By Mike Lednovich, Editor & Publisher
The USGA has announced new rules for 2019 and wow they are doozies.
Let’s start with the double hit. The most famous double hit was T.C. Chen in the 1985 U.S. Open when he had a four shot lead over Andy North and ended up with a quad bogey and lost.
This generally occurs with a wedge usually when playing a ball out of thick rough. You hit it, the ball lazily pops up and you hit it again as you follow thru. Used to be a one stroke penalty. No, not any more. Seems you can hit it as many times as you want in one swing. No penalty at all. This will be ripe for trick shot artists.
But the dumbest is the Out of Bounds rule. The OB rule as always been the most punitive rule in golf — one stroke and distance. Stroke and distance was part of golf’s original list of rules, in 1744, but during subsequent decades and centuries it was repeatedly modified, dropped, resurrected, and modified again. Sometimes you counted only the bad stroke and the do-over; sometimes you added a penalty but got a drop. The most severe version was adopted by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1842: three strokes and distance, meaning that if you hit a ball out of bounds your next stroke, played from the spot where you struck your first, counted as your fifth. That lasted until 1846.
In 1959, The Southern California Golf Association railed against the USGA and implemented a one-stroke penalty from the spot where you lost the ball.
Under the new rule you no longer have to go back to the tee and hit again. You can now drop in the vicinity of where the ball crossed the out of bounds marker. But wait, it’s a two shot penalty. Are you freaking kidding me? Two shots? So I go OB, I drop and now I lie three and hitting my 4th shot — OMG! Just shoot me why don’t you?
But let me get this right. I can hit my ball twice in one swing without penalty, but if I hit it outside the white boundary markers it’s gonna cost me two shots. What is the USGA thinking? I’d be better off going back to the tee where I’m hitting my third shot with the possibility of gaining more yardage with a straight drive.
My solution is do away with out of bounds all together. Just make all boundaries a lost ball for Pete’s sake. By the way, how and who determines what areas on the course are OB and what are lost balls? Why can I hit a lost ball to the left, but it’s OB on the right?
I will give the USGA credit on the measuring in taking relief rule where some golfers got an unfair advantage by using their long putters instead of their drivers to measure their relief point. Long Putters are now out of the equation.
OK, that’s my rant on these rules. At least they got the dropping procedure right. Now it’s from knee height instead of should height. Maybe before I reach the cosmos you can merely place the ball for goodness sakes. Thankfully I’m a recreational golfer and as I tell my friends, “You know there’s no Claret Jug in the clubhouse?” That simply means follow the intention of the rules unless there’s money on the line or you’re playing for a title.