As we prepare for the new 2019 Rules of Golf, I want to discuss four rules with you. The first one, I consider a negative, while the last three, if enforced by the PGA and LPGA Tours will, I am sure, lead to their improved pace of play.
Under Rule 4.3, listening to audio or watching video on matters unrelated to the competition being played (such as a news report or background music) is allowed. But in doing so, consideration should be shown to others. Not allowed is listening to music to eliminate distractions or to help with swing tempo. You are subject to the “General Penalty” (two strokes or loss of hole in match play).
This one is going to be tough to enforce and could be dangerous as well. Take for instance, you have ear buds in your ears listening to music and someone yells “fore”. Good luck! Also, I cannot see any reason to listen to music on the golf course EXCEPT to eliminate distractions or help with my swing tempo.
Part of this great game is interacting with others in social setting. You can’t do it with music blaring in your ears or from your golf cart. As a golf traditionalist (and maybe because of my age), I think these golfers are very discourteous and self-centered. I urge all committees to adopt the Local Rule prohibiting the use of audio and video devices during a round (Model Local Rule G-8).
The Tour players might not like this, but I love this next Rule, 10-3. The caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason. And the player cannot avoid the “General Penalty” by backing away after taking her/his stance. This Rule was implemented because the governing bodies consider aiming at the target as one of the challenges the player must overcome alone. I agree.
There is an exception to this rule when the player’s ball is on the putting green. There is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location. The Tours might have a hard time with this Rule after all this time using the caddies to line up their shots for them.
There is a new Rule that has greatly restricted the use of the greens-reading materials. This reaffirms the governing bodies’ view that the ability of golfers to read greens using their own judgement is an essential skill that should be maintained. Hopefully, this will have a positive impact on the pace of play.
Under Rule 4-3, distance measuring devices are now allowed in 2019. Most golf courses and club committees have allowed them for quite a while, but as a Local Rule. I hope the Tours allow them as it should speed up play (the Tours can implement their own local rules). I discussed this subject with Tour players and their viewpoint is it really saves time if the caddie can scope the yardage instead of stepping it off.
I strongly suggest that you go to usga.org for more information on the new rules. Plus, you can download the app on your smartphone (USGA Rules of Golf 2019). Just remember this number one rule: Play safe, play fast and play with courtesy.
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.