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Monday, April 23, 2012


Bending the Rules



As people are fond of saying: golf is a game of integrity.

But what if the notion of policing ourselves is itself a transient, unfixed golf principle? Who actually makes up the rules, especially if we are policing ourselves?

For many years and for most golfers, the standard code of playing conduct has, in theory at least, been the Rules of Golf as governed in this country by the United States Golf Association. In competitions sanctioned by the U.S.G.A., on the professional tours, in club championships, most other tournaments and organized leagues, golfers do their best to play by U.S.G.A. rules — or the common interpretation of them. In the worst case, someone usually has the slim, handy U.S.G.A. rule book tucked away in a golf bag. Golf courses often have a rule book behind the bar or in the pro shop.

Still, it is a categorical fact that many golfers wouldn’t know a U.S.G.A. rule book from a United States Coast Guard manual. Golf’s official rule book might be a slim tome, but truthfully, a Slim Jim is more common to most American golf bags.

What rules, if any, do those golfers play by? Are the rules decided on the first tee and do they change from group to group?

In other words, it’s O.K. to roll the ball over in the fairway, one mulligan per nine holes, no four-putt greens and never let the beverage cart pass without ordering more Slim Jims.

And, oh yes, I’m also playing with an illegal ball. That’s right, the kind that is engineered to neither slice nor hook.

I always go back to the Wodehouse quote: “in no other human endeveaor, is the cloven hoof revealed so quickly” .


Just so we’re clear, I, in my Calvinistic Approach to Golf, do NOT approve of:


1)   “Broom” putters

2)   Square grooves

3)   Range finders

4)   “adjustable” drivers

5)   Hot balls, or balls engineered to fly straight

6)   over-engineered equipment of ANY kind


not even in casual play, much less in Tournaments, where I have indeed seen all of these things . . .

I think balls & clubs should be standard equipment for a pro tournament, let the sponsors show off their wares, and may the best golfer win . . . and I’d like to see tournaments where the pros have to use 60s or 40s or 20s equipment, too . . . and even for amateurs  . . .  as in baseball: you can’t use an aluminum bat at the pro level . . . there’s a danger to players, but also, it changes the game too much . . . like graphite tennis racquets

How standard should the equipment be? Would everyone have to use the same length driver? Same lie and loft on their irons? Where do you draw the line between allowable clubfitting (and ballfitting) and disallowed designs or modifications of designs?
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