Tait: 10 additions for the new Rules of Golf

Rules officials congregate at Atlanta Athletic Club's 14th hole during the PGA Championship.

The new Rules of Golf are set for publication on Monday, Oct. 24, the R&A and USGA have announced. Not that it matters much to most golfers, because hardly anyone reads them.

Still, on the basis that people will pay attention, I’ve come up with 10 rules that should be in the new book.

Maybe I’m a little odd, but I actually carry a rule book in my golf bag. There was a time when I thought I was merely emulating the pros. I wasn’t. Most of them don’t read the rules, either.

Why would today’s pros read the rules when they can simply signal a marshal to ask for a referee when they’re plagued by the apparent MENSA test of taking relief from a cart path? Why take 30 seconds to extricate themselves from this rules conundrum when they can summon a referee and take 15 minutes? They might as well hail a referee. They’re going to be out there for more than six hours anyway. What’s another 15 minutes to the modern round?

Maybe ordinary golfers can be excused for not wanting to learn the rules. After all, they can be confusing. I speak from experience. I passed the R&A’s Rules exam and consider myself fairly au fait with the 34 laws that govern our game.

However, I do get stumped from time to time. Well, that’s not surprising, because my pass mark was 74 percent. I was actually pretty happy with that until someone pointed out that I’m wrong 26 percent of the time!

That’s still better than most professionals. If the scenes we witness every week on our TV screens are to be believed, then many of our professionals are wrong 100 percent of the time. Why else would they call a referee for relief from casual water?

I once witnessed Se Ri Pak in the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews call for a referee to help her take relief after her ball had entered the Swilcan Burn on the first hole. It took the referee 10 minutes to get there and 20 seconds to tell Pak to drop her ball on a line back from the spot where the ball entered the hazard, keeping the spot between herself and the flag. Myself and every other spectator knew the procedure, yet Pak seemed to have no idea. 

Quite why professional golfers don’t know the rules by which they earn their living will forever remain a mystery to me. They’ll practice eight to 10 hours a day but can’t spend 15 minutes reading the book that governs their lives.

Bear in mind I’m generalizing here. There are players who know the rules and know them well. Annika Sorenstam took time to attend seminars to get a better handle on the rules. The late Seve Ballesteros was another who knew the rule book well, and he wasted no time using the rules to his advantage.

So without further ado, here are 10 new rules I’d like to see in the latest edition of the Rules of Golf. By the way, I’m not holding my breath.

1.) A two-shot penalty for any player who wastes a referee’s time on a basic rule that an 18-handicapper would know. Oh, and a slap around the head, too!

2.) Disqualification for anyone not raking a bunker. Quite how anyone can enter a bunker and not rake footprints afterward never fails to enrage me.

3.) A one-shot penalty for not repairing a pitch mark.

4.) A rule that allows duct tape to be placed over the mouth of anyone giving unsolicited advice.

5.) Ditto for anyone who comes out with such statements as, “You’re driving it really well,” or “You haven’t missed a 4-footer all day.”

6.) Removal from the course for anyone who wears knee socks.

7.) A rule allowing youngsters to wear whatever they like. We need to encourage kids, not put them off with silly dress rules.

8.) A two-week ban for anyone taking longer than four hours to play a round of golf.

9.) Five strokes added to the score of any fit person who rides in a golf cart.

10.) And finally, on a more serious note, a ban on long putters. Does any serious golfer think these should be allowed in the game? It’s supposed to be a game to test the nerves. Time to take a hacksaw to belly and long putters.

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