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.

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