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This is always a polarizing subject, regardless the setting. The most popular series of shows we’ve ever done on TGD Radio and TV were our shows called “The Rules of Golf”. “No Drop” Frank Monk, long-time rules official for the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship, did a series of shows back in 2013 and 2014. Martyn Woodhouse, of the Golf Academy of America did several shows on the subject in 2015.

A couple of years ago we ran a series on TGD Radio regarding the subject of (should there be) relaxed rules for resort play and non-tournament play. The Golf Channel did a similar series a few months later, and the feedback is pretty much what you might expect. The purists in the game do not agree there should be any sort of relaxing of the rules. It would (they say) degrade the validity of the handicap system and make it impossible to fairly represent ones handicap. Huh?

Here’s my take….and I say this knowing I’m going to make some of you angry….sorry. The handicap system is degraded every single day all over most golf courses. Let’s face it, many golfers cheat, and therefore they are cheating the handicap system. Some of you that are angry right now are guilty. This is readily obvious when one looks at the incoming handicaps of many of the World Am participants and their subsequent scores. There’s really no good explanation for someone with 85 handicap to go out and shoot in the low 70s except that he or she sandbagged, or manipulated their recording of the scores they used for establishing said handicap. The opposite is true of those who show up with a 72 handicap and never shoot under a 90 (some never break 100) during the tournament. Those folks were most likely improving their lies on par 3s and executive courses back home, and therefore recording a less than pure handicap representation. There’s nothing more frustrating, and bad for the game, than the 5 and 6 hour rounds. All of us have been on the tee when a guy in the group in front hits his drive out of bounds, doesn’t bother to play a provisional, goes to look for his tee shot, then returns to the tee and hits another ball…many times repeating the first offense. This is one of the top reasons we see (here in always sunny Myrtle Beach) for long and excruciating rounds. We know you paid YOUR money, and you want to get your money’s worth. Just know (if you’re guilty) you’re having a negative impact on the game you love.

The truth of the matter is, there are already “relaxed rules” in place that are not utilized enough. Any course can implement local rules that are alternative to the USGA rules. Taking stroke and distance for any ball hit out of bounds should be the norm for resort golf. Yes, following any relaxed ruling and posting the resulting score for the purpose of establishing handicap is not exactly “pure”, but neither is the “lift clean and cheat (place)” exceptions we see often used on the PGA Tour. That’s not really the point I’m trying to make. The 25 or 30 handicapper who has been sitting out the winter, and playing golf for the first time in months, shouldn’t be worried about his or her handicap at that point. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Purists, I know you disagree. So be it. The point I’m trying to make is…the 5 and 6 hour round is helping to kill our sport. There’s a time and a place for recording scores for the purpose of establishing one’s handicap. In many cases, the guy who hit 3 off the tee to preserve the integrity of the game is rolling his ball in the fairway and picking up 6 and 12 inch putts. I’ve played with many golfers who are strict on one set of rules and lax on others…and many of those guys are recording their scores for the purpose of keeping an established handicap.

Please understand that I am not advocating there should be any relaxing of the rules for sanctioned tournaments where handicaps are recorded. We love the Rules of Golf here at TGD, and love the discussion that always arises from the practice of properly and improperly applying them. We would like to see everyone do everything they can to make the game fun…for everyone. What did you do make the game of golf better today?