Let’s get right to the point. The 2019 Modernization of the Rules of Golf has been quite the lightning rod of controversy. Almost from Day One of 2019, there has been controversy regarding certain rules infractions. In a way, I’m sort of glad that this has been the case. Really, it has made for excellent “cannon fodder” giving me something to write about.

Personally speaking, I’ve been relatively opinionated about my general disdain of at least some of the new rules in place. That said, it isn’t all bad. I like the idea of leaving the flag in… If anything else it will speed up the pace of play where it matters. The source of the revenue for golf courses and the respective manufacturers. The recreational golfer. I haven’t been on a golf course since January 1st but it only stands to reasons that this will benefit pace of play. Just one thing though, don’t park your carts (push or riding) in front of the greens. Park parallel to the pin. It’s that simple!!

But some of the rules that have been put in place has been tough to palette at times. For example, the knee height drop. You might recollect that back in December I acted out rehearsing “the drop” just to make sure that I got it right. At the root of it, I was openly mocking the rule change. Is it difficult to bend over at the trunk to execute a drop? Certainly not. Does it really make a difference? No, as a matter of fact, I conducted an experiment and out of 10 knee height drops vs the conventional method I actually got more bad lies with the knee height version. Believe it or not!

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Speaking of the knee height drop, there has been some drama surrounding it. First, in Hawaii, Bryson DeChambeau got real “extra” in performing a drop. I like Bryson and I like him a lot but he looked like a damn fool trying to get comfortable. Bryson, leave the mocking to us that are not on national television. Then there was Rickie Fowler. He got penalized for dropping the “conventional” way. Even in law, ignorance of the law is no excuse. The Criminal Code and laws of the land are written somewhere. The USGA and R&A are no different. All players know the rule but to penalize on those grounds? It makes me wonder if Mr. Palmer is rolling in his grave looking down at this. In my opinion, there is plenty of room for the rule to be written. Perhaps it could be something like this. In my eyes, it seems very reasonable and I actually had Brittany Lincicome give it a “Like” on Twitter (sorry about the mention Brittany).

“In the case of dropping a ball for relief or a penalty. A player may proceed to drop with the option of dropping the ball from knee height as he or she sees fit”.

Like I said, I’m a fan of some of the new rules. For example, Rule 10.2b(4): “The previous prohibition is extended so that, once the player begins taking a stance for the stroke, and until the stroke is made, the player’s caddie must not deliberately stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason”. Honestly, I like it and I feel that a professional golfer playing in a major TOUR should have the sufficient skill to be aligned properly. First, there was China’s Haotong Li at the Dubai Desert Classic that was assessed the two-stroke penalty. Li was preparing for his birdie putt on the 72nd hole at the Emirates Club. His caddie was observed standing behind him as he was taking his stance. Then look no further than Friday. At the Honda Classic, Adam Schenk was assessed a two-stroke penalty after the fact when his caddie (Mark Carens) was said to have been discussing where to land a shot. It was viewed as Carens lining up Schenk. While Schenk and his caddie said that there was no intent to cheat (I feel that there wasn’t either) a rules official showed the footage on an iPhone prior to his third round. The net result was a triple bogey being put on the scorecard. I really think there could be a fine line with this one. To the caddies on TOUR just stand to the left or right of your player.

TOUR Championship - Round Two
ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 22: Justin Thomas of the United States plays his shot from the 14th tee during the second round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Now, players have been voicing there concerns to any media outlet that will give them access. Golf Channel and of course social media. Today, Justin Thomas was called out. By the USGA themselves. See below.

I liked the response. The USGA openly aired the proverbial dirty laundry and let everybody know that they’ve been waiting right there for players to approach them. Or at least in this case Justin Thomas himself. This is the solution to get to the bottom of all of the rules hubbub. Instead of golfers (TOUR players) taking to social media from the safety of a cell phone or laptop sit down and have a face to face interaction. Isn’t this what the Player’s Advisory Council is for? Chairmen Hahn and Kisner the floor is yours. Whatever happened to interpersonal skills? Those skills that we acquired growing up as children where you actually talked openly about situations? Oh, those were the days.

I sincerely hope and am hopeful that what we’re experiencing are growing pains. Golfers, for the most part, have always been reluctant to accept change. Remember when white drivers came out? Or new ways to develop a golf swing (Stack and Tilt, The Golfing Machine etc). The controversy and hate. With any luck, the USGA and respective TOUR players will all be on the same change by the time The Masters comes around. If controversy continues come the U.S. Open the USGA could be in a real hornet’s nest.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

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Sitting here I was thinking about something that I wrote about in my Top 10 Golf Stories of 2018. I made a bold prediction based on pretty much nothing regarding my pick to win The Masters in April. Seeing that I went that far with it… I’m going to make Major predictions for the 2019 season on both the LPGA and PGA Tour.

Let’s see how close I get.

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The Masters – I went out on a limb about the 2019 Masters Tournament in the article yesterday that led to this piece. My prediction was that Tommy Fleetwood would win the Green Jacket in 2019. While everyone on Tour and in the field has the game to win on any weekend one half of Ryder Cup craze “Moliwood” will break through and claim his first Major. Justin Rose will be right there when the dust settles too.

U.S. Open – Ah yes! The carnage and horror of how the USGA sets up their courses. I’m a huge fan! Always a test that wears down the field I hope that 2019 is no different. It’d be easy to predict Brooks Koepka because he really guts it out to hang in during the battle of attrition that is the U.S. Open. Not this year though. Bryson DeChambeau broke through in a big time way in 2018. 3 wins on Tour. He can win on golf’s biggest stages, won the U.S. Amateur in 2015. He wins at Pebble Beach in June.

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The Open Championship – Royal Portrush is the venue in 2019. The golf course in Northern Ireland was first formed in 1888. It has stood the test of time much like the cliffs that border the golf course have been beaten and battered over time. The last few Open Championships have been graced by good weather. 2019 will be a test like so many Open Championships before it. One weekend… four seasons. I’m picking a player to win from the European continent. His name… Francesco Molinari. He’ll repeat as the Champion Golfer of the Year. Grizzled veteran Bernhard Langer will give us thrills if he’s in the field.

PGA Championship – Courses for the PGA Championship generally get set-up with the players in mind. That said, we aren’t going to see a USGA-style Bethpage Black set-up. It’ll be a little friendlier. Accuracy, length, putting and a deft touch will still be required to get around the Tillinghast layout. Picking a Brooks Koepka repeat is a thought but what fun would that be? My prediction is a young gun. A pretty young gun at that. Cameron Champ will win the final Major of the year. He has the tools to collect the Wanamaker Trophy.

 

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ANA Inspiration – The 40th Anniversary of this tournament. Previously, it was called the Kraft Nabisco Championship and The Dinah Shore. No matter what name you call it remember that the ANA Inspiration is the first Major Championship contested every year (PGA Tour included). Who’s going to take the leap into “Poppies Pond”. I’m looking right at Brooke Henderson to make the fabled leap. She’s tasted victory in Major Championships before. Get her towel and robe ready.

U.S. Women’s Open – The U.S. Women’s Open is going to be contested in the “Palmetto State”. The Country Club of Charleston is the host venue (founded in 1900) and it’s a course steeped in history. As you might expect the course will be set-up in typical USGA fashion for the ladies. While I haven’t been there (I haven’t been anywhere really) I will say that by looking at the pictures it sort of reminds me of ANGC. The combination of intimate green complexes with false fronts and solid bunkering adds to the effect. The greens will be fast… so who was the best putter on the LPGA Tour in 2018? She may not have been the best but third is pretty close. Who was third? That was World #1 Ariya Jutanagarn. Ariya win’s the U.S. Women’s Open. Dame Laura Davies is going to make some noise here.

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KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – Minnesota golf fans. Hazeltine National Golf Club is the host site for the 3rd of 5 major championships on the LPGA Tour. Name an important USGA tournament and there’s a chance that Hazeltine has hosted it. It’s also hosted the PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup (with another slated for 2028). For the first time since 1966 the women return to walk it’s marvelous tree-lined fairways. Well thought out hazards protect the “old girl”. Precision is a priority. It’s not going off of the radar to pick the winner of this tournament. I like current World #3 So Yeon Ryu.

The Evian Championship – The first of two Major Championships to be contested in consecutive weeks. It’s going to be a matter of who’s feeling “it” the first week. I really can see Lexi Thompson winning The Evian. She struggled with being mentally drained and body image in 2018. She took some valuable time off from professional golf in 2018 to focus on herself and it paid off when she came back fresh and won the CME Group TOUR Championship. I really like Lexi to claim her second Major here.

Laura Davies of England during the Wednesday Pro-Am

AIG Women’s British Open – The last Major Championship of the year for the women takes place at Woburn Golf Club. My pick might seem like a bit of a darkhorse but I actually like Dame Laura Davies to win. Maybe because I would love to see some history made. dame Davies still plays great golf and can contend with the younger gals on the LPGA. Woburn looks like a typical parklands-style golf course and looking at it it looks like it could be any course in North Carolina. Towering pine trees with large greens… who knows. Maybe she could do it. If not her than look no further than Charley Hull.

2019 Solheim Cup

2019 is a Solheim Cup year. The American team wins handily at Gleneagles.

Until The Next Tee!!

#FightAndGrind #SeeUOnTheNextTee

 

 

 

What kind of golf writer would I be if I didn’t write a piece on the modernized rules of golf? Or at least the changes to the rules as prescribed by the governing bodies (R&A and USGA) for 2019. While this piece won’t be about all of the changes about to take effect as the calendar changes to January 2019 it will be about certain ones and my take on them. Now does this mean that I won’t have a summary of at least some of them? Of course not… see below.

Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height).

Measuring in taking relief: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in their bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, making for a consistent process for golfers to establish their relief area. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement).

Removing the penalty for a double hit: The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball.  (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 included the existing one-stroke penalty).

Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance: A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. This Local Rule addresses the concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions. (Key change:  this is a new addition to support pace of play)

Major proposals introduced in 2017 that have been incorporated into the modernised Rules include:

Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.

Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.

Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.

Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.

Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.

Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.

It wasn’t that long ago when Canadian PGA Tour professional Mackenzie Hughes took to Twitter about them. Asking the golfing Twitterverse what we thought. Mackenzie… here’s what I think about some of them.

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Mackenzie HughesVerified account @MacHughesGolf Dec 19

Dropping Procedure: I think this rule change is pointless. Dropping from the knees? What was so difficult about holding the arm up at shoulder height and letting go of the ball? I’ll be sure to work on my technique.

Measuring in Taking Relief: Well this one has zero effect on me. For one who really is taking advantage of using the Bernhard Langer ski pole putter any more? Not I. I’ve always used my driver.

Removing the Penalty For Double Hit: have you “T.C. Chenned” a shot? If you aren’t familiar with the term Google T.C. Chen. I can’t remember if I’ve double hit a shot. However, if you have this issue… make sure that you accelerate through your chip or pitch.

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Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance: Alright, this one I like. How many out there have legit handicaps where they’ve gone back to the tee to hit 3 from the tee in a casual round of golf on a backed-up golf course? Be honest! This one makes sense and could help the pace of play issue. Bear in mind that it’s technically a Local Rule. Golf courses… start printing new scorecards.

Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: No penalty for accidentally moving a ball during a search. Another one that I like. Just remember that fluffing a lie or using your “foot wedge” is not an accident. No honor among thieves.

Relaxed putting green rules: I really like this one too. The fact that it was a penalty for repairing a spike mark etc in the first place was silly. As far as leaving the pin in. It’s something that I already did ONLY when I played by myself. Keeping the pin in only keeps the ball out. Then again with my putting it’s really not a concern.

Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”): Honestly, this one makes sense. Say I have a massive piece of lava rock bugging me and my shot. Why not move it in hazard? It makes sense to me. that said, don’t have a crew of people on the ready to move massive boulders (Tiger… you know what I’m talking about).

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Relying on player integrity: Golf is supposed to be a game of honor. It really is. The fact that this needs to actually be outlined is ridiculous. We both know your ball travelled OB with 230 yards remaining to the green. So why are you dropping it at the 150 yard marker? The fact that fans watching at home can’t call in breaches is great too. I always wondered… where did they find the telephone numbers? Was it the Bad News Bear Go To Houston? “Let them play… let them play!”

Search For Lost Ball: Love this one! Love it a lot! Searches dropping from 5 minutes to 3 minutes is great. I know there are a lot of you out there taking “5 minutes” to search for that Pro V1 you hit OB. Yeah I know it’s a $5 ball… but you found it the last time you hit one OB so it cost you nothing. Can’t find it? Take advantage of the new rule (Stroke and Distance) and play on. Keep people employed in the golf ball industry. Oh and for the love of God and all things right in the world leave your ball rake (retriever) home. If I could I would ban them altogether. Nothing clogs a course more than those guys and gals spending 10 minutes or more around a water hazard ball hawking. Marshall’s/Rangers this goes double for you!! You guys already have garbage cans full of balls at home.

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Folks, if you’re playing a round of golf that is strictly recreational play “Ready Golf’. After all even though it’s late Sunday you aren’t playing for the Green Jacket. Also, for the same reasons if you hit the ball only 200 yards with a helping wind and/or are a 25 handicap please don’t even look at “the tips”. Play within your skill level and comfortable yardage. Maybe it’s the forward tees (not ladies tees.. don’t need that stigma) who cares? Not only will your round be quicker and not only will you maybe enjoy the game more but your handicap may drop as well too! It’s a win-win.

Until The Next Tee!!

#FightAndGrind #SeeUonTheNextTee