Martin Vousden. New Rules…

Thought for the Day
I had the blues because I had no shoes upon the street, until I met a man who had no feet.
Ancient Persian saying

Despite early bleatings from tour pros – who seem ever willing to find something to complain about – the new, simplified rules will be a major factor in helping us enjoy golf just that little bit more. Nevertheless, there are several other ways in which our game could be enhanced, and here are 15 of them. If you have any suggestions of your own, please let us know.

1. Increase the size of the hole. Ben Hogan, arguably the best ball-striker there has ever been, believed that the game is about perfecting the swing and that the skills needed to hole out on the green are almost contradictory to those needed to propel the ball far and straight. He was right. Double the size of the hole, let the ball-strikers flourish and don’t keep giving the trophies to whoever has a hot putting week.

2. Gag American fans. They’re loud and obnoxious; constantly screaming ‘Get in the Hole!’ ‘Mashed potato!’ or other inane rubbish. Throw them off the course, and preferably into jail. At the very least, keep them away from sound effects microphones so that we can’t hear them. Similarly, ban extreme celebrations at every course. Punching the air, whooping, hollering, high-fiving or generally acting like a numpty for anything less than a hole-in-one is not allowed. Penalty is loss of hole or two strokes, except for Americans, where it will be loss of two holes or four strokes.

3. Ignore water in a bunker. The rules have been significantly shortened and improved but one they missed is when a ball is in a bunker that’s full of water. In this instance you can drop your ball, in the bunker, where the water is shallowest, without penalty (rule 16.1c). But if you elect to drop a ball outside the hazard, keeping the point where it originally lay between you and the hole, it’s a one-stroke penalty. You didn’t cause the torrential rain that flooded the damned thing, so why should you be penalised?

4. Move the first tee away from clubhouse. You’ve just arrived, certainly not been hitting balls on the range and face the worst shot of the day – that opening drive. If that isn’t enough, you’ll likely have to do it under the gaze of the smirking know-it-alls in the clubhouse. If the tee can’t be moved, put up a screen so that the smug devils who have already played can’t gloat at your expense.

5. Employ marshals. They speed up play and ensure good etiquette. The penalty, incidentally, for anyone who doesn’t repair a pitchmark should be capital punishment – if you can’t find yours, or didn’t make one, repair one anyway. The same applies to those who do not rake bunkers or replace divots.

6. Relax the dress codes. Some, like specifying the length of shorts, or insisting that socks should be knee length, are just plain daft. And while we’re at it, can we agree to stop calling golf clothing ‘apparel’; it’s snotty, snobbish, pretentious and bloody irritating.

7. Make all majors available to TV viewers. Not necessarily terrestrial television – we should be prepared to pay for a golf channel subscription – but at least TV that’s accessible to most. Unlike last year’s US PGA which could only be viewed on some internet link, that didn’t work properly anyway.

8. Stop smirking at the misfortune of an opponent. Penalty should be loss of hole in match play; two strokes in stroke play. By all means exult and rejoice inwardly but to allow these feelings outward expression is simply not the done thing, old boy.

9. Eliminate garish clothing. Anyone wearing plus twos, plus fours, red trousers or diamond patterned sweaters in match play will automatically concede the first two holes. In stroke play, add two penalty strokes. You not only look ridiculous and create a visual distraction but taint the rest of us with the same brush so that, in some parts of society, simply to mention that you play golf is to invite derision.

10. Automatic concession of putts. If your ball is ‘within the leather’ of a standard length putter (that is, within three feet of the hole), you pick it up and add a stroke to your score. These putts are Satan’s own work, short enough that you know they should be holed, but long enough to give you the embarrassment of missing them.

11. Mulligans should be banned. An American golfer once asked a Scottish caddy: ‘What do you call mulligans over here?’ and was told: ‘Three off the tee.’ Quite right. They are outwith the spirit and laws of the game and should be called what they are – cheating.

12. Site the 9th green near the clubhouse. That way, if you’re having a nightmare and couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo, you can slip inside for a medicinal drink before heading home rather than prolong the torture.

13. Buggie users have no priority on the course. Most of the point of a round of golf is to get some exercise. If you’re too fat or lazy to walk, yield to those who can still perambulate under their own steam. Medical exemptions will only be allowed for terminal illness – and that must involve a letter from your doctor.

14. Reduce the distance travelled by golf balls. This applies only to pro golfers, as the rest of us need all the help we can get. But to stop many great courses becoming redundant, and halt the ever-increasing length to which new courses are being built, something has to be done. It’s all the fault of the pros anyway, so they should pay the price.

15. Allow a free drop from divots. Either another player has ‘forgotten’ to replace the lump of turf they just gouged out, or a pesky crow has lifted it, looking for worms. Either way it’s none of your doing. And while the pros make hitting such shots look routine, for the rest of us it’s guaranteed disaster.

Quote of the Week
Hit the ball up to the hole. You meet a better class of people up there.
Ben Hogan

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