MA­JOR RULES CHANGES ARE SELDOM SMOOTH SAIL­ING IN SPORT

His­tory is lit­tered with tales of bit­ter dis­putes be­tween those ad­vo­cat­ing a shake-up of long es­tab­lished reg­u­la­tions and their op­po­nents who are de­ter­mined to re­tain the sta­tus quo. Rugby is a prime ex­am­ple.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY GARY DENVIR

We talk to Dean Mur­phy who is part of an in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee look­ing at var­i­ous as­pects of golf.

While the South­ern Hemi­sphere na­tions have long been plump­ing for new rules aimed at speed­ing up the game, the ma­jor­ity of their North­ern Hemi­sphere coun­ter­parts are con­tent for ref­er­ees to have the tools to slow things down, en­cour­ag­ing the tra­di­tional 10-man, set-piece dom­i­nated game.

It's a bat­tle that has raged on for years.

So you could be for­given for a bit of pes­simism at golf's bid to in­tro­duce a world­wide hand­i­cap sys­tem in just over two years' time.

All go­ing to plan, there will be no more need to fear head­ing out on course in less than op­ti­mal con­di­tions, due to con­cerns about the dam­age you could do to your hand­i­cap.

Rain or shine, windy or calm – all will be taken into ac­count with a daily slope rat­ing, cal­cu­lated us­ing the re­sults of each and every round played on the day.

In other words, if you have a bad day be­cause it's blow­ing a gale or the fair­ways are un­der wa­ter, don't stress, be­cause you're prob­a­bly not the only one and the slope rat­ing will re­flect that.

It's one of a num­ber of im­prove­ments Kiwi golfers can look for­ward to, in what is ef­fec­tively the USGA handicapping sys­tem al­ready em­ployed here, with some good bits

“I think every­one’s landed on 90 per­cent of it though - it’s prob­a­bly just the fi­nal 10 per­cent that’s tak­ing quite a bit of de­bate and quite a bit of tri­alling and test­ing to get right. I think the goal is to have that all set­tled by the end of this year and then there will be two years be­fore it all comes into force.”

added from the other five sys­tems cur­rently in force around the world.

This bold new hy­brid is sched­uled to come into force at the start of 2020.

How­ever, that will re­quire an ac­cord be­tween the bod­ies gov­ern­ing the ex­ist­ing rules around the globe.

After decades of au­ton­omy, what chances they will all ac­cept a one size fits all ap­proach? It's not as far-fetched as you think. Led by the R&A and the USGA, a com­mit­tee has been set up in­volv­ing all the in­ter­ested bod­ies, to make a global handicapping sys­tem a re­al­ity.

And be­lieve it or not, much pos­i­tive progress has been made.

New Zealand Golf CEO Dean Mur­phy is on the well-funded com­mit­tee, which meets around four times a year.

He's con­fi­dent they're on tar­get to meet the 2020 dead­line.

“As you would ex­pect, the var­i­ous bod­ies around the world all think they have the best sys­tem, so every­one's fiercely de­bat­ing the key points,” he told NZGM.

“I think every­one's landed on 90 per­cent of it though - it's prob­a­bly just the fi­nal 10 per­cent that's tak­ing quite a bit of de­bate and quite a bit of tri­alling and test­ing to get right. I think the goal is to have that all set­tled by the end of this year and then there will be two years be­fore it all comes into force.”

That's led to what looks on the face of it to be a bit of a com­pro­mise.

While every­one will now be work­ing off the same base sys­tem, each lo­cal ter­ri­tory will also have some op­tional mod­ules they can choose whether or not to in­clude.

Mur­phy be­lieves al­low­ing that sort of wrig­gle-room makes sense, given the vastly dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments around the world.

“For in­stance, New Zealand Golf will have the au­thor­ity for the sys­tem in our ter­ri­tory, which means we can make sure it's go­ing to suit our lo­cal con­di­tions and any­thing we may need to ad­just here.”

Agree­ing the na­ture of those mod­ules is now the main chal­lenge for the com­mit­tee mem­bers, but Mur­phy doesn't see it hin­der­ing the planned roll­out in 2020 after some vig­or­ous but pos­i­tive de­bate at the lat­est meet­ing prior to the re­cent US Women's Open at Trump Na­tional in New Jer­sey.

In fact, he be­lieves it could eas­ily have been im­ple­mented in 2019, but has prob­a­bly been de­layed 12 months so as not to clash with the in­tro­duc­tion of new rules at the start of 2019.

Dean Mur­phy.

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