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Change Is Good, But Will Revisions to the Rules of Golf Be A Challenge For USGA?

When I learned that the United States Golf Association proposed major changes to the Rules of Golf, (effective Jan. 1, 2019), I immediately thought of Brian Hughes—my good friend, fellow PGA Master Professional, College of Golf program director and Rules of Golf expert.

Hughes shared his thoughts on the proposed changes: “The USGA’s goals of simplifying current rules and improving pace of play are laudatory. The proposed changes that target these goals are positive and in keeping with technology changes that have made numerous current rules too complicated or cumbersome to enforce consistently.”

Hughes believes that there are two examples of positive changes that clearly support the USGA’s stated goals: “Simplifying dropping procedures” and “accidental movement of the ball.” However, he harbors concerns that some changes may be an attempt to ensure “fairness,” rather than “improve simplicity and pace of play.”

For example, one new proposal allows unlimited repair to the putting green, which, if anything, will slow down play and introduce confusion concerning the definition and enforcement of “undue delay.” In a sport played on more than 20,000 different playing fields, Hughes says that fairness comes at a complex cost. Changes like estimating where a ball may be lost “are complicating issues that deviate too far from the simplest rules and original principles of the game: Play the ball as it lies, and play the course as you find it,” he says.

Proper change is good for the game, but as we propose, finding the balance between new goals and founding principles will be the challenge for the USGA going forward.

For more advice, email Dr. Wilson at ewilson@keiseruniversity.edu.