Golf’s rulemakers giveth in March with proposed changes, then taketh away in April with more TV replay madness
What a difference a double edition of Northern Golfer makes. Exactly four weeks ago I sat at my desk and began this column, gushing with praise for the forward-thinking set of revisions the old boys at The Royal & Ancient had proposed for the new set of Rules to be bestowed on us in 2019.
Now, with more sunshine has come yet another farce and a 22-year-old woman, a face and attitude perfect for making golf modern and approachable around the world, missing out on the biggest moment of her career to-date because the Rules of Golf are archaic and just bloody silly at times.
Instead of adding her name to the list of double major champions, American Lexi Thompson may now add her name to the list of people punished by TV replay – an illustrious list which includes one Eldrick Woods and current world number one Dustin Johnson. Surely, making the game more accessible to the casual viewer, and ultimately, introducing more people to the sport is the goal here folks? Rather than being part of the sports bulletin on Radio 2 because we all look a bit daft again.
Why, a day and most of the final round of a major championship later, did officials have to add four strokes – two for misplacing her ball on the putting green and two more for signing for an incorrect score? Surely common sense prevails somewhere?
Now I consider myself a bit of a rules aficionado nowadays, but even I wouldn’t have spotted that one in the Sunday medal – nor did the thousands of people on-site that week or the referees.
So, the ladies and gentlemen of The R&A up at St Andrews, and their counterparts over at the USGA, can we add a bit more to the suggested revisions please? Can we get rid of the ability for tens of millions of people watching slow motion replays in high definition to alter the outcomes of what are, in the main, enthralling sporting events?
You’ll not find this anywhere else in life. I’ve never, to my knowledge, been snapped having a sweetie from the Pick ‘n’ Mix while I fill a pink stripy bag – though I am available on @deanbailey92 on Twitter if you have one.
The rule change can be nice and simple, just remove the ability for viewers to influence the result – leave it to the officials on the field and at their TV screens like every other sport does. Do that and we may, if we’re lucky, not look like the last of the dinosaurs come 2019.
All of that aside, I am a fan of many of the suggestions proposed for a revised set of Rules. Being able to repair spike marks on the green; removing the penalty for accidentally moving the ball or touching a loose impediment in a hazard; and being allowed to drop outside a bunker under a two-stroke penalty are all moves in the right direction for professionals and amateurs.
Add in trusting a player’s judgement when it comes to estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance and it feels like maybe, just maybe, golf might actually reach a point of not being ridiculed on Radio 2.
There’s hope in the quiet corners of that big old clubhouse, somewhere…