The long putter controversy brought the Rules of Golf and the timing of decisions by rules-makers to the forefront.
There has been a disconnect in the last couple of decades between what is allowed simply because nothing was done and what is really good for the game. So let's take a different look at rules.
There are the Rules of Golf established by the USGA and R&A. There are local rules. There are rules for specific competitions. At some courses, there are tree rules.
At many courses, there are free drops for ground under repair. There are penalty drops from lava in Hawaii. Those are not strictly in the Rules of Golf, capital R and capital G.
We already have an accepted means of dealing with oddities and differences depending on location, local conditions or the kind of competition that is being played, professional versus your local club or course, for instance.
We have different rules when we play a scramble, for instance, than stroke play. A scramble violates a ton of the Rules of Golf all day long.
Maybe what needs to happen is for the professional tours and PGA of America and other organizations to create a workable choice between regulations for how we play golf for fun and how professionals play for a living. And it’s time to call these new sets of rules new names.
Rules of Golf, with capital letters on the front, those are the USGA and R&A. Let them have those. Let those be chiseled in stone and cherished. But for other situations or specific competitions, let’s have some modifications, as needed, and give them a different name.
Starting with the professionals, let’s call their rules Pro Rules. Pros can have whatever clubs, balls, drops, penalties and so forth that the professionals agree to use in their competition. Those would be used for the PGA Tour, European Tour, Web.com Tour, LPGA Tour, Australasian Tour, Japanese Tour and any professional golf events including PGA of America events.
They can elect to play with rakes and shovels if they wanted. If someone wanted to suggest a professional golf ball, that could fall into this category. It would eliminate the need for 8,000 yard golf courses, which are a thing of the near future.
Even if you are not a professional, you could elect to play Pro Rules at your club or in your friendly matches with buddies. That would be your decision.
Maybe you play your course championship, city championship or club championship with Rules of Golf from the USGA and R&A and the rest with some other rules.
The rest of us might need something called Amateur Rules of Am Rules for short. Am Rules are for those of us who are not ever going to play high level amateur or professional golf. Those who might play with a group of friends. Who might once or twice in a lifetime play in a club competition of some kind.
Am Rules might include 70” putters which could be anchored with real anchors. 600cc drivers that have gunpowder to launch the ball.
Golf balls that fly amazing lengths and never go off line. Twenty club limit. Am Rules would be for everyday play for your fun rounds when you have a Nassau with friends.
Now Am Rules might not include first tee mulligans. They may not include some famous Willie Nelson rules, like if your golf ball is somewhere awful, you get to take five steps and drop it somewhere better and playable.
But most of us think that both of those would be good ideas.
Maybe Am Rules take the pain out of water hazards by dropping on the far side of the lake and adding a stroke to your score and playing on instead of taking five minutes to find a ball, figure out where it crossed the hazard and another five minutes to figure out the rest of the ruling.
Am Rules would be for the fun of the game, not for big championships. Maybe your course would even have an Am Rules tournament. Am Rules could include equipment choices and might even allow long putters to be anchored.
Who should establish these Am Rules? It should be someone familiar with amateurs on a daily basis, like the members of the PGA of America, golf professionals who give lessons and run tournaments across the US. Those could be called the certified PGA Am Rules.
The USGA and R&A Rules would be still used for their tournaments. You want to play in the US Amateur or British Amateur, you gotta use their Rules. Short putters, no square grooves, etc.
You at least get to use monster long golf balls and drivers and fairway woods. Those Rules of Golf involve exactly two events with professionals annually and 20-25 amateur events.
However, if you are serious golfer and want a handicap for state tournaments or high level pro ams, which would probably be played under the cap letter Rules of Golf, then you would need to play under the Rules of Golf for recorded rounds.
The point is you don’t have to do it every day of your life. Golf is supposed to be fun, not a painful, horrible experience, made up by a bunch of men so tortured they liked wearing skirts.
So let’s recap:
The USGA and the R&A could run their events under their Rules of Golf. That’s two professional and amateur events and the rest amateur events, probably 20-25 in all. The USGA and R&A would govern handicaps.
Professionals could play under Pro Rules and define what is right for their skill set.
The rest of us could play Am Rules that an organization like the PGA of America determine are fun and fair for most people.
If you are not a professional or playing in either a professional tournament or a USGA or R&A event, you can play Pro Rules, Am Rules or Rules of Golf.
You just have to declare what is being played before you start. Your course could declare what rules are mandatory at their course. Competitions could determine what rules they are using.
If you look at nearly every scorecard, you’ll see some statement that their play is governed by the USGA Rules of Golf. Maybe that line gets removed. Maybe it’s under Am Rules of Golf or Pro Rules of Golf. Maybe it’s competition dependent.
Today, nobody says you have to use hickory sticks and play in a kilt. While I’m not a fan of long putters, I agree they are like chocolate. Once you’ve tried it, it’s hard never to have it again.