 4). And why not just have all of us hacks follow those same rules?

All aspects of the game – equipment, apparel, the ball, the dream courses to play – are driven by what we watch on TV, so why not the rules? Frankly, that could work quickly and easily, and what a communication vehicle for the everyday guy to become educated and learn the rules.

Justin Thomas’ comment on the USGA was very interesting. Anyone who has been around the USGA people (and especially the officials) knows the scoop: arrogance doesn’t even begin to describe it. PGA Tour official Mark Russell is such a gracious and humble person. Now it makes sense. He works for the players, but his attitude in contrast to the USGA officials is night and day.

I hope that the Tour players keep pushing this idea. It ultimately would be good for all of us.

Scott Justice
Orlando, Fla.

Pros should stop whining and adhere to rules
By airing their complaints about the new rules every weekend on TV, the PGA Tour professionals are not doing the game of golf, and ultimately themselves, any favors.

If they have a complaint against any of the new rules, they need to make proper representation to the USGA and the R&A. Their weekly moaning at news conferences will just get the game more bad press at a time when golf needs all the help it can get.

For the present, they need to abide by the rules. Players and caddies surely should know by now the new rule about alignment, and they should have no difficulty following it. Whether to putt with the flag in or out is straightforward, and it is up to each individual to decide which option he prefers. As for dropping from the knee, what can be difficult about that?

For as long as I can remember, golfers – amateur and professional – have complained about various rules but have accepted them and abided by them. The authorities must be congratulated for trying to make the rules of the game easier to understand and to speed up play. If they have not gotten it right this time, the professional-tour representatives and golf clubs around the world need to take this up with the ruling bodies in a proper and respectful manner. Talk about a break away from the USGA and R&A for the professionals to make their own rules is premature.

The solution is for the pros on the PGA and European tours to elect a small committee to sit down with the authorities, make their concerns about the new rules clear, submit their considered solutions and arrive at an acceptable solution with the authorities. I am sure this is something that the USGA and R&A would be willing to do. To avoid further unseemly outpourings from the professionals, perhaps they should request that the authorities agree to them having representation on the rules committee on both sides of the Atlantic

Finally, the players need to appreciate that the rules of golf apply to all golfers, not only themselves. What kind of message does it send if the golf professionals create and apply rules that seem to give them an advantage over the weekend golfer? As it stands, every week on TV the professionals seem to get more than enough questionable breaks.

Let's get the public's attention back on the golf.

Mike Wilson
Innerleithen, Scotland

Tour and players need to find solution
The PGA Tour presents a different set of logistical circumstances – caddies and their role, TV, spectators and speed of play – mostly unique to the Tour. Players unions are unique to Major League Baseball, the NFL and other pro sports. Golf has avoided the term “union,” but the PGA Tour does have advisers who represent the players.

The answer lies in local conditions of play to calm this one down. Caddies and speed of play can and should be dealt with by the PGA Tour. Start there and see if this organization can come to a consensus.

Leave the rest alone, for now. Otherwise, boycotts and everyone taking their own marbles and going home would hurt the game.

Dick Horton
Nashville, Tenn.
(Horton, the retired president of the Tennessee Golf Foundation, recently was inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame.)

True causes of slow play don’t include flagstick
Reader Garen Eggleston claims that leaving the flagstick in saves his group 15 minutes a round. That is the most ridiculous comment I’ve heard yet in this discussion about the flagstick.

It takes three seconds to take out the flagstick after everyone is on the green and three seconds to replace it.

Everyone who plays a lot of golf knows the real cause of slow play:

The guy who shoots the distance to the hole with his new toy while he is standing next to the 150-yard marker;

The guy who sits in the cart and writes his score before pulling away from the green;

The guy who is throwing grass into the air three times to check the wind and can’t even reach the green anyway.

It all comes down to courtesy, plain and simple. Some people are courteous to the group behind them, and some are not. There always will be slowpokes on the golf course.

As far as the new flagstick rule is concerned, I pray the folks at Augusta National adopt a local rule to disallow it during the Masters. If it stops a putt that was hit at the wrong speed, it gives the player an advantage.

Frank Blauch
Lebanon, Pa.

Golf prices out next generation of players
I've been slowly simmering over constant opinions about "growing the game.” All ideas are wonderful, but nothing will stop the decline of players until we find ways to get kids on golf courses without taking out a loan.

Unless a kid has a parent who belongs to a private course, or can afford $20-and-up green fees, you are not going to grow the game. There are very few public courses where kids can get on for low fees. Even adults bristle at $50, $100 and higher green fees.

I grew up on a county-owned course in New Jersey in the 1950s where we paid about $10 a year for a card allowing us to play for 50 cents or $1 per day during restricted times. Today, the fees are still relatively low at $25 for a card and $16 per round, but still out of reach for many parents.

Maybe our president was correct when he said that golf is an “aspirational game.” If so, we’d better get used to fewer courses and higher fees.

Dick Greenwood
Bradenton, Fla.

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