The Loop

Let's Change the Rules

August 04, 2008

Prompted by recent events on two tours, Peter Belec of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, writes to Golf Digest about some rule changes he'd like to see.


Two things happened recently that call for changes to the rules of golf. First, It should not be necessary for a pro golfer to sign a scorecard. Submitting a card ought to be sufficient. A score submitted to the official scorer ought to be accepted as the players statement of their score. It was a shame that Michelle Wie was disqualified for failing to sign a correct score card that was submitted and accepted by the official scorer.>

Second, it seems irrational to me that a ball that moves slightly without being touched after a player grounds his or her putter calls for a penalty and replacement of the ball. A ball can move on the green during very high winds (such as this year's Open) or when the putter shadow causes grass blades to "give" a bit resulting in the ball moving slightly (as I've experienced). If you don't touch the ball, even after grounding a putter, then no penalty if the ball moves.>

Golf brains smarter than mine will need to put these principles into rules language and I hope to see it soon.>


Peter, you have many allies in this. Here's Jim Connors of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who wrote us with a similar complaint:


I am quite sure that this message will be considered blasphemy by the "traditionalists" of the golf world but I feel it needs to be addressed. I was raised to believe you do not have a right to complain about anything unless you are willing to try to change it. I doubt that this note will change anything, nor will the one I send to the commissioner's office, but it is the only option I have.>

Michelle Wie was DQ'ed for not signing her scorecard "in time"; it was not wrong, it was just not signed before she left the tent. This may be the most absurd thing I have ever heard. I understand that there was a time when professional golfers were out on the course in relative obscurity, where it made sense for your opponent to keep your score and you verify it. It is now the 21st century. A professional golfer, especially a media favorite like Michelle Wie, can not pick their nose without it being caught on a dozen cameras. Scores are posted on the leaderboards by the minute. The whole country knows exactly what each player shot and who finished where long before that player makes it into the tent. Should the Giants have their Superbowl taken away? I am pretty confident that Eli Manning never signed a scorecard. >

Let's bring golf up to the present and remove this outdated practice. I am all for keeping the traditions, but this can only hurt someone, there is nothing that can be gained by keeping it in place. >


Gentlemen, you make very good points. The question is, especially on the scorecard issue, are we simply moving the backcourt line in the hopes that we can somehow eliminate foot faults? Sooner or later, someone must attest, in one form or another, to a score. The present system makes it painfully explicit: Yes, this is my score, I attest to it right here, I sign for it right now, I'm responsible for it, I'm sure. If we make the process less formal will we really have fewer problems ? I'm not so sure. Eli Manning, for example, may have a touchdown recalled because a 12th Giant did not get off of the field prior to the snap, though he had nothing to do with the play. Should we fix that?

In the case of the ball moving, the rule has been softened some. Off the green, it used to be that if a ball moved within a club length of the player, even if the player had not grounded his or her club, he was deemed to have move the ball. No longer.

There's this about the rules of golf: They are equitable, even when they don't seem fair.

What do the rest of you think?

--Bob Carney