In this article, Rod Bastard – director of the prestigious Marbella Club Golf Resort and an industry professional with extensive experience as a golf course manager – shares his impressions about some of the new golf rules that have come into effect this year.
Obligatory Drop from Knee Height
I understand why they brought in this rule as they were trying to limit the speed the ball hits the ground and, as such, the ball rolling outside the stipulated club length and so needing to be re-dropped. The thing we must all be careful about is that, now the ball must be played inside the area of the club length, it can no longer roll two club lengths more. This can complicate shots in some situations. I understand the rule but I think that the knee is silly and also is too specific. I would have preferred it if they had said drop at a height between the waist and your ankle. This looser definition would have created the same result, yet would have been faster and had less chance of a breach of the rules.
Repair Pitch Marks on Line of Putt
This rule falls under the title of fairness. I think that it’s only fair that every player has the same surface to putt on as all the others. I think the players at Pebble Beach were saying that this rule was very welcome, as in soft conditions the greens would have been very poor for the latter players. The main thing is to remember that we only have 40 seconds to hit our putt, so we can’t take a long time walking the whole line and repairing everything. Maybe when you repair your pitch mark have a quick go at a few things on your line so that, when it’s your turn, most of the work is done. Let’s not turn this advantage into an excuse for slow play.
Leave the Flag Stick in the Hole
This is a rule that has been talked about a lot in something of a negative light but I think in the long run it will help speed up the game. All the studies I have seen say that leaving the flag in is a benefit and at the very least not a hindrance. I have played a few rounds and, more and more, I was leaving the flag in for all lengths of putts. I don’t know if it helps me make more putts but it doesn’t hurt, and on the longer putts it helps with speed. Now I have a radical idea... If it doesn’t hurt maybe the rule should have been: you are not allowed ever to take out the flag. Imagine how that rule would have speeded up play. That’s not going to happen but I think in general this is a rule that will gain popularity fast. Try it next time you play.
Three Minutes to Look for a Ball
I think this is a very good rule. All of us who play golf know once we get to the ball if there is a chance to find it or not. I would say if you are going to find it this usually happens in the first two minutes, so previously the extra time was simply wasted. The one thing I see most people do when they lose their ball is they are looking at the wrong distance, especially from the tee. You have to be very aware of how far you have hit the ball, as you only have to be looking 20 metres too far and you will never find your ball. If you have miss-struck the ball and it has curved, the chances are that it has flown shorter than you think. The other magic rule is: if there is doubt, hit a provisional ball.