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Readers Letters - May 2012

Bending the Rules

When playing club competitions I can assure you I’ve never knowingly broken the rules of golf. If I have then my lack of silverware shows any breaches have been inconsequential! But I think most would agree that the rules are at best convoluted and at worst downright confounding.

So I thought readers might be interested in what evolved between myself and my playing partners in the aim of making golf more simple, fun and fair – not to mention a little speedier.

* A player can clean and drop anywhere on the fairway because no-one who found the short stuff should have to hit with mud on their ball or from a divot or bare patch.

* A player has 2 minutes to look for a lost ball. After that he must drop under penalty as closely as possible to where we all agree the original was most likely lost.

* All penalty drops are to within two club’s length of where the ball lies and are measured with the club you’re going to use to hit your next shot. (No getting out of trouble by measuring with your driver, and no walking back on a line with the pin to your favourite distance or to where you last played from!)

* In a bunker a player may lift, rake and place his ball if it is found in a footprint or a poorly smoothed trap. He can also use his forefinger to test the depth and texture of the sand as this can and often does vary from one trap to another – even on the decent courses we play.

* If there is a doubt about the legality of any action, a one-shot penalty is imposed.

* To avoid pitchmarks and other imperfections a player can his ball up to 6 inches in any direction on a green but not nearer the hole. The consensus among our group is that all of the above ‘amendments’ are simple to understand, easy to apply and they go a long way to increasing speed of play and our enjoyment of the game.

Having said all that, however, please let me add that we do respect the origins of the game and whenever we play links golf we always play the ball exactly as it lies anywhere on the course (even if the R&A Rules would permit a drop) and we only play matchplay.

Sam Barclay, via email

Editor’s note: Novel, to say the least. Ingeniously, you seem to have eliminated the ‘rub of the green’ altogether – and that degree of uncertainty we all face on the course is surely one of the great attractions of golf?

Charley shines in California – and will at Nairn!

I would be interested to hear what the Gi team think of the unpleasant mix up over Lauren Taylor’s place at the US Women’s Open. First she had an invite (as was reported in your Amateur pages, issue 108)...but then it was rescinded.

I find it baffling that this could happen in golf given our million and one rules and our zillion and one punctilious administrators. Reading your feature on Lauren’s achievements in issue 108, it was evident that this remarkable young lady was going to approach the event in the right manner and extract a great deal of learning from the experience. The only silver lining I can see in the sorry affair was Lauren’s response to it all: ‘Golf is full of ups and downs, and this is one of the downs. Hopefully I can rise above it.’

You already have young lady – and with admirable dignity.

Of course, quick on the heels of this was another story that looked set to further sully the name of women’s golf before an outbreak of common sense within the Curtis Cup’s Select Committee. I’m referring to the very talented Charley Hull originally being excluded from consideration from this summer’s Curtis Cup side because she had opted to take up an invite to the season’s first major in California, rather than attending a selection trial at Nairn. As I write this I am enjoying immensely watching her compete with the professionals and doing a hell of a job of it, shooting a 71 in her first round of a major championship. This girl is going places.

As the former British Women’s Open champion Catriona Matthew said quite succinctly: “that experience [of playing in a major] helps far more than playing in a training session”.

Thanks to her sparkling play at the Kraft Nabisco, Charley Hull will now be one of the star attractions at Nairn in June, and I, for one, will be glued to the television to watch the match.

Whilst the career amateur (e.g. McEvoy, Wolstenhome – at least pre-retirement to the senior ranks!) is probably a thing of the past, elite amateur golf remains important (and thanks for covering it so well in Gi). Therefore the governing bodies of both the amateur and professional games need to get their heads together to ensure up and coming talent is nurtured, encouraged and treated fairly.

S Holden, Sidcup, via email

Unfair advantage?

The advances in modern technology as they apply to golf have been quite staggering, but I cannot help but wonder whether all of these innovations are actually benefitting the game or hindering the modern golfer’s basic ability?

For example, for a little over £300 you can buy a top of the range SkyCaddie – or similar GPS device – that will tell you to the yard exact distances to any flag, a bunker or a water hazard on virtually every course in the world. What has happened to the days when one of the main features of the game – and indeed challenges – was using the yardage book to assess a particular shot and figure out how far you have to go, or what club will leave you the best position for the next shot?

There is no denying the fact that for an increasing number of golfers these devices (both GPS-based and lasers) are of great help, and have probably knocked 1000’s of shots off the scores of the club golfers who use them. But as more of these devices come out, and the prices come down, it’s not uncommon now to see juniors using them on the course – to them it’s just another aspect of the game. They know no different, which I think is a shame. Makes me wonder if they would have the ability to even begin to calculate distance the old fashioned way? I think that’s a big part in a golfer’s education, especially when someone is lucky enough to be introduced to the game as a youngster.

And I haven’t yet mentioned another point which surely has to be considered in the Equity of the game: whether these devices offer an unfair advantage to a player who uses one in a match with another player who does not. This has been the subject of many heated debates among my regular group at the 19th.

I would be very interested to see Golf International dedicate editorial comment to the issues raised here.

Jordan Corbett

Editor’s note: You do raise a couple of very good points, especially concerning juniors and whether or not there is an unfair advantage for a player who uses a GPS over someone who doesn’t. But the upshot to all of this is that a good GPS – or a skilful exponent of the laser – is simply gathering information that a good caddie would provide. And the Rules of Golf allow every player a caddie if he so chooses. As far as the amateur game is concerned, the chief benefit – and this is the area that I think we will focus on in a future piece, how to properly use such a device – has to be speeding up play.

It’s a game, remember

Over the last couple of years I have been suffering from poor putting, regularly missing from inside two feet – frustrating at any level, but especially so when you are a single figure golfer, as I am.

There’s nothing worse than hitting the ball well from tee-to-green and then signing for a score that simply doesn’t reflect the quality of your golf. I reached the point where the only solution seemed to be to give up the game. Thankfully, it hasn’t come to that; after trying many different putting strokes – including the use of a belly-putter (which didn’t suit me) I have finally regained my touch using the ‘claw’ grip.

This brings me to the point of my letter. A friend of mine who I regularly play with (hcp 5) has recently been suffering the same problems. The dreaded ‘yips’ had surfaced. From within a yard of the hole he would regularly three-putt, to the point that he was seriously considering packing it all in. He has tried numerous options, including putting left handed (he is naturally right-handed), carrying up to three putters in his bag, etc. Finally, he asked if he could try the belly-putter I had in my garage – and the results have been outstanding. He is a reborn golfer, back to his old form and enjoying the game once again.

There is much debate about the legality of the long putter in the pro game, but I think that as amateurs we all need to remember that golf is a game and the enjoyment we derive is the reason we play. While it may be the attitude among certain pros – such as Colin Montgomerie in Planet Golf (issue 108) – that the long putter be banned, I think this is short-sighted. What I don’t understand is that if these belly putters are such a wonder tool, why don’t all tour players use them?

Remember this is a game we’re talking about – it’s not “life or death”.

Mark Willetts, Royal Cromer Golf Club, Norfolk

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 


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