hackerAnytime the subject of adjusted / separate Rules of Golf for recreational rounds comes up, you can bet a polarizing discussion will follow. The purists will always say, “The rules are the rules, and the game should be played by the rules”. I agree with that statement for tournament play. With loss of play being a huge issue facing the industry, and time to play along with difficulty of the game being two of the biggest factors, this is a subject that bears more consideration. I personally would rather see some adjustments to the factors affecting time and difficulty that do not change the physical aspects of the game, such as the size of the hole, an idea I think is ridiculous.

Many golfers adopt relaxed rules for their games, but an “official” stance on the subject could make golf more enjoyable for everyone, especially those playing at busy golf resort locations. Even though I am an advocate for some sort of  Recreational Rules of Golf, I do feel strongly about the preservation of certain aspects of the game. But, something has to be done!

A few weeks ago, I was playing with a local group of 16 golfers who play every Saturday.  For some reason the course put a foursome out in the middle of the group, directly in front of our foursome. These guys were young and athletic, unlike our group.  The youngsters played from the tips. On the first hole neither of them hit into the fairway. One was out of bounds on the first drive, re-teed, and hit his third out of bounds, re-teed and hit his fifth in a hazard. As he was preparing to hit his sixth, he grounded his club in the hazard during his practice swing sending a large chunk of debris into the fairway…a few yards further than his eventual shot. Thankfully no one called him on it. I’m guessing he took an 8 or 9 on the hole, and as far as we could tell the best on that hole from that group was double bogey. It appeared that 2 of them picked up their putts…probably inside the grip. The whole round was spent watching these guys play terrible golf from the tips when obviously they lacked the skills to do so. They held fast to some rules with complete disregard to others. I don’t know what they put on their score cards, but dare say neither of them broke 100. We had a 6 hour round that day, when we rarely take more than 4 to play.  Living here in Myrtle Beach, this is not an uncommon sight.

Here are just three of my favorite considerations for Rules Adjustment for Recreational Play:

1. Out of Bounds Rule for Recreational Play – Always stroke and distance rather than searching and returning to re-tee.

Under no circumstance (except tournament play) should an average amateur golfer have the opportunity to hit 2, 3, or more balls out of bounds and suffer the consequence of humility, frustration, and delay of their game and all who either play with them or follow.

2. Tee Assignment for Recreational Play – Based on handicap

Playing the right tee will always create a better golfing experience for the player and those who follow. Why not enforce Tee Assignment? Let’s put some teeth in the tee it forward initiative.

3. Triple Bogey Max for Recreational Golf –  Why not? A memory of a better score may bring them back sooner.

Obviously a realistic handicap could not be established based on Recreational Golf Rules. But, They’re often misrepresented anyway due to golfers playing under relaxed conditions and reporting those scores.  A handicap represented to be lower than it should be does less harm to the game anyway than those manipulated in the other direction. Playing the ball down and putting everything out will make a huge difference in anyones score, even the pros. When they play lift, clean, and place, their scores are always reflected positively. Many recreational golfers are already rolling the ball and giving / taking putts inside the grip.

So, next time you’re playing behind a group like the one I mentioned, think about the impact a relaxed set of rules to govern recreational play might have on the game.