The first two months of 2019 have been flush with talk of the new, modernized Rules of Golf.
Both on the professional and recreational levels, there have been questions about the implementation and enforcement of the rules, which in some cases have resulted in seemingly needless penalties.
While the USGA and R&A released these new rules with the intention of simplifying and speeding up the game, the long-held adage of “old habits die hard” has proved to be an issue over the first eight weeks of the year.
Most recently at this past week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, Rickie Fowler was penalized a stroke for taking an improper drop. After the fact, Fowler said, in part, that the new rules we’re doing anything to help the game.
“With the new rules that have been put in place, it’s not doing any favors for our sport,” Fowler said.
However, the USGA’s CEO Mike Davis, speaking at the State of the Association speech at the USGA Annual Meeting this past weekend taken a much more optimistic outlook on the new rules.
“I was hitting some balls on the range (at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and without naming names, a couple of big-name players were on either side of me,” Davis said, according to GolfDigest.com’s Ryan Herrington. “And all of a sudden the conversation was ‘I don’t get this dropping from your knee. What gives?’
“From my perspective, I would say by and large they’ve been a huge success. They did exactly what we wanted them to do, which was really simplify the understanding and make them easier to apply.”
Whether or not that belief is widely held among recreational golfers remains to be seen as most of the country are still waiting for the weather to break so they can try out the new rules.
The USGA and R&A are in it for the long haul, however. Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s Senior Managing Director of Governance explained why.
We went through a long process, seven years in the making,” Pagel said. “We engaged 30,000-plus golfers as part of a feedback period. We released the rules in advance and we went in and further revised them. We gave plenty of runway for people to jump in and learn.
“I would say in the application of the rules, we remain committed to the rules as they are. If we learn something, if we realize that a rule is producing bad outcomes, we will adjust.”