Putting some rules to the test

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa chips onto the 14th green during the second round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on November 9, 2018 in Sun City, South Africa.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa chips onto the 14th green during the second round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on November 9, 2018 in Sun City, South Africa. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

When you mention the rules of golf, or changes to the rules, most part-time golfers are intimidated.

It’s been over a month since officials from golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, tweaked the rules in a bid to modernise the game.

With the game advancing so quickly, especially with ever-improving technology aiding the ball to travel further and allowing the club to be more forgiving, officials needed to move with the times.

When you mention the rules of golf, or changes to the rules, most part-time golfers are intimidated. Us hackers generally feel that we aren’t applying the rules correctly as we don’t know them well enough. But as a single-digit handicapper once told our four-ball: “You’d be surprised to see how many times you would benefit from the rules if you applied them correctly”.

So what are these changes? And can they actually help my score from not looking like a telephone number?

This week, with some mates, I got my first chance of the year to put a few of the more straight-forward changes to the test.

To improve the pace of play, you now only get three minutes to search for a missing ball rather than five. In the past if I hadn’t found my ball after three minutes of looking, I was never really going to find it anyway. When I hit it badly – which is often – there’s no need to look for the ball. It is either on someone’s patio or over the fence on the road. Next…

You now get to drop a ball from knee height, instead of from the shoulders. Each time I dropped my ball, it found its way into a horrid lie in the rough. Another not so honourable member of our fourball perfects the art of illegally rolling it forward like lawn bowls and always find the perfect lie.

Perhaps the rule change that has people talking the most is now being allowed to leave the flagstick in while putting. Prior to this year you would incur a penalty if you hit the flagstick while putting on the green.

I watched an interesting video where someone puts it to the test by using a stimpmeter, a measuring device to test the speed of a green, from different areas of the green to see what is better – leaving the flag in or out? After hours of testing, it’s a no-brainer. Leaving the flagstick in produces far better results than leaving it out. It also helps with aim for longer putts. And even if you hit the flagstick and the ball doesn’t go in, it doesn’t race five metres past the hole.

Now if I could only putt straight, then I could test the flagstick…

Trevor Stevens

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