Inconsistency in rules of golf needs to change
Friday, January 14, 2011
Camillo Villegas’ disqualification from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii last week no doubt had many casual golf observers shaking their heads yet again at the pedantry of the rules of golf. Not just casual golf observers, but seasoned ones, too.
Sometimes even those of us who have a pretty good understanding of the rules have a hard time justifying them to our friends.
The Villegas case highlighted yet another inconsistency in the rules of golf. There are many. I’m going to deal with three here.
Colleague Sean Martin last week offered a simple solution to the Villegas issue, one many golfers will agree with: Why not simply add two shots to Villegas’ score and let him continue in the tournament?
It’s a perfectly reasonable solution. Martin isn’t alone. Many have suggested the rules makers should do just that. I made a similar proposal many moons ago while working for a British magazine.
The Villegas ruling highlighted a major inconsistency in the rules of golf. Why is it OK in one insistence to sign for an incorrect score and not in another?
If you sign for a 6 instead of a 5, then under Rule 6-6d you are allowed to continue in the tournament. Yet sign for a score lower than you actually take and you’re disqualified.
Let’s be grown up about this. There would have been no harm in Villegas continuing in the tournament, but with a two-stroke disadvantage. The R&A and USGA should get their heads together to implement this policy.
Ian Poulter’s misfortune in the Dubai World Championship at the end of last year highlighted another inconsistency in the rules. Poulter inadvertently dropped his ball on his ball marker on the 18th green. The marker flipped over and Poulter was assessed a one-shot penalty.
Fair play, you say. The marker moved and he couldn’t have been sure of its exact position and was right to be penalized. I’d have some truck with that if it weren’t for the last paragraph of Rule 20-1, which exonerates a player if he or she accidentally moves the ball marker in the process of marking a ball.
As with the first example, why is it OK in one instance to accidentally move the marker and not in another? It’s ludicrous.
The third and final example really gets me wound up, and it concerns bunker play.
I am allowed to take relief in a bunker if I have to stand in casual water. Yet, I have to drop the ball in the bunker and risk a plugged lie.
Now if I happen to be playing with someone and we both end up in a bunker side-by-side, if my opponent or playing companion goes first and alters my lie, then under Rule 20-3b I am allowed to re-create the lie I originally had. Why is it legitimate in this instance to re-create my original lie whereas I have to risk a plugged lie in taking relief from casual water?
I’m not calling for revolution here, just common sense. In all three examples, the rules are inconsistent.
I’m big on protecting the integrity of the game, but sometimes the inconsistency in the rules just makes me want to scream.