The Rules of Golf Column will address a number of current issues with the Rules and also discuss certain aspects of the Rules in more depth.
Written by John Morrissett, the Competitions Director at Erin Hills. John is the former Director, Rules of Golf for the United States Golf Association. The comments reflect his opinion and are not necessarily official rulings by the R&A or USGA.
Erin Hills observes the rules of the USGA. For the complete rules, follow
this link: USGA Rules.
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None other than the great Jack Nicklaus strongly believes that sand-filled divot holes should automatically be ground under repair. Many golfers have lamented their misfortune after a good tee shot finds a less than friendly lie in the fairway. It is indeed difficult to argue with the assertion that a sand-filled divot hole seems to fit the term "ground under repair." Shouldn't players be rewarded for finding the fairway? Why not grant them relief?
This issue is hardly new. The desire to provide relief is certainly understandable, but there are both philosophical and practical concerns with such a change to the Rules of Golf:
- There is an unwritten belief that luck (good and bad) is and should be part of the game of golf. Sometimes we get good lies in the rough, and sometimes we find a bad lie in the fairway. This level of unpredictability provides part of the fascinating appeal (and frustration) of the game, and the ability to overcome such challenges lets the better players separate themselves from the others.
- There is the general principle underlying the Rules of Golf that the ball should be played as it lies and that deviations from this principle should be kept to a bare minimum.
- Why grant relief from only divot holes that have been filled with sand or soil and not from empty divot holes and divot holes where the divot has been sloppily replaced?
- The notion that there could be thousands of areas of ground under repair on a course seems odd (and some superintendents would not be happy with that implication!).
- How would we determine when something ceases to be a divot hole? Consider how, over the course’s history, a ball has been struck from almost every inch of a course.
On balance, therefore, the R&A and USGA have come down on the side of no change to the Rules and no relief in this regard. They even went so far as to issue a Decision (33-8/34) stating that a Local Rule granting relief is not authorized. Don't look for their position to change!
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