The recent proposed changes by the United States Golf Association and the R&A are welcome by most of us who believe the esoteric penalties for doing unintentional things should cease. One of the most important rule changes to my liking is the time requirement for a professional to hit a shot or a putt in 40 seconds. This rule would speed up play on tour but most importantly, it would set a new standard for the ordinary player who tries to emulate the professional and really reduces pace of play. This rule change won’t have much impact on the professional but the example will be terrific for the amateur player.
Speaking of rule changes: Probably not everything was addressed so I offer the following example of rule compliance with terrible sportsmanship.
The scene: Ninth hole of a nine hole better ball match play competition. The match is all square going into this hole. My partner (“P”) will receive a one shot advantage from the competition (“C”). It is May in Northern California and actually pouring down rain (highly unusual) to the point where it is even difficult to see.
My partner hits a good drive and his second shot is also good to the long par 4 hole. He has missed the green to the right by about 15 yards. The competitor has also hit a good drive and has knocked his second shot on the green about 35 feet away from the cup. My partner has a difficult chip shot due to the pouring rain, wet grass and he has little green to work with as the pin is about 5 yards on the right side of the green. My partner is away by a few feel and executes his chip shot. He flubs it terribly and he advances the ball 5 yards and is still in the rough. Due to the rain and the wet grass, he has to chip the ball again. No one says a word! He chips the ball and lo and behold, it goes in for a par 4, net 3. Well wait a minute! Competitor chimes that my partner played out of turn as he (“C”) should have putted first as he was further away from the pin. In match play rules, C has the right to request that P replay the shot from its original lie. C turned to me and said, “You know he has to replay the shot” and I had to agree since I didn’t want to argue the point. If it were me, I would have congratulated my partner for his achievement but no way here. My partner replays the shot after holing the first one and almost holes it again. The ball careens off the pin and stops about 8 feet away from the hole. Competitor two putted for a par. My partner needed to hole this putt for a bogey (net par) and miraculously he did–given the horrible conditions and the grief that has just transpired-it was a great bogey. The nine hole match ended All Square.
I was pretty disappointed with this behavior particularly given the conditions. C could have stopped my partner from hitting his second chip shot but it was raining so hard, I just wasn’t paying attention to this match play rule. C could have ignored this but for him, winning and competition were more important than anything else. I know, in my case, I would have never invoked the rule in these conditions.
I’ve always said that golf reveals character and this event was quite revealing.