Five rules that need to be updated

Dustin Johnson talks with rules official David Price on the 18th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship.

Dustin Johnson talks with rules official David Price on the 18th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship.

Millions now know that grounding doesn’t only refer to electricity and teenagers. Yes, if there’s a bright side to the Dustin Johnson penalty-strokes fiasco for grounding his club in a bunker, it is that I may not have to play with another yahoo who’s never heard of this rule before.

Admit it. You’ve walked in my shoes. I can’t tell you how many beginners and recreational players have stared at me with something bordering on the John McEnroe “You cannot be serious” face when I’ve explained Rule 13-4. I’m not one of those stick-in-the-mud rules sticklers when playing a casual round, but it used to shock me how few hackers knew that you can’t ground your club in a bunker.

That assumes you can tell you’re in a bunker. Next time Johnson gets into a situation like this, I would start treating the rules official like the word pronouncer/official in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Instead of “what is the country of origin” and “can you use it in a sentence,” Johnson ought to ask, “Is this a bunker?” “Have any sand castles been built here today that I should know about it?”

We all know what happens when you assume, but our world would come to a standstill if we couldn’t “assume” most of the time. D.J. made a bad assumption.

All this talk about the rules got me thinking that the rulebook could use an update. Here are five rules that I would change if the blue blazers asked for my two cents:

  • 1.) Eliminate the white stakes for out-of-bounds. Stroke and distance is cruel and unjust punishment. OB should be marked by red stakes (penalty and drop at point of entry).
  • 2.) A ball that moves without the intent of hitting should not be a penalty. This may create a gray area, but in a game of honor, I can live with that.
  • 3.) If a pro signs his scorecard wrong, he shouldn’t be disqualified for a lower score or forced to accept the higher score. With all the electronic scoring and Shotlink tracking that exists, this rule is archaic.
  • 4.) Allow a free drop from a divot in the fairway. One of the most rotten feelings in the game is realizing you’re screwed for your next shot because some clown couldn’t repair his 6-inch hairpiece. Yet Terry Dill once got a free drop from somebody’s swimming pool. Rub of the green, you say? That’s rubbish.
  • 5.) Tamp down all the spike marks you want. The advent of spikeless spikes has done wonders for eliminating this problem, so let’s go ahead and eliminate another antiquated rule. Besides, if you call this penalty on someone, start looking for a new game. You’ll be persona non grata.

I could go on and on. But I think I could campaign for USGA president (if there were such a thing) on a platform of removing the stroke-and-distance penalty. What type of change do you believe in? Join the conversation. But keep it a little more constructive than the suggestion from a Tour player I asked. He said:

“Rule 1: Get rid of the USGA.

Rule 2: Never abolish Rule 1.”

That’s harsh.

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