Dr Brian Choa Talks About the New Rules

HK Golfer - - Around the HKGA -

There has been much in­ter­est in the pro­posed new Rules of Golf un­veiled by the USGA and the R&A that are to come into ef­fect in 2019. I have just re­turned from a sem­i­nar ar­ranged by the R&A at Sin­ga­pore, which the new Rule­book was an item in the agenda.

It is very im­por­tant to em­pha­sise that, although ma­jor re­vi­sions are not ex­pected, these are still pro­posed new Rules; the fi­nal ver­sion that will come out in late 2018 could dif­fer.

The in­ten­tion to mod­ern­ize the Rules is to make them eas­ier to read and un­der­stand for the golf­ing public. The lan­guage will be eas­ier, the or­der in which the Rules ap­pear will be eas­ier to fol­low and re­lief pro­ce­dures will be less in­con­sis­tent and, by al­low­ing the ball to be dropped from just an inch or so above the ground, com­pli­cated re-drop pro­ce­dures will be­come a rare event.

How­ever, they will not ini­tially be eas­ier for work­ing ref­er­ees, who have got used to the present 34-Rule for­mat, which has op­er­ated since 1984, so there will be a learn­ing curve for us!

Many changes will be for the bet­ter. Two pre-1984 Rules of be­ing res­ur­rected: the abil­ity to putt with the flag­stick in the hole

and be­ing able to de­clare a ball lost will both save time and make play smoother as nowa­days few peo­ple have the use of a cad­die. (I hope the Tours will have a con­di­tion re­quir­ing the re­moval of the flag­stick for a putt, though!) Also, un­der the new Rules, Com­mit­tees can deem cer­tain ar­eas to be haz­ards; this will be good for safety and in many cases, will avoid com­pli­cated “se­quen­tial” drops. I hope Com­mit­tees will not overdo this, for ex­am­ple by red-stak­ing all trees! Quicker play in stroke play will hope­fully re­sult from the new Rules em­pha­siz­ing that “ready golf” is to be en­cour­aged in this form of play (which in­cludes Stable­ford, Bo­gey and medal play with max­i­mum score, such as dou­ble par).

None of the changes are ac­tu­ally “dras­tic”. The new drop­ping pro­ce­dure and the use of the two dis­tances 20 and 80 inches in­stead of one and two club-lengths for free and penalty drops re­spec­tively are quite a de­par­ture from what we are used to, but will have the great ad­van­tage of uni­for­mity and con­sis­tency.

There are a few changes I re­ally don’t like. One is the in­ten­tion to al­low a player to deem his ball em­bed­ded or un­fit for play with­out an­nounc­ing any­thing to a fel­low-com­peti­tor or op­po­nent. Par­tic­u­larly in match play, this could lead to fric­tion and it seems a wholly un­nec­es­sary change to me. An­other one will be hard to po­lice: play­ers will be al­lowed to re­pair all kinds of dam­age on the putting green prior to putting; this is sup­posed to be re­stricted to dam­age, which will in­clude spike marks. Tap­ping down grass to smooth out the line will NOT be per­mit­ted. A third one is not lim­it­ing the num­ber of re-drops a player can take: If the ball has to be dropped on a cart path or a slope (such as when one runs along­side a lat­eral wa­ter haz­ard), the player could be there all day. Oth­er­wise, I am only con­cerned with cer­tain prac­ti­cal­i­ties of the rather ma­jor pro­ce­dural changes. How are they to be com­mu­ni­cated to 60+ mil­lion golfers? Is ev­ery­one go­ing to put a 40-inch mark ac­cu­rately on his driver, and a 20-inch mark on his put­ter? In coun­tries us­ing the met­ric sys­tem, they will have to measure out 50.8 and 101.6cm re­spec­tively!

In the long run, prob­a­bly, as it will take less time to train a ref­eree from scratch, but there will be a run­ning in pe­riod when the present gen­er­a­tion of ref­er­ees will have to get used to the new Rules, and some teething prob­lems will al­most cer­tainly sur­face. Dr Brian Choa

Chair­man of Rules

Hong Kong Golf As­so­ci­a­tion

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