More proposed rule changes from the USGA

A few weeks ago, I listed some proposed changes in the rules of golf. The United States Golf Association decided it was time to modernize the game. Perhaps the main purpose of the changes is to speed up the game. As a golfer who has been reduced to waiting on every shot while playing golf, I am very much in favor of any changes that will hasten the pace of the game.

Last time I suggested that one change would allow for a maximum score on a given hole. This would allow a golfer who is struggling to “pick” up and head for the next tee. This is a great idea.

Another proposal would limit the time to look for a lost ball to three minutes. As is, a golfer has five minutes to search for what some must consider the last golf ball in their bag. My guys don’t usually wait more than a couple of minutes, as they suggest that “new golf balls are made every day.”

The other rule change proposal involved lateral hazards. The new proposal would force a golfer to drop on the side the ball entered the hazard. As it is, a ball can be dropped on either side of a lateral hazard such as the one on the sixth hole at Loudon Meadows.

So are you ready for some more changes? Here you go.

“Get out of there.” If you watch a professional tournament on TV and a golfer hits a ball off line toward a green, the announcers will point out that the golfer WANTS the ball to end up in the bunker as opposed to the thick rough surrounding it.

I would tell you that most amateurs have a different approach to a wayward approach shot. My friends will beg for the ball NOT to go in the bunker. They simply don’t want any part of having to hit a ball out of the sand.

Many of our area golf courses have few, if any, sand traps. As a result, most guys have difficulty getting out of them, if for no other reason than they seldom play bunker shots. Well, that may all change.

With the new proposal, golfers will have an option. Don’t want to play out of a bunker? Well, don’t! You now will have the option of pulling the ball from the sand and playing it from the grass. Now, before you get too excited, perhaps I should point out that there is a penalty for doing so.

That penalty would be two strokes. If that seems pretty stiff to you, I agree. If you can get out of a bunker in one shot — literally no matter where it goes — then a two-shot penalty is not worth it.

Personally, I would never remove the ball, because it is too much fun to try to get a sand save. Trust me, getting up and down from a bunker is one of the first things my guys brag about after a round. However, if playing out of the sand is something you simply don’t want to do, if the proposal goes through, you will never have to do so again.

“Why doesn’t he just putt it for her?” When watching a LPGA event, it becomes a little annoying to watch a caddy line up his pro on every shot. This is done often, particularly when putting. Well, if you are tired of watching it happen, there is good news. Apparently, the USGA agrees with you.

While caddies frequently help golfers “read” putts, the USGA believes that is as far as it should go. In today’s world, the help from the caddy includes making sure the golfer is lined up properly. Not until the last minute does the caddy remove himself from behind the golfer.

If the proposed rule change takes effect, the caddy will no longer be able to do more than suggest the break. The USGA feels that the golfer should be able to line themselves up and I agree.

As for my guys — “what’s a caddy?”

“Hang on, I’ll get it.” How many times have you been playing a round of golf with friends and all of you have lengthy putts upcoming. As each of you mumbles about how far away from the cup that you are, no one seems to realize that the flagstick is still firmly implanted in the cup. The guy with the longest putt — say 60 feet — has to wait until someone either tends the flagstick or removes it. The reason for waiting is obvious as hitting the flagstick with a putted ball from the green’s surface will incur a penalty. The odds of getting anywhere near the hole let alone hit the stick from 60 feet away is miniscule, but you can’t take a chance.

So you wait until someone decides they can get the stick. Then after your putt, the same scenario ensues. Trust me, it takes forever.

Well, wait no more. If the proposed rule change goes into effect, you can leave the stick right where it is. No longer will a penalty occur for hitting the flagstick with a putted ball. Have at it. No penalty. Save time and get back to the clubhouse for a drink and the chance to lie about your round!

There are more changes brewing. I’ll be back for some more craziness soon.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s bowling columnist.

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