10 common sense rules for amateurs

April 27, 2017

Illustration by Brian Cronin

You’ve no doubt heard that high-speed, slow motion cameras or pesky callers-in may no longer overturn your victory in the Sadie-Hawkins. Thank you, governing bodies. It got us to thinking: What if this “common sense” approach went viral? Without encroaching on the incredibly important professional game, or attempting to explain bifurcation, here are ten revisions aimed at making amateur play more enjoyable and over before dark.

1. Everything’s a lateral. Eliminate out-of-bounds and treat all white stakes as red. Drop two club lengths from where the ball crossed the boundary and play on. No death marches back to the tee. Let your opponent chose the drop spot.

2. One touch on the green. For all its hard work, the USGA and the R&A made greenside congestion worse recently by allowing the repair of spike marks. Even tour pros rolled their eyes at that one. Endless marking, cleaning, re-marking, fixing, re-cleaning, discussing-with-caddie, crouching and plumb-bobbing already bores the brains out of us. CS rules permit only ball-mark fixing. More important, they stipulate that you you may touch your ball only once on the green. Mark, clean, done. Do it when your get there. Or when you want to mark a short one. Use your “touch” wisely.

3. No Your Honor, your honor. CS rules eliminate “honors.” On par 4s and par 5s players tee off in order of usual length off the tee, shortest hitter first. Another incentive to get longer. Elsewhere, fire when ready if the field is clear.

4. One practice swing. Think about your shot. Rehearse your shot. Go! All practice swings beyond the first count as a stroke. Scientific studies will demonstrate, when we get around to them, that this restriction will make no difference whatsoever in your score.

5. Anchor Away! Anchor, don’t anchor, go sidesaddle or neck-rein for all we care. Who are we to hold you back? CS rules require only that you get right to it.

6. Advice is Free. If you want to know what someone hit, go ahead and ask. Remember, however, that someone may be lying.

7. Maximum 3-putt. Three is plenty. Four is torture. So, borrowing loosely from baseball, “three putts and you walk." This revision is based on the theory that four-putts have the power to eviscerate the love of even a great game like golf. People who enjoy watching their opponents four-putt should try lacrosse.

8. Cart Path Dispensation. If you need a diagram to decide on which side of a cart path to drop, you’re lost. So here: If your ball winds up on a cart path, drop within 2 club lengths on the side of our choosing. If that gives you bit of an advantage, amen. If it puts more pressure on you, amen. If it speeds things up, hallelujah.

9. All accidental ball movement is forgiven. The various new rules cover some of this, but just in case: If your golf balls moves when you didn’t intend it to, even if you caused it to move, just put it back and hit. With alacrity.

10. Long is not wrong. The Common Sense Rules don’t care how long your clubs are. They assume that the longer they are, the harder they are to control, so go for it. Most other equipment regulations—weird grips, separated grips, pine tar on the grip, etc.—also seem to make little difference at the amateur level and if your group or event doesn’t care, we sure don’t. OK: No self-correcting balls.