2017 Awards: Landmark Moment #3

As 2017 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on some of the highlights, low-lights and other of another fascinating year in the game. 

We’ll be nominating Bouquets, Brickbats and Landmark Moments over the Christmas period including the decision by the R&A and the USGA to release proposed rule changes into the market for discussion.

'Contour books' may be outlawed from the game as of 2019.

A six-month period was applied for feedback from the industry and stakeholders, that period finishing in August of this year, the changes to then be finalised in 2018 and adopted in January 2019.

That release is a continuation of a new initiative by the game’s controlling bodies to modernise, reduce and simplify the massive number of rules in the game, much of that the need for the game to acquire more of a KISS approach to rules.

Many are also designed to speed up the game, another reason perceived to be slowing the growth of participation.

In an era when there is such a drive to ‘grow the game’, as the perhaps overused saying goes, the complicated rules that have existed for so long needed further streamlining and the paper released for comment appears to have done just that.

New rules were adopted in 2017, including the elimination of a penalty for the accidental moving of a ball or a marker on the putting green, but the substantial proposed changes for 2019 have been a great cause for discussion and in many cases celebration.

Some have suggested there is a trade-off between the relaxing of the rules and the simplifying of the game but both outcomes should prove effective in making the game a far more enjoyable experience and yet still played with great etiquette.

The changes are so comprehensive that it is hard to go into a lot of detail here but one of those that appeals to this writer (given it is designed to re-introduce art and feel to the game) is the elimination of the right of a caddie to line-up a player from behind prior to a stroke being taken (see photo below).

The proposed rule now reads: Once a player begins to take a stance for a stroke and until the stroke is made, the player’s caddie is no longer allowed to stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball (today that is allowed so long as the caddie moves out of the way before the stroke is made).

Another rule likely to come under discussion, but not in the group of rules introduced in March, is the outlawing of contour books and green-reading books, the authorities keen to have the game played in a more natural form rather than players and caddies relying on numbers more than necessary.

A release by the R&A in May read: “The R&A and the USGA believe that a player’s ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. Rule 14-3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might assist a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgment, skills and abilities of the player.

“We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round. We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”

That the respective authorities are taking the stance they are on rule revision and involving the wider golfing community in the process speaks to their desire to promote the game positively and their sweeping proposed changes undoubtedly formed a landmark moment of 2017.



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