How long will it take the governing bodies to rescind the new rule that allows players to repair any damage on putting greens?
That’s the obvious question arising from the slimmed-down version of the Rules of Golf that were published last week and come into effect in January 2019.
Not long methinks.
I’m all for simplifying the rules. I welcome cutting them from the 34 to 24. I like the fact we’ll be able to putt with the flag in the hole, reducing the search for a lost ball from five to three minutes, the emphasis on ready golf and that I won’t be penalized for accidentally kicking my ball while searching for it in the rough. However, I’ve got a problem with Rule 13.1c, which states:
“A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting greens as nearly as possible to its original condition. Damage on the putting green means any damage caused by a person or outside influence.”
The new rule then goes on to list ball marks, shoe damage (such as spike marks), scrapes, indentations, old hole plugs, turf plugs, animal tracks, hoof indentations and embedded objects as damage that can be repaired. In short, anything goes.
There is a caveat to the new rule that says such repair may be done “without unreasonably delaying play.”
Rest assured, this new rule will unreasonably delay play. It won’t affect the pace of play of fast players. What it will do is allow the snails to slow down even more. Imagine the slowest player you can think of who takes an eternity on the greens. Imagine how many blemishes said player is going to find in his or her line. I can see a situation where players will make four or five repairs on a 15-foot putt. It’s not that long ago I saw a major champion repair three ball marks on a 10-foot putt.
Previously, Rule 16-1c limited repairs to old ball marks. The governing bodies have opened the floodgates, which seems odd considering they’re thinking of banning green books precisely because play grinds to a halt on greens when players use these books.
“Our indications so far are that this is not going to have an overly detrimental effect on pace of play,” said David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director – governance. “It was an area in the extensive discussions that we talked about for some time because in all of this we were interested in speeding the game up, and this change in particular could potentially even go the other way.
“What I would say is that it does present a completely different dynamic. I think we’ll see people repairing damage as a collective at different times. I think what you will also see is that the putting green surfaces will generally be maintained throughout the day through the actions of all the players at different times in a much higher standard. So those players at the end of the day are only repairing the minimal damage that hasn’t already been repaired. I think in reality it will work.”
As we say on my side of the pond, “Pull the other one!”
Rickman said there is no provision for committees to limit the number of repairs a player may make on the line of a putt. Consequently, I can see players finding blemishes on the green the rest of us can’t see, then taking an eternity to repair them.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope players don’t abuse the new rule. But I fear we’re going to see players doing just that and slowing down play even more.
I wonder how long it will be before I’m writing a subsequent column praising the governing bodies for rescinding the rule? Gwk