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Readers Letters - March 2012

Rules blown off course

Thank you for your recent articles regarding the amended rules of golf – a timely reminder to us all before the season commences.

Would it be possible for your rules expert, Ashley Weller, to do a piece on the correct method for marking and replacing a ball on the green? I’m particularly interested because I’ve recently started using a ball marker designed to aid alignment of the putt, and I’m not sure my playing partners are convinced I am acting within the rules.

The marker is elongated and has a pronounced straight white line from front to back (see the A-LINE product on I place it behind the ball, step back, and if this line is not pointing along the intended line of my putt I adjust it accordingly.

Then I lift my ball, give it the obligatory clean, and replace it in front of the marker with a line I have drawn on the ball pointing in the exact same direction as the line on the marker. I step back and check the two lines are in sync, lifting and replacing the ball again should they not be. Once correct I remove the marker and play my stroke.

I should point out that all this is done at a decent pace to avoid slowing play down!

My thoughts are that firstly, the marker was advertised as being within the rules of golf (and 20–1 does not state otherwise). Indeed the R & A website advises that the marker does not have to be a coin or something of similar shape ( And, secondly, I am not aware of anything that dictates how many times a player can place their marker behind their ball until they are satisfied, nor how many times they can lift and replace said ball.

The object of this type of marker is to give the player a better chance of lining up his ball more accurately because of the longer line seen through the marker and the ball – as opposed to just using the line drawn on the ball. I have certainly found it both quicker and more effective in getting the correct alignment.

M Baria, Sutton, via email

Gi’s Ashley Weller writes: You are correct that the Note to Rule
20-1 the ball should be marked using a ball marker, small coin or other
similar object. Definition 20-1/16 expands on this to say that this note
is a recommendation of best practice (note use of the word ‘should’) but other methods permissible, but not recommended, include;

Placing toe of club at side of or behind the ball

Using a tee

Using a loose impediment.

the rules do not say that your ball marker needs to be circular or that it cannot have a line on it. Neither is it against the Rules to draw a line on your golf ball, so I can see no reason for you not to be allowed to line up your ball as you describe.

However, unless you are extremely quick, by the time you have marked, lifted, cleaned and replaced your ball, lined it up with your marker, lifted your marker and potentially gone through the whole process again if it is not lined up to your satisfaction, I would think that you may be in danger of annoying your fellow competitors at best and being in breach of Rule 6-7 (Undue Delay; Slow Play) at worst. I know you say you do this at a decent pace, but I’d like to have you on the clock at a tournament to test out that theory! If you can get it done within an acceptable time frame then good luck to you!

Ashley Weller PGA Advanced Professional

Long overdue help

Congratulations on your feature of Adam Scott’s swing, A Modern Classic. The combination of his superb technique captured in pictures coupled with Sir Nick Faldo’s perceptive and understandable observations was a joy. This is very much what Golf International does best – intelligent advice clearly and concisely presented with exceptional imagery.

Of course, Adam Scott also now has the game on the green to match his game ‘through the green’. And whilst broomhandles always previously looked cumbersome, I’m surely not the only one to think of Scott’s stance and stroke with the long putter as aesthetically pleasing. His athletic gait as he addresses the ball is certainly better than many of the knock-kneed hunchbacks seen on the greens!

I think long putters would catch on more if, once a person has managed to find one to test, they had some idea of how to use it. Do certain fundamentals still apply? I would have thought having your eyes directly over the ball would remain a good rule of thumb for most golfers. But I’ve noted several professionals holding their long putter heel up, which gets the shaft hanging vertically to promote a straight back and through path. Does this not place their eyes outside the line of the putt? (If so, this might not necessarily be a bad thing – Ian Poulter admitted a preference for having his eyes inside the line in issue 88.)

To this end, might Golf International consider doing a similar piece with Adam Scott on the use of long putters? Having pictures of his stroke face-on and down-the-line would be extremely useful. Though I’d be fascinated to see who you recruit to do the analysis...

Peter Walker, via email

Too much ado about something

First things first: the rules must be changed so that the club used to measure a drop should be the club you then use to play your shot.

Chubby Chandler is being more than diplomatic when he said that to use a long putter in these circumstances is “almost cheating”. But, that’s as far as my agreeing with Chubby goes in respect of long putters.

In issue 107 he states long and belly putters provide “almost an unfair advantage”. If that were truly the case wouldn’t the majority of pros be using them? The fact that they remain the exception surely disproves this point.

It seems to me that for many their dissatisfaction with the legality of these clubs is because some people putt better with them than they would with a traditional putter. Well, shouldn’t we be happy for them? I hit the ball further and find more fairways with my 460cc titanium driver than I did with my 1980s persimmon 1-wood. Should I be stopped from utilising all its advanced features so I could play worse again?

When speaking in terms of an “advantage” I find it difficult to understand at just what point the debate about long and belly putters is different from the debate about modern clubs and balls. Citing the likes of alignment aids and face grooves, S. Lett’s correspondence in issue 105 asked the pertinent question: just when does a difference in a putter become unacceptable?

To his list I would add the myriad ways a putter is held – the claw and pencil. After all, they help that person putt better and are thus an advantage.

We could go on.

Mike Lobley, York

Forward thinking

In issue 107 John Hopkins referred to 2011’s ‘Tee It Forward’ campaign to get golfers to play from appropriate tees instead of the very back markers. This is a matter close to my heart, so I’m sorry to say that I’ve never previously heard of this initiative!

This omission may be because I am not a member of a golf club. But as an itinerate golfer I play 50+ rounds per year on about 20 or so different courses of various standing (last year the gorgeous Alwoodley and Woodhall Spa were the highlights). So I do feel entitled to my opinions even if I don’t have an EGU card or official handicap to back them up. And in my experience ‘Tee It Forward’ should be made mandatory for societies.

Why is it that macho posturing increases exponentially the more men are gathered in one place and, oddly, the more incompetent at golf they are? I’ve been subjected to so many tortuously slow rounds from the tips of courses where the average handicap of those present must be at best in the early twenties. Yet they seem to feel that to be ‘a real challenge’ a course must be played at its longest.

Conversely I believe this added length actually removes many of the challenges of the course. For example, all a back tee does is take the driver out of play for me because if I can’t carry the fairway traps I’m sure as hell not going to use a club that might reach them. Then being too far away to go for the green I’ll hit a safe lay-up and, being in possession of a pretty reliable short game, I’ll knock it on for a very boring two putt bogey. This means I haven’t had to hit any particularly difficult shots nor flirt with any of the integral obstacles as if I were ‘going for it’. However, please do not mistake this for good course management. I am merely plodding my way around rather than plotting my way around!

Society golf by its very nature should be enjoyable, and there’s so much more fun to be had in taking challenges on (even if you do fail) than in not taking them on at all. But I do not believe the societies can be relied upon to realise this nor educated to change their habits. Which just leaves the venue itself. I do appreciate that with the income they provide a golf club may not want to risk alienating a society by insisting on a more forward tee. However it could be a risk worth taking, because with the society members then actually enjoying the round perhaps they would be more likely to return?

A Snell, via email

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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