Explainer: Here's what you can and can't do on the green, and why those rules exist in the first place
- You can remove loose impediments. Things such as sand, soil, stones, twigs, insects, and goose droppings. You can remove these things any way you want, provided you don't press anything down into the turf or test the surface.
- You can repair those little craters created when a ball hits the green.
- You can repair old hole plugs created when the superintendent's staff move the cup from location to another.
- You can place your putter down in front of your ball when you address it (remember, don't press down).
- You can touch the line in the process of measuring, lifting or replacing your ball or to remove a moveable obstruction such as a coin left on the green by the group in front of you.
- Once you putt out, provided you aren't aiding a fellow competitor with his or her putt, you can tap down spike marks, fix a damaged hole (sometimes a part of the circumference caves in) or push the hole liner back down (they sometimes get pulled up when the flagstick is removed.
- Repair any damage other than hole plugs or ball marks. This includes any indentations created by the 275-pound guy playing in the group in front of you.
- Touch your line of putt for any other reason than the ones listed above.
- Test the surface by rolling a ball, scraping or roughening the grass.
- Sweep away casual water, dew or frost.
By John Huggan
GULLANE, Scotland -- There was, as you'd expect, some stuff about the course and the facilities and the new technology. But long before Jim McArthur, chairman of the R&A championship committee, concluded his lengthy and earnest remarks regarding the 142nd playing of the world's oldest golf event, the room was getting restless. There was, whether the all-male body that makes the rules of golf outside the U.S. and Mexico likes it or not, only one thing most of the assembled media wanted to talk about.
Or, to be more accurate, the lack of them in the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and in this week's host club, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Scoundrels . . . sorry, Golfers.
And it didn't take long for things to kick off. The second question asked of Peter Dawson, the R&A's chief executive, concerned the well-publicized absence this week of Scotland's First Minister, the suddenly morally outraged Alex Salmond. Salmond, leader of the independence-seeking Scottish National Party, has apparently just noticed that those of the female gender have never been members of either the HCEG (formed in 1744) or the R&A, which came into existence a decade later. Well spotted, sir.
Photo by Getty Images
Anyway, Dawson, an old hand by now when it comes to this perennial issue, was ready with his prepared response.
"The whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently," he said. "We understand that it is divisive. And it's a subject we're finding increasingly difficult, to be honest."
Disappointingly but predictably, Dawson then had nothing new to offer in this ongoing debate. Resorting to the arguments he has repeatedly used since he assumed his present job in 2000, the former executive for Grove Manufacturing, a company involved in the manufacturing of hydraulic cranes trotted out the same old defense of the indefensible.
"Single-sex clubs are in a very small minority in the U.K."
"They're perfectly legal."
"In our view, they don't do any harm."
"We think the right of association is important."
"We think they have no material affect on participation."
While three of those five assertions are indisputable, the other two are, at best, debatable. And Dawson, to his credit, acknowledged an "understanding" of the counter-view. But not much respect.
"Our natural reaction is to resist pressure from the media, politicians and interest groups, because we don't think they have very much substance," he continued. "But I'd like to stress we're not so insular as to fail to recognize the potential damage that campaigns like this can do to the Open. And it is our championship committee's responsibility to do what is best for the championship.
"In the last ten years, for example, we have put, as best I can estimate, about 30 million pounds into women's golf. That's what the Open's success brings with it. So it's not all bad."
Yes, yes, you could almost hear from many in the room: But what about the continuing blatant discrimination? How can any rules-making body do its job properly and at the same time exclude a well-qualified candidate because she doesn't go to the men's room? And what, said one lady, is the difference between men-only and whites-only?
"Oh, goodness me," said Dawson. "I think that's a ridiculous question, if I may say so. To compare racial discrimination or anti-Semitism with a men's golf club is frankly absurd."
On and on it went. Question after question; deflection after deflection.
Perhaps the only positive aspect of the whole, fractious affair was that, more than once, Dawson hinted that the question of gender would play a large part in the R&A's annual review of their cash cow.
For example, asked if he would accept that any governing body is hardly your typical all-male club and so should be subject to different rules regarding discrimination, the 64-year old Scot was again smart enough to dodge the thrust of the question.
"I think it's certainly beholden on us to ensure that our governance committees are representative of the world at large in golf," he responded. "We have taken some steps in that direction, but I'm sure there will be more to come."
And so it goes on: The pointed questions and the often-smug answers. Bottom line? Those in "the club" don't really care what anyone else thinks. They never have.
By John Huggan
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- There were, as expected, no surprises. Almost six months on from their original announcement on the now notorious Rule 14-1b, the R&A today joined (simultaneously) with the USGA in confirming that the so-called "anchoring" of putters to any part of the body during a stroke will be deemed illegal starting January 1, 2016.
"We know that not everyone will agree with our final decision," said chief executive Peter Dawson at a press conference held in the Ryder Cup room of the Wentworth clubhouse. "But we do hope that the care and love for the game that all have expressed through their participation in this process will facilitate acceptance of Rule 14-1b when it takes effect."
Peter Dawson talks at Tuesday's press conference. (Photo: Getty Images)
In that respect, Dawson was on much firmer ground than his USGA counterpart, Mike Davis. Opposition and/or dissension during this whole process have largely been confined to the western end of the Atlantic Ocean.
"We had no feedback from people saying they would give up golf if long or belly putters were banned," commented Sandy Jones, chief executive of the British PGA. "Plus, we are fully supportive of the R&A as the rule-making body. We like this rule. It will do no harm to the game at any level. I just don't see anyone using them.
"It does seem to be more of an American problem, one that has a lot to do with the speed of the greens over there. Eliminating variables in the stroke is much more helpful when the greens are slick.
"Plus, less than one percent of putter sales worldwide are long putters. So where is this big problem? (PGA of America president) Ted Bishop's comments were nonsense really. There is no evidence to support his view. I played with Ted last week at Sawgrass. I use a 32-inch putter and made some good ones with him watching. I told him he was going the wrong way with this thing. Maybe he should be banning the short putter."
Most European Tour players, it is safe to say, feel similarly.
"I agree with what the R&A are doing," said Italian Ryder Cup player, Francesco Molinari, nicely summing up the mood of the majority. "I think it's important that we swing all 14 clubs in the bag and not just 13 of them. I have never liked that guys could anchor their putters to any part of their bodies.
"What the R&A has done is a good compromise. If they had legislated on the clubs themselves, I'm not sure it would have worked. Even with a short putter it is possible to anchor it. So what they have done makes sense to me. Some may argue that they are a bit late in doing what they are doing, but I say it is never too late to do the right thing."
Which is not to say that absolutely everyone on the European Tour is 100 percent behind what Dawson called "the most controversial rule change for a long time."
"After 30 years, I'm not sure it is right to be having such a drastic effect on players who have used it their whole careers," contended leading coach Denis Pugh. "It's an arbitrary call. Having said, that, if we were starting tomorrow I'd rule that the putter has to be the shortest club in the bag and also have the lease loft. Then go play.
"So I can see that long and belly putters are 'wrong.' But they have been wrong for too long. Plus, I think they have overcomplicated things. I can see guys finding ways round this rule."
As for those charged with policing will invariably be, in practice, the tiniest of adjustments, European Tour chief referee John Paramor was broadly optimistic about both the immediate future and the brave new putting world post-2016.
"With the all the information that has been forthcoming from the R&A, it isn't going to be too difficult for us to pass it on to the players," he said. "I think the vast majority of players currently using anchored strokes will end up using a method that does not require any judgment calls on our part. We have more than two years to iron out any problems before we get to that stage. So it won't be a problem.
"I can see a small number asking us if their adjustments are OK, but not many. It won't be a problem though. There are many other rules where we rely on the integrity of the players to guide us. I am always asking guys what they were trying to do or intending to do in certain situations. This rule is no different in that respect. Besides, if anyone is close to anchoring after making any adjustments, we have more than two years to have a word with them about it."
By Alex Myers
Augusta National Golf Club waited until it was ready to have its first female members. Apparently, it will be up to the three all-male clubs in the British Open's rota of courses to do the same.
At a Tuesday press conference, the R&A's chief executive, Peter Dawson, made it clear that the governing body of golf for most of the world won't "bully" clubs into taking women members. In fact, he said he doesn't think it's the R&A's place to get involved.
All-male clubs are once again a hot topic with this year's Open Championship being held at Muirfield, one of three courses used for golf's oldest major that still adheres to an all-male membership policy. The other two courses are Royal St. George's and Royal Troon.
Dawson noted that, "There is nothing wrong under UK legislation with a single-sex club as long as they behave under the equality act as far as guest access is concerned, which Muirfield certainly does."
Dawson went on to say, "Muirfield has a huge history when it comes to the Open Championship and this will be the 16th time that is has been played there, and who are we to say what they should do as they are behaving perfectly legally."
This conversation has also come to the forefront once again on the heels of the first Masters since Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were invited to be the first women members of Augusta National, something that club chairman Billy Payne addressed in his pre-tournament press conference:
"I hope the experience for Condi and Darla, as members of our club, has been every bit as rewarding and enjoyable for them over the last eight months as it has been for their fellow members," Payne said. "It's just awesome."
It took 80 years for Augusta National to change its policy regarding women members, but it seems, at least, ostensibly, to be happy with the decision. Should Muirfield, Royal St. George's and Royal Troon follow suit?
And that's just one question this conversation raises. If golf wants to continue to grow, does having one of its most prestigious events being played at a site that isn't inclusive of women send the right message? Just because it's legal, does that mean it's the right thing to do? Does the R&A, perhaps the sport's most powerful organization, deserve a say in the situation? And if so, should it intervene?
For now, it appears as if those questions will remain unanswered. As this year's Open approaches, though, don't expect them to go away.