Get Over Yourself, GolfJune 24, 2016

In honor of Dustin Johnson, golf needs to lose a few rules

Illustrations by Zohar Lazar

During the Open, the USGA ran a promotional ad about its rules.

Q: What sport does that?

A: A sport obsessed with rules.

Sunday’s brouhaha involving Dustin Johnson comes, sadly, after the USGA tried to simplify things and return to the spirit of an “honorable” game. If a ball moves all by itself, they amended the rules to say, the player will determine if he caused it to move. If not, no foul. That was progress! But in the crucible of a Sunday finish, did they really trust the player? Of course not. They went to the replay.

Related: The Reasonable Man's Rules of Golf

Beyond the unfairness of it—marking and re-marking your ball probably causes it to change position more than Johnson’s ball did—and the total weirdness of having a sporting event with no official score for a couple of hours, it begged a question.

Q: What’s this got to to with fairness or with determining the champion golfer of the nation?

A: Nothing.

The real lesson from Sunday’s mess is to sort out the rules for yourself. We suggest that you operate as if this really were a game of honor—not thievery—and really simplify things. Here are 10 changes to your Rules of Golf 2015-16, as well as the accompanying 18,000-page Decisions on the Rules of Golf, that you can apply today.

Note: Don’t make these changes if you break 70 (for 18) on a regular basis. In that case, always call a rules expert.

1. The Dustin Dictate. If a ball moves, even if you accidentally caused it to move, forget about it. How does it possibly help you? You’re not good enough to take advantage of such a move, if anyone is. “Wait,” I hear my rules friends saying, “that could mean you avoid a spike mark!” Yep, and you still gotta make the putt.

2. Spike This. While on the subject of same, you are allowed to tap down one spike mark per nine holes. Knock yourself out. Still gotta make the putt.

3. Rock Toss Corollary (to bunker regulations.) Can you imagine explaining to your spouse that you’ll be spending $12,000 on eye surgery because the Rules of Golf don’t allow you to remove rocks from bunkers? Darling, I can’t see why you’re so upset. Toss ‘em out.

4. No “Your Honor.” Tee off when you’re ready. Short hitters can go first if you’re interested in speed of play. Nobody cares.

5. Cart Droppings. Have you tried to decipher one of those diagrams delineating which side of a cart path to drop from? The precision of those drawings completely belies the fact that the ball probably got to where it is—farther from the fairway—because it rolled over a macadam surface that has no place on a golf course. Drop on whatever side you want. But now, ok?

6. One-Mark Procedure. You get to mark your ball once on every green. If it’s really dirty, go ahead and do that as soon as you get there, but then putt out or leave it alone after the first putt. If the ball’s not dirty, save time, don’t mark it now, because you might want to later. The guys in the fairway accustomed to watching you mark and place three times on every green will get a kick out of this. Plus, you’ll have far fewer instances of the ball moving involuntarily, too.

7. Agreement to Waive. You already do this on a regular basis. “Can I take it out of this divot?” “Sure.” Or, “That should be ground under repair, Herb. I think the assistant called in sick today or he ran out of paint. Move it.” Q: Why is this waiving of the rules acceptable? A: Because nobody cares.

Getty Images

OAKMONT, PA - JUNE 19: Dustin Johnson of the United States chats with a rules official on the fifth green during the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 19, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

9. Accidental Strike on Practice Swing (Forgiveness Thereof). This happens on greens a lot. It’s stupid to count this as a stroke. Put the ball back. Be more careful next time.

  1. Step-on-it-Dictum. Stepping on your ball while searching for it is a mortal sin in the Rules of Golf. The reasoning goes that you have a lie so bad you can’t see the ball but somehow, faced with the embarrassment of having your people help you find your equipment and four others waiting with hands on hips on the tee—it’s going to benefit you to mash your ball further into the turf. Just hit the darn thing. No penalty.

9. Out of Balls/Bounds. If you’re shooting 100 or so like most golfers, out-of-bounds is an unnecessary insult. Play it as a lateral. But ask the other guys where you should drop. (Not because you’re a bad person but because, in the heat of the moment, what with you losing a good ball and all, you might not be too careful.)

Official Dedication of Preceding Suggested Rules Changes:

We hereby institute these changes in honor of the 2016 US Open Champion, Dustin Johnson, who finished five-under par.


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