So the Rules of Golf have changed… But is anything actually different?

You might have heard that the New Official Rules of Golf came into play on 1st January 2019.

This was a move instigated by the R&A (the official governing body for World Golf) and it was marked as one of the biggest changes in the sport’s history which was set to modernise, innovate and speed up the great game and bring it into the 21st Century.

Proverbial caps off to them, who had the painstaking task of going through the somewhat biblical Rules of Golf book to put 400 years worth of traditional rules under the microscope to see where the game of golf could be tweaked to be conducive to a modern audience who generally calling for something more exciting and engaging.

Thousands of pounds were spent on legal fees, thousands of articles were written about what was going to be changed as well as thousands of hours of combined confusion unearthing rules which people never even realised existed which were now being bought to their attention. Despite this, we were all happy to put up with the confusion, because the intent was coming from the right place. Re-assessing the rules and seeing how they could evolve with the times could only be a positive…… right?

Well.

As I sat there last night watching the final round of the Genesis Open on the PGA Tour, I think I and indeed anyone else watching could have been excused for thinking that absolutely nothing had changed.

Bar the flag now being able to be kept in whilst putting on the green (one change that I actually really like), to the half-naked eye, absolutely nothing was different from an event which took place last year. Of course, to a playing professional or caddy there may be a lot more to think about which the new rules have affected, but let’s be honest, for the average viewer at home, they couldn’t really care less.

If anything, some of the changes have resulted in even more confusion and hilarity rather than clarity. Golfer & logical thinker Bryson deChambeau’s hilarious drop from the knee earlier in the year and Rickie Fowler’s ridiculous ruling at the Waste Management Open are just a couple of examples of this.

Most depressing and frustrating of all, the new rules were meant to speed up the game. In reality, we had the pleasure of watching a certain JB Holmes who took the parable of The Hare & The Tortoise to new levels last night as his “slow and steady” game was good enough to overcome the rest of the field and take the title. Taking nothing away from his brilliant golf, it can’t be denied that JB’s ugly swing, open neck zip sweaters and 3-hour putting routine isn’t excellent for viewing. (Take a closer look at this blog post’s cover photo – yes he did hold up his putter to line up a 6-inch putt.)

It’s difficult to see how the rules of golf is negating the most pressing issues.

It raises a very important question.

Is the traditional game of golf anti-innovation by design? Are the game’s well-intended efforts to modernise only resulting in more eye rolling moments that the golfing audience is getting so accustomed to seeing?

With a game steeped in so much tradition, history and boundaries, would golf be better off looking at the game with completely new eyes?

Is it out of the question to create an entirely new version of golf stripping everything back to a blank canvas and creating new, simple rules taking as much common sense as possible from a 21st century perspective into account?

This version could operate as a stand-alone event, aside from the traditional events which take place on the tour. Like the Twenty20 format did for cricket, this new version could provide a totally new, refreshing environment and example where new rules, new attitudes and innovation can flourish and toxic tendencies like slow play and “play it safe” golf would be excluded by design.

Written by Harry McInley (director of 1PUTT Golf)

1PUTT is a new version of golf which seeks to look at the game with totally new eyes and create a more modern, exciting and accessible experience for both the player and the viewer. Who knows what cascading impact a 1PUTT event could have on the innovation of golf as a whole. Learn more about the concept here.

Golf Coverage: Where’s it heading?

Anyone who was – or trying to – follow the USPGA Championship last month would have found that it was not being shown on Sky Sports, as it usually is.

For why this was the case, head over to our previous article about Eleven sports buying the rights and streaming it online rather than showing it through a traditional TV broadcaster.

For obvious reasons, this was met with a lot of negative controversy, with many being so used to throwing on the TV to watch these events now having to sign up online and watch it on a laptop or iPad being a real inconvenience. It certainly wasn’t ideal, and unless you were super prepared with your HDMI cable  you may have just settled for BBC updates. A desperate shame, seeing as the Sunday was, in my opinion, one of the greatest days in Golf Major history, with Brooks Koepka playing invincible golf with The GOAT back from the dead chasing down right to the end, shooting an inspired, and totally ridiculous 64.

To add to these woes, Eleven sports is a paid service, so had Sunday not fallen within the 7-day free trial, it would have been an extra cost too.

So the expected reaction would be to cite this as an outrage and let’s return everything to its usual state. Well, not so fast.

Whilst granted, it’s a bit annoying to change habits and be expected to pay another additional cost, I think that on the whole, the shift could be a very exciting one, not just for golf fans but all sports fans.

Anyone who watched the Eleven Sports coverage will have noticed that it was different from your standard Sky coverage. Whilst in places it was a little bit scratchy and less well-polished, which can only be expected from a very first attempt at it, there was something about the coverage that felt more intense, more exciting. Younger, non-golf specialist on-course presenters seemed a breath of fresh air, trying to get under the skin of the players, in comparison from your older, Golf-fanatical commentators who are often obsessing over rules, lies and swings.

In terms of logistically watching a streamed service rather than one through a TV box, I think this is a minor issue seeing as with the rise of Smart TVs and more and more instances of sport being watched via an internet connection, I see this only being a real problem for the late adopters who are unwilling to change their viewing habits, and will get better and easier with time.

The most exciting prospect from all of this though, is the opportunity that comes with decentralising all coverage away from just a small few broadcasting channels, who have a very set-in-stone, traditional experience they want to give their viewers, with less opportunity for drastic change and innovation.

With a new, disruptive player in Eleven Sports, brings new, fresh perspectives and new ideas about how sport can be enjoyed at its best. On the ‘about’ section of the Eleven sports website, the company cites its mission to “enhance the viewing experience, bringing fans closer to the action” which is an exciting purpose to have – for this I can only give kudos for being bold enough to try.

It will be interesting to see their strategy going forward. Will they be more bullish in Golf to try and corner a niche such that a golf lover will almost have to get a subscription? Perhaps even more exciting, could there be an opportunity for the platform to begin creating their own, unrestricted content tailored to fans, as we have seen Netflix do in the Tv Entertainment space? What about a new format event independent from the highly restrictive and traditional European and PGA golf tours?

You can only ask the question.

I look forward to seeing what the future holds with Golf coverage, and if we can be patient, there could be exciting times to come.

1PUTT is a new innovative version of golf played within a new atmosphere and with shorter and more exciting formats to modernise the game for a greater variety of audiences to enjoy. We believe that we can create a golf course environment that could be the key to unlocking golf’s true potential.