The USGA and the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Association) have some interesting changes in mind for the Rules of Golf. Many of you have possibly been following these proposed adaptations to the Rules but for those that haven’t – hold onto your hats! The main consideration of these new Rules of Golf is to speed up play for golf.

The idea of speeding up play is very welcomed by golfers that play often, have a keen sense of their club distances, are considerate of others on the golf course and expect to play an 18-hole round of golf in four hours or less in a group of 3 or 4.

Whenever my CACC Trojan golfers play a round of golf at Willow Point Country Club or any other golf course, I expect them to be over-the-top courteous to all players on the course. Any time a group of golfers playing at a quicker pace approaches my players, my golf team will always stand to the side and allow these faster players to play through. This practice is a long-time common courtesy in the game of golf.

My golfers always play hard to shoot the lowest 18-hole score they possibly can every time they play. These college golfers hole all of their putts and play by the Rules; and yet, there are times when following the Rules could slow the round a bit.

For example, if the rough is cut high and a player’s drive bounces from the fairway into the rough and is lost, the Rules of Golf instruct the player to return to the original location of the last shot and hit another ball with a penalty of stroke and distance. The CACC golfers would have to walk back 290 yards to the tee and play another shot. That’s going to eat up a bit of the clock. The Rules of Golf allow for a player to play a provisional ball for a “lost ball,” but no one plays a provisional ball for a ball that is considered 5 feet out of the fairway.

My players also hole all of their putts; there are no ‘gimmees’ in tournament play, and none in my qualifying rounds. All of us have missed 2-foot putts – and even shorter ones – on those horrid nightmare rounds.

The biggest thing to playing golf without delay is to be prepared. It drives me straight up a wall to watch golfers waste play time on high-traffic days. A couple weeks ago, a few of my players and I were behind a group of golfers, and I watched one of the players in this group.

For each and every shot, he pulled his cart up to the ball, and while sitting in the cart, he meticulously put his glove on; then reached for his rangefinder, removed it from the case, shot his distance and replaced it into the case. He walked slowly to the back of the cart and, with great contemplation, chose a club. Then he walked to his ball, took four practice swings and then began his pre-shot routine, addressing his golf ball while performing his 1,000-point golf swing mental checklist before proceeding to hit every shot short of the green.

After each shot, he carefully wiped down his club, replaced it into his bag, removed his glove, folding it and placing it gently into the cubbyhole in the dashboard of the cart. I hoped then that he would have been done slowing the pace of golfers behind him after this, but oh-dear-God-help-me, no.

This gentleman then apparently chose to share with his cart partner the painful saga of why his shot landed short of the green, or perhaps he shared some story that had nothing to do at all with golf. In any case, more time passed before he moved on. This was painful.

The saddest thing about this day was that I know the gentleman who took so long to play. He is a very sweet person with a heart of gold. I also know that he has been playing golf for decades, but at no time during the front nine was he prepared to play when it was his turn or, in the alternative, wave for our group to play through. He just isn’t aware of how much his slow play irritates other players on the golf course.

Those nine holes took two hours and 30 minutes to play. Knowing we weren’t going to be asked to play through, we left the course and headed for the practice area.

My suggestion for him, and others like him who are reading this article, is to please be prepared to play when it is your turn. Put your glove on at the tee and don’t take it off until you reach the putting green. Put your rangefinder in a cupholder of the cart and be ready to use it when you reach your ball; then, drop it back into the cupholder. Take one more club than you think you might need for your shot. After your shot, move along. Share stories with your riding partner as you are driving.

Another change under consideration for the Rules of Golf would affect everyone at all levels of play. Presently, a ball drop for relief from a cart path or hazard is required to be with the arm fully extended from shoulder height. In the new Rules, the ball could be dropped from any height. In fact, it could basically be tossed onto the ground from 2 inches above the intended drop position.

The one-club-length full relief rule from a cart path, casual water, obstruction and ground under repair also would be changed. The current rule allows for a drop within one club-length, but if the ball then rolled another club length, it would be deemed in play. In the future Rules, a player first would determine the nearest point of relief; then, identify an area of 20 inches from that nearest relief point. The ball would have to be dropped and played within this 20-inch area. This is a big-time change.

A few other interesting changes on the horizon for golf: The present time period to search for a golf ball before it is deemed to be lost is five minutes. This timeframe is being shortened to three minutes with the proposed changes.

Presently, a player is not allowed to replace a golf ball unless it is unfit for play or has entered a hazard, but the new rule would allow a player to replace the golf ball with a new one while taking relief from a cart path, fire ant bed, casual water, etc.

Another big change refers to the putting green. Presently, a player may repair only ball marks or replaced holes on the green that are on the line of the player’s putt. The new rule would allow a golfer to repair any damage, such as spike or scuff marks or any other abnormalities anywhere on the green, as long as the player did so without taking a great deal of time.

Visit www.usga.org to review the proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which will go into effect in January 2019. Most likely, every golfer will be happy with some and disappointed with others. Sorry, there are no new rules that allow a player to throw out the worst three holes from a round of golf.

~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.