• Alistair Tait

Bring the old golf rules back


Patrick Reed would have been penalised for lifting his ball just off Torrey Pines’ 10th fairway under the old Rules of Golf. Not now.


Oh, how many of us wish the old rules were still in place. Not many grey areas in the old rules, just plain black and white. Too many grey areas in the new rules, which is why the 2018 Masters winner was given a free pass into round four of the Farmers Insurance Open.


No wonder many aficionados of this beautiful game are up in arms.


Reed called for a rules official because he believed his ball was embedded. Ninety-nine percent of players would have waited for the official to arrive on the scene. Not Reed. He lifted the ball and moved it.


The current rules give Reed the benefit of the doubt that he acted reasonably. Here’s an excerpt from the new rule book that helps exonerate Reed:

“The player’s reasonable judgement will be accepted even if, after the stroke is made, the determination is shown to be wrong by video evidence or other information.”

The professional golf tours must have celebrated when that line was written, when the new rules came into effect. In most instances now they can just accept a player’s word and move on. No need to hand out too many pesky penalties.


The professional tours don’t like rules imbroglios that threaten the game’s image. The tours sell themselves on the back of golf being the most honest of sports. The last thing they want is to tarnish that idea.


Don’t bite the hand that feeds you is the message.


So when Reed claims he acted correctly, then the PGA Tour is only too willing to believe him.

Everyone involved in the game would also be willing to accept Reed's word if not for his history. Anyone reading this knows all about his actions in a bunker in the 2019 Hero World Challenge.


Put it this way: many suspect the American Ryder Cup player hasn’t read that part of the rule book which states:

“All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by: Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.”

The official reason for rewriting the rules of golf was to make them simpler. They were also rewritten with the vast majority of golfers in mind who play the game properly, who wouldn’t dream of taking advantage of the rules.


The new rules haven’t made the game any simpler. If they did then we wouldn’t have incidents like Reed’s cropping up. Furthermore, the vast majority already played the game in its true spirit; so why rewrite the rules?


It used to come down to a question of fact on whether a player had broken the rules. Since 1 January 2019, intent is the key. If a player says he or she didn’t intend to break the rules then, by and large, so be it. That dynamic introduces ambiguity where it didn’t previously exist.


That’s a backward step as far as many in the game are concerned. Many feel it creates a cheat’s charter for the tiny minority who don’t play the game in its true spirit.


I prefer the old rules of golf. I wish we could bring them back.


#JustSaying: ““If you play the game you understand the rules. You understand the integrity that goes on.” Brooks Koepka

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